How do you make steps out of a realization? How do you move others through a process you went through hoping their success is like yours? How do take males who don’t see it and turn them into men who definitely see it? I get bogged down trying to think of how to organize this, but I’m actually not feeling any sort of release to even do so. Worrying about how to make it some neat, step-filled process in order to be sure men get what we think they should get is a control issue. It’s a totally benevolently motivated issue, but if you’re asking the questions in the paragraph above, they reveal an issue in your own heart. It may even be easy to say it’s not an issue because you just have to be told something simple like “you can’t control how the men respond. But we all know you still ask these questions in other places. We all want men to “get it,” but there’s a graveyard and a nursing home filled with men’s ministries because men couldn’t rid themselves of the checklist, the formula, the “here, do this.”Let me explain.You feel like you got it, right? You have the fire you think other men should have, right? How did you get it?In my case, I had an earth-shattering moment that resulted in a mind-altering experience—and it was all God-borne or God-fixed. I’ll go into what happened another time, but for now, internalize this: my mind was changed and I—at long last—finally began to search earnestly for something and God handed it to me almost immediately. God led me to Wild at Heart. Now let’s not be fooled into thinking that the book did all the work. It didn’t. I’d owned that book before. I’d even started it before. In fact, I’m hearing a lot of men say they’ve actually read it or “went through” it, and they’ll gladly admit that nothing changed. Even that is better than what I did because it was literally an untouched decoration on my dresser. The book is a tool of the power, not the power. My mind wasn’t the power either. Nearly every time I’ve let my mind do the work, I’ve either gotten lucky and stumbled on a right thing, or I’ve done the wrong thing (and trust me when I say that even doing nothing or being idle is the wrong thing). My mind wasn’t the power, it needed the power. The power: the one and only Holy Spirit. Now stay with me. There was a time—a long time—in my life when I would immediately shut down when I heard or read that. I called it “kooky” talk. My perception came from two places:1. I’d seen a ton of abuse of the claim. False claims. Stupid moves that we’re supposedly covered under the guise of being led by the Spirit. I used it to judge how stupid a person was, and I’d subconsciously convinced myself that the Holy Spirit did nothing, had already done whatever it was supposed to do, or was some mystery that we’d never be able to access because we couldn’t understand it. As soon as someone said, “God told me…,” I was done with the conversation. 2. And this is the most honest reason: I was so preoccupied with others’ perception of me that I wasn’t willing to open up to any Spirit possibilities. I was insecure, and because I was attempting to achieve some false manhood, I couldn’t jeopardize my reputation. The first one isn’t altogether without merit. Thomas gets a bad rap for “doubting,” and the typical response to his story may be spot-on, but I’ve always admired him. Jesus specifically told his followers to beware of people claiming to be Him. I prefer to think that he simply wasn’t about to give any credence to an imposter. With that in mind, I don’t think anyone should abandon righteous caution in evaluating shaky Spirit claims. But hanging out on that response in this study is a crutch to keep us from the real issue: our pride as a response to our hurt and our unanswered or improperly answered question (hang tight; we’ll get to that question). The second is the one none of wants to admit. Piety is part of the facade church men create. It’s hard to admit that we’re actively rejecting one-third of the Godhead because the idea challenges our comfort zones. We love to rise above a challenge to our comfort zone and win a race, build something, bag a huge buck, face the elements, conquer whitewater, win the account at work. Really, though, all of that is IN our comfort zone. We’re comfortable being uncomfortable in ways we’re comfortable being uncomfortable. However, when we’re faced with being uncomfortable in a way we’re uncomfortable with being uncomfortable, we don’t just back away, we label it as weak, girly, stupid, uneducated, milk not steak, not applicable outside of Bible times. In fact, men will go a step further and hide in our categories. All of a sudden a loner who wants to be unique finds respite in aligning with all introverts or all in our Myers-Briggs or Enneagram type. But is that really what God had in mind when he programmed our gender? A man who is more manly by doing things he calls manly or not doing things he doesn’t think are masculine? No way. God programmed battle-ready servant-warriors who operate at their best when they seek their orders, wouldn’t think of disobeying them, and are aggressively carrying them out with laser-focus. Wild at Heart isn’t the power. The mind isn’t the power. The Spirit is the power. His lead. His directives. His crazy antics (yes, He gets downright bonkers). Don’t believe me? Go ahead, read the book and make it fit inside your current paradigm. Let me know if it works. Or make yet another attempt to change your own mind. That’ll be futile, too. “Joey, that sounds great, but how do we access the Spirit in all this?” I’m glad you asked. Pray. Pray openly. Honestly. Fervently. Ask God to reveal that answer. Then buckle up. Not just because the Spirit can be a bit nutty, but also because there are things that quench the Spirit, stuff that drowns out His voice and His lead, and you’re absolutely going to have to deal with those things with reckless, unapologetic abandon. No more clinging to your secrets. No more hoping you’ll finally stop doing the hidden things that weigh you down with guilt making you think that no one would accept you if they only knew the real you. No more vices. No more, “I’ll do this, but I’m not giving up that.” I don’t have to enumerate these things. You know what they are. You know shouldn’t be talking to her. You know you should install Covenant Eyes on your devices. You know the entertainment you shove into your heart. You know your doubts. You know which drink crossed the “too much” line. You know that third trip to the buffet is killing you. You know who you hate and need to reconcile with. And you know you lie to yourself every single time you rationalize them. And that shame you feel isn’t a simple emotion. It’s the response of a soul that cannot hear the Holy Spirit. Satan revels in the fact that you’re there. Ready to experience more? Ready to step into what I know you’re actually scared that you want?Buckle up. The process, the steps, the formula: we can’t figure that out for someone else. We can, however, nudge them by letting them see that they can let go and step into God’s comfort zone. And we absolutely cannot do that without giving the Holy Spirit room to work without any conditions or stipulations.

