Friday, May 27, 2016

How do we meaningfully ask adult males to be men?

A over a year ago I closed a post by asking, "How do we 'meaningfully ask adult males to be men' and help them to do so?" and then said I would try to answer the question in my next post.  I since deleted that question because I thought I'd never get to answering it!  The subject is both difficult and simple, daunting and inviting.  It faces every culture and every person everywhere, and so we cannot take the easy pass.  So here goes my best effort to answer the question.

How do we meaningfully ask adult males to be men?

There is no end run on life which is another way of saying there is no end run on character.  The only way to ask adult males to be men is to be men ourselves.  This requires first of all something which should not need to be said:  it requires we believe there is such a thing as manhood, as masculinity.

The very need to define this is without doubt universal and old as time, but we cannot pass without mentioning that feminism has been no friend in this arena.  I mean clearly and plainly this: insofar as feminism and other sex/gender ideologies have made masculinity wholly subjective -- to that extent it has not been good.  That seems axiomatic to me, though I would of course listen to rejoinders and admit freely that it is -- as are all things in our current life-of-mind -- all but impossible to prove. (Which indicates it is premise level knowledge -- you either accept it or you do not.)

So, assuming there are universal and identifiable aspects to masculinity, if I were to give a minimalist answer to the above question it would look like this:

1. Men should always be honest, hard-working, provide for their own, and do their best.
2. Men should be sexually responsible.  This means saving sex for one woman, and that after marriage; and then keeping it within marriage with that one woman until death.  Singleness is a sound option, to be seriously considered as preferable for some men.  But it is not honorable unless chaste.
3. Honor really matters. Honor means to do what is right, reward rightness in others, look down upon un-rightness in others.
4. Men should use their gifts to the best of their ability to serve their loved ones and communities.
5. Men should cultivate and promote a willingness to protect their homes, communities and fatherland -- with force as necessary -- with the goal of protecting the more vulnerable and assuring that maximal life is preserved and prolonged.

That's my best effort and I hope it helps someone somewhere, just as I was helped by my own Dad, Uncles, Grandfathers, brothers, and other male examples.  Which underscores the main point: the best way to help boys become men is to be faithful to those we father by loving their mother and staying home; and by living faithfully otherwise as an example to sons not our own. For after all, when we adopt a modicum of C. S. Lewis' moderate realism about masculinity, we know that it is an innate characteristic in all men, to be cultivated, enriched, and strengthened.  This, as they say, quite literally, 'makes the world go 'round'.

These simple truths, lived out though in weak vessels, give solid foundation to any community and nation.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lost Value of Solitude (from Peter Kreeft)

We avoid solitude and silence because when alone and quiet 
we must deal with who we really are.

Working through Peter Kreeft's Making Sense Out of Suffering, I hope to share a few of the great many quotable sections along the way. Here he addresses the deep inner pains of life, how silence and solitude are necessary antidotes, and why we avoid the cure due to the very pain we wish to avoid. Solitude requires us fundamentally to deal with ourselves; when closed in and quiet there is no one else but self. Here is Kreeft, page 11:

"Suicides are up. Depression is up. Mindless violence is up. Boredom is up. Loneliness is up. Drug escapism is up.

But the barbarians are no longer at the gates. The Huns and the Norsemen have long gone. What are we escaping from? Why can't we stand to be alone with ourselves? Solitude, the thing which ancient sages longed for as the greatest gift, is the very thing we give to our most desperate criminals as the greatest punishment we can imagine. Why have we destroyed silence in our lives?

We are escaping from ourselves (or trying to, since yourself is the one thing other than God that you can never escape from) because we all hurt, deep down."

I have been reading lately about the restoring nature of the Gospel, how the work of Christ -- so much more than paying a ticket to heaven -- enables us to live as He would live if He were us in our everyday normal existence. With that in mind, I wonder about this pain of which Kreeft speaks. I know he is right that it is universally true, even for believers. But I also believe that -- now-and-not-yet -- believers have found, in Christ, the answer, the incipient healing. I know Kreeft's discourse will give some marking answers along the way and so this question, for me, comprises part of the prism through which I will read.

But as to the difficulty of solitude, I believe he indeed pinpoints the general problem of humanity. We are most uncomfortable with ourselves -- the real us inside -- and thus avoid solitude and silence because when alone and quiet we must deal with who we really are.  Much easier to never go there. But the "way everlasting" only comes when we let God search us, know us, and cleanse us from unrighteousness (Ps. 139).  Then we are free, especially free to be quiet and alone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Favorite Chesterton Selection: Lampposts, Fixed Things, Knowing what Matters and Why

"there comes back the conviction...that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. 
Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark."

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen:

"Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good--" 

At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamppost, the lamppost is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. 

But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark. (From Heretics/Orthodoxy, popular Nelson edition, pg. 7)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blogging Daily, Unknown Merit

Blogging daily fetching thoughts
from passing notions fraught
with ephemeral concerns.

