Tag Archives: radiance

Why Men Like to Gaze Toward their Navel Region

Every young boy will someday wear a man’s body.  Whether he ever makes it to manhood remains another story.

In many cultures, the rite of passage functions to create and shape a population of men who are deeply in touch with the ancient rivers of man-wisdom.  Such wisdom flows through our collective memory. In many cases, the rite temporarily transports a boy from mother-nurture into the margins of society where pride can be replaced with confidence.   In the wilderness, the elders of the community impart the wisdom and expectations of manhood into the boys.  Through different experiences and stories, the elders pass on the instincts that should help the young ones emerge into manhood equipped for a variety of experiences.  When they return, their mothers (co-conspirators with the rite), demand that the elders introduce this new man to her.  She recognizes the face of her boy, but she knows him not.

In most places inhabited by the descendants of Europe, we have all but lost a rite of passage.  There are sports and hunting, but sense tells us that those intoxicated by either are sucked deeper into boyishness than naught.

Instead of a fiercely compassionate community of men (though this man does exist in some), we see emerging gang violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, absent fathers, and heavy use of pornography among other problems. These all point to one deafening challenge: if we cannot creatively assist males back onto their journey towards manhood, there’s no telling how much havoc our community of grown boys will wreak before all is said and done. There is no question: we must get our males off their “lazy boys” where they view their “play boys” and position them to enter into the realm of selfless, confident manhood. And we need the generations of initiated men gone by to lead us there.

What would our world be like if a community of matured men nurtured this earth and all who live in her?

Gender Week

It is gender week here at “TaL”.

That means I am pulling out my “Battle of the Sexes” playing cards, Mars/ Venus textbook, and resurrecting the ole’ camp motto “We have pink and we have blue. Now no making Purple!”

In all seriousness, we have come in our age to a global gender crisis.  Sexuality has been replaced with Genitality, such that when you inquire about someone’s sex, they usually respond either “active” or “not”.  This is a change from 50 years ago.  They would have responded “male” or “female” and ascribed a web of social expectations.

What I’m not talking about this week is sexuality as we know it.   This week we will dive into the jumbled world of gender expectations and roles.  It is just as unclear today what it means to be a “real man” as it is a “real woman”.   And for many, we unknowingly live day in and day out in the fog of gender disorientation (one among a hundred factors that sap our vibrancy in this global age).  I know many men and women who long deeply to release their authentic man or womanhood.

The emancipated woman has come a long way since Jesus and St. Paul planted the seeds for Western suffrage.  Now, two thousand years later (in the West), women’s roles continue to evolve blessedly giving us women CEO’s, women politicians, and women’s voices at the center of our civic consciousness.  But many women I know still feel disoriented, especially as diverse global expressions of womanhood challenge the American definitions of “emancipation”.  For the most part women are still expected to happily birth, nurture, and nanny their little ones while retaining Barbiesque sexuality for their men.

On the other hand, definitions of manhood generally adopted by our fathers and grandfathers have proven bankrupt.  The stoic father and emotionally absent husband no longer satisfy the awakening sensibilities of our women nor the rebellion of our young people.  In response, notes historian Robert Bly, a type of soft male has emerged: “The male in the past twenty years has become more thoughtful, more gentle.  But by this process he has not become more free.  He’s a nice boy who pleases not only his mother but also the young woman he is living with.”

We need help!  In the next four posts (except tomorrow’s) I will offer some observations and insights that might produce some real emancipation for men and women in our global age.

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 3

The image of the church as Christ’s bride contains striking implications.  It smacks of purity, chosen-ness, beloved-ness, togetherness, mutual reverence, and more.

Take for example:

Ephesians 5:31 “Husbands love your wives just as Christ  loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

With all my newfound responsibilities, the 30 minute devotional was bankrupt for me.  I had to discover a new way.  So, along side my then 3 years working with students in the areas of mercy and justice and global community, I enrolled in an academy for spirituality and encountered the thinking of Father Adrian van Kaam. Father Adrian was set to graduate from his Roman Catholic seminary six months prior to the Nazi occupation of his home in Denmark.  He spent seven long and hungry months sheltering and caring for terrified Christians, Jews, and Atheists from all walks of life.  That experience convinced him that our world needed and would need a practical spirituality that translated across many barriers for the sake of the gospel and rooted in the ancient 2000 year old Christian tradition.

For missionaries to North America and for Community Developers, life is never easy.  They have been called into some of the deepest issues possible.  And in the darkest alleyways they gain the blessed realization that God was there first. He has been working on the toughest issues long before they arrived.  And it is with him there that they find our motivation, the relationship, and the the willingness to go on.  Yet, what happens when they cannot sense him?  What happens when they feel that he has abandoned them? How does a missionary avoid spiritual burnout? How does a Community Developer tap into a holistic spiritual life, rather than simply trying to beef up his or her life of devotions?  How can we tap into the 2000 years of spiritual teaching that widens our view from isolated practices to a whole-life spirituality that leads us back to a quiet time like a thirsty deer to abundant streams?  How can we say “yes” to the bridegroom who is calling his beloved even in the ugliest of moments? That’s what this blog is about.

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 2

The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus’ parables and through his other teachings, began very early thinking of the church as the bride of Christ.

Take for example:

Revelation 21.9 “Then one of the angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City of Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”

Like any relationship, like any marriage, intimacy is more than learning about one another. It is about cultivating a life of shared experiences and appreciation for one another in difficult times.   It is no different with God.