Bloggers publish more than print
and so in this immediacy lent
the words are more unworthy.

Media forms of past at least
tended to a better feast
for hungry mind and soul.

Of course it's not immediate
this one often indigent -
can tend to empty words.

And poems that are not at all
though definitions hear the call
define some 'poets' who are not.

Blogging daily may have merit
Gives ambitious author carrot -
but that is meager feast.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Time that Matters

In a post below (Ministry Matters) I tried to deal with what it means to live a life that matters.  It is enough for me to know that it is OK to want your life to matter.  The next step is to live freely and openly before God first and always so as to avoid making other people our constant point of reference and comparison.

But in a few more words today I want to ask what it means to make time matter.  The elusive nature of time is poignantly painful in human experience.  "Where did time go?" we ask, incredulous as our child turns 11, graduates college, or has child number 3.  How do we make time matter?

As Peter Kreft says, there are only clues to help us along with these kind of questions.  So I will attempt a clue:  we make time matter when we do our best in the moment.  This requires us to think only of the moment -- not with analysis as such, killing time with rationality.  But when we think only of the moment we are doing at least 3 things:
  • forgetting the past
  • ignoring the future
  • building a life
For a life will be built whether on purpose or not.   It happens and it only happens in the moment.  When we do our best -- which, after all is the only accomplishment we can hope for; when we do our best in the moment we will build a life of our best, for life only comes from moments.

So how do we make time matter? By doing our best right now.  Nothing else makes sense, for right now is all we have.  That is a clue, seems to me.

O Lord of the 'eternal now', touch my eyes and let me see how to live for you and others right now!
With a joyful heart and happy smile I say, 'So Be It!'

Ministry Remnants

"Stealing God's glory would be like stealing Gibralter for your curio shelf.  
Simply not going to happen."

I assume most preachers have a fall back plan, a way of shortening or altering a message if the order of service changes or a move of the Spirit occurs. When I am mulling over a message there seem to be countless little shoots of thought.  These sometimes work into the sermon but more often than not they remain in the ephemeral periphery of my mind, unlikely to be retrieved if indeed they merited such.

In this case, though, I had a 'fallback plan', dutifully scribbled on scrap paper and tucked into my Bible.

The message dealt with intercession and, in part, the kind of needs that drive us to our knees.  One of those needs is that of living a meaningful life, one that leaves a substantial legacy, a life that really matters.  This led me to consider the following:

We all want our lives to matter, and no effort to be humble or unassuming expunges it.  This rightly falls in the categories of self-respect and service, though it easily succumbs to the constant allure of pride and selfishness.  But why do we want our lives to matter?  One reason is kabod.

Kabod is the Hebrew word for weightiness, often translated "glory."  God is one who has kabod -- glory -- and the Scriptures declare He will not share it.  I take this to mean that no one can deprive the Lord of the weightiness of his character and bearing.  This is axiomatic, as they say: self-evidently true.  Stealing God's glory would be like stealing Gibralter for your curio shelf.  Simply not going to happen.

So what does this have to do with our earnest desire to matter, for our life to make a real and substantive difference, to leave a legacy?  It is this: we are made in the image of God and thus we not only have the capacity and desire for substance, weightiness, glory; we already possess these things in measure by virtue of being human, infused with the grandeur of God because made by Him.  That is, because God's image is 'stamped' on us in Creation we have a measure of real glory -- of weight, substance, intrinsic significance.

I believe this helps us understand and accept our innate hunger for personal 'glory'.  Not glory as in vain fame and pursued attention; not glory as a pursuit that puts others down so we can rise.  Those paths are always tempting, our desire twisted by the fall.  But we rightfully seek glory in the sense of kabod  -- of weight.  Our desire to matter, to make a difference, to leave a legacy of greatness -- that desire is innate, reflects God Himself who made us, and therefore it is ok. When we desire it we are living out our human nature as made.

So embrace kabod in the fear of God.  This requires some re-tooling, some kneeling, some praying; and we can only know this as we draw close to God and receive His gifts of regeneration and sanctification.  Without His work in our life, sin and its purveyor would push us down, even shame us for wanting to make a difference.  But if we are to be like God we will look for our lives to really matter, to make a difference, to have kabod, to have weight.

That's my prayer and I'm sticking with it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The old stuff matters, not the new...

The old stuff matters, not the new,
though such pronouncements raise brows
and wagons for hauling, asylum calling.

Old things grant reflection, distance,
implication; consequences clear, facts that will not bend.

Then if we look and listen and learn we can make sense of the
new, so-called, which is the other lesson here.

All things new are old, or so said someone.  We'll say Augustine
said it, just for fun, because he was wise and knowing
and we rightly listen when we think he spoke.

'All things new are old' has been said for millenia because it's true.
Its longevity proves it.  We cannot know what wasn't known before.

We say, "What of television -- we did not know that before?"

Case presented, made, closed; touche` never so deftly self-inflicted.