Fast-forward three years from my university chapel altar. Still wearing the grad ring, I had now been offered and accepted the wedding ring.   It was perhaps as I was changing a diaper or settling my bank account that reality hit.  I had a wife, a baby, and a real job.  I had taken on an occupation that confronted racism and poverty while preparing students to do just that. It all started to crush me really. The responsibilities of life outweighed a new realization: I could not solve local problems, let alone world issues, with my skills or cleverness. People were too complex.  The human heart was far more stubborn and habit ridden than I realized.  I was more broken that I had realized.  Now ten years out from that night at the university altar, I am saying that it will take my whole life to learn intimacy with God.

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 1

I began a journey about ten years ago.  It was a spiritual journey that culminated in a quiet moment within my university’s chapel.  I had followed this deep calling in my life that led me to Jesus and to a life devoted to his way and ministry.  I was mastering the spiritual life at break-neck speed.  My devotional life rocked.  I had read through most of the Bible a few times.  And I kind of sneered when my pastor’s wife lamented in one Bible study that it would take her a whole life to learn intimacy with God.  I wondered why I was flying so high.  Perhaps God had greater things in store for me.

So there I was at our university’s chapel altar.  I was kneeling alone late one night. The stained glass windows were dancing with shadows of flickering candles. I was deep in prayer.  On the floor in front of me lay my graduation ring.  A few minutes prior, I had taken it off my finger and set it before the Lord.  Internally I prayed this prayer: Lord let me be married to you.” Somehow over the course of a few years, I had intuited a long-standing Christian image.  Intimacy with the Father was something like a great marriage. It was the height of my early devotional life.  I was on fire.  I loved God and wanted to know him more.

The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus’ parables and through his other teachings, began very early thinking of the church as the bride of Christ.

2 Corinthians 11.1 “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness.  Yes, please put up with me!  I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him”

Apostasy or Selfless Courage?

Apostasy can be a hairy topic in our age.  As our culture and religious structures fray, we should pay close attention to what we tag as apostasy and who we name “apostates”.  You will hear it ninety times out of a hundred, “I grew up in Church, but it not longer speaks to me”, or “I tried Church, but they are all hypocrites.”  After time, usually the “apostate” might offer philosophical or theological reasons for their journey away from Christ and the body of believers.  But it usually starts and ends in the heart.

Contrary to popular opinion, the early Christians (especially those whose writings made it into the New Testament), did not see apostasy through the lenses of walking away from Church or even primarily loss of right belief.  Apostasy was not even explained primarily as a disobedience or walking away from a covenantal promise.

Apostasy for the Early Christians was about a heart disease.  Pride.  And this is exactly where things get hairy. For who can judge the human heart?  And in our newly post-Christian age when civil religion still works like a cancer on both true and false Christianity, it is difficult to weigh whether an “apostate” is enacting a selfish sensuality or a selfless courage.

Judas remains the quintessential apostate in the NT.  He was not an apostate because he betrayed Jesus.  Peter betrayed Jesus, walked away, denied him. Jesus took him back.   Judas was not an apostate because of disobedience (we get the idea that he was already stealing from the disciples).  He was an apostate because of the whole state of his heart.  It was a prideful heart that tried to jump-start a revolution; it was a selfish sensuality revealed by his suicide.

Jesus makes it clear to us: we will be utterly surprised who gets into the banquet and who surprisingly he doesn’t recognize at the gates.  Even though Hebrews 6 says that the apostate can never return, if you read the whole of the passage, you realize that the author is describing a heart state from which a person can never come back.  Yet, until death (and perhaps even after), God works unceasingly to turn a hard heart soft.  This is so that when we see him face to face, we will gladly accept our dependence upon him and avoid the possibility of choosing hell our way versus eternal bliss his.

Well, for the Church we must compare this passage with the teaching in James 5 for example. You will see that in the church, we should be commissioning our wise members to try and bring back those who walked away.  We should veer away from heaping guilt or shame on a person who has “walked away”, admit where the apostate might be offering a prophetic challenge to the church, and challenge them to find a purified version of the faith.  We should avoid the useless false dichotomoy of “our way or the highway” that they have rejected in the first place.

Ultimately there is hope for a generation of apostates to turn away from selfish sensuality and to find the Ancient Way afresh with the selfless courage that many apostates already embody.

On the Wilderness

I remember reading once about Native Americans who lived in the Yosemite valley.  A commentator on American Wilderness said this, “For us Europeans, it was wilderness, harsh and rugged. But what we called wilderness, they simply called home.  For them this was not a romantic place.  They knew the realities of storms and cold, in ways we did not. For them it was a land that cradled and sustained. For us it was a land to subdue.”

I don’t agree with everything he said, but there is truth in his words.  I would put it this way: For us it was harsh and rugged wilderness and we should have listened more carefully and learned from the ways they communed with the delights and dangers of their home, the American wild.

The religious practices of the Native Americans reveal a great reverence for the sacredness of the earth.  They knew not only that sweeping vistas remind us of our dependence upon the earth and also that for every one beautiful creature another existed just as poisonous.

What I’m saying here is this…our future and our health as a people is dependent upon the bare wild.  We have got to get ourselves out in the wilderness.  We must move beyond mere technical changes in society for greener this and greener that.  We must undergo a conversion that brings our hearts closer to God’s heart for his creation.  We must begin seeing the earth as a vast array of subjects, a community of creatures.

I’m not suggesting that we begin seeing creatures as humans.  Disney has done us a great disservice with talking animals, in a way.  And I am not talking about a revival of animism or polytheism.  What I’m talking about is a return away from the modern project to our ancient Christian values that led a twelfth century Italian monk to pen the greatest earth poem ever.  He called the moon our brother and the sun our sister.  It is an opening of our eyes to the verdant imagination of the psalmists and to the Holy Spirit, who after all came for a time in the form of a dove.