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This generation isn’t a result of its own search for being unique. It’s a result of previous generations. But it’s far more hamstrung by the fact that all the fixes that generations prior employed to attempt to feel like they were finally getting it right were used up and exposed as the bandaids they were. The arm was broken, no shattered. The skin was rent asunder and the muscle and sinew lay bare, exposed to the diseases of the open air, and all each generation did was attempt to bandage it. Now the small wound is catastrophic and the only fix is the actual, real fix. They aren’t the result of their own misgivings. No, they’re the result of an actual ailment, and binding the wound won’t work anymore. This current group needs authenticity and community. They need compassion and purpose. They need church. Real church. Those of us who feel a call to help them are suggesting bandaids because they seemed to have worked for us. It’s not that that’s not noble. It is. But the current generation now needs what every group before them needed: Jesus the Christ. It’s easy to say they’re “snowflakes.” It’s simple to say they’re just lazy and entitled. Those things are certainly true, but they’re no truer of this group than of our own. They need the disciplines. They need the acceptance and healing that comes in wide open, brutally honest groups. Fasting, prayer, study, worship, testimony, service. Not of compulsion by a list or some master plan of “how to become something you’re not,” but of that which comes only from an authentic recognition of Jesus’ role in humanity. Theirs will be a response, a natural next step that comes from what all who truly accept the Lord naturally do. The early church did what they did without the scripture we know today. No Pauline epistles. No degrees in ministry and worship. They did what they did because that’s what happens when God reigns supreme via the salvation that can only come from the saving grace and work of Jesus. They sold what they had, lived in community, had all things in common. Became a church that longed to meet daily, search the scriptures, fasted in honor of the sufficiency of the Lord, and live in the full time presence of God. The best they had was a letter containing a few directives. That letter circulated and found itself in the midst of humans gone wrong who had only their flesh to determine their next move. They didn’t seek to be perfect in deed, they sought to be perfect in the bond that covered them all. This generation needs the God of wonders who doesn’t simply accept all, he wants all. All people, all walks, all races, all genders, all wounds, and—most importantly—all parts of your life. They need the direction and boundaries given by God, not by their detractors. They don’t need more “fixes,” they need the actual healing that makes the catastrophe a ministry. They won’t tell because they’re told to tell, but they will tell because they can’t help it.

Warriors. Battle-driven. Ready to fight, defend, shed blood. Ready to love, rescue, captivate. Gentlemen who are not to be messed with, who are unswayed, rooted in truth. Capable of compassion, mercy, and grace, but unrelenting in our profession of morality in service of our King. We are blood-bought and redeemed. Our enemy fears us because it knows for whom we fight and with what weapons we strike. All men—ALL men—are built to be like us. It’s in their DNA, and not figuratively so. We found the untapped arsenal in our physical and spiritual code and we help our brothers discovers theirs. Our strength is from the Lord, the Creator of all humanity, all that was created was created by our Victor. By ourselves, we are nothing. With the Standard of the Lord raised before us, we are legions of soldiers, even if we stand alone beneath that flag. We aren’t immune to our enemy, but we spend our time knowing our weapons intimately. We shout. We worship. We cry. We love. We protect. We walk in devotion by faith in Him who won the battle before we ever claimed our equipment. We know beauty but we don’t serve it. We know work, but we are not slaves to it. Our shackles—our sole captivity—is chosen because we were chosen. We serve the one true God. We offer our lives at any cost to the Master who trains us, disciples us, fathers us. We wear the Son’s name, not our own. We’re led by the Spirit, not our flesh. We seek discipline. We fast. We pray. We study. We worship. We serve. We enslave nothing but our thoughts, willingly forcing every facet of our beings to bend to the will of God. We will not be caught away from our God. We are in constant communion, constant and consistent contact, so that though we could be caught unaware, we will not be. We do not leave our brothers behind. We honor our brothers’ relationships. We love our wives with the love shown to us. Our children are God’s. Our homes are God’s. Our money is God’s. We own nothing. We are but grateful and prudent stewards. We seek correction. We long for our orders. We are brothers, not of our own volition, but because we share a common and perfect God who has never left us, who fought for us, who died for us, and who defeated the undefeatable for us and for His own matchless glory. We don’t act like men, we are men by the grace and calling of God.

No, the title doesn’t mean anything.  Just a Seinfeld quote. 🙂

So 2011 has wasted no time buring its brand on my mind. With the loss of Gary Miller, founder and member of Vocal Union, it’s been a slow go in terms of shows and updates.  Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support.  Even though the shock of Gary’s loss has smoothed out a little for the general public, please don’t forget that his absence is still very real to his family.  Please visit www.vocalunion.com to see how you can help.

Most of my updates have been in a somewhat real time format since we picked up a Facebook page.  That’s left this blog on the proverbial back-burner for quite a while (I’ve read more than a few blogs, and I’m amazed at how many blog posts are simply apologies for not posting in a while).  I’ll try to keep up from this point forward, but events that have happened up to this point are kind of blurry to me right now.  I’ll not rehash that.  I’m trying to be a realist.

So far the biggest change here is the updated iWillBe page and the addition of the iWas page.  As always, I’d love to see you wherever you can make it!

We had a crazy, awesome weekend this past weekend in Austin, Texas.

As you know, I tour with Vocal Union, but what you may not know is that Karen and I have been blessed with a great church and a great relationship with the Fourth Avenue Church in Franklin, Tennessee.  It’s a bit of a drive, but it’s absolutely worth the 30 minute drive from Murfreesboro.

Through that church we have been allowed to use our God-given gifts with Ken Young and the Hallal worship group, and this past weekend was another example of how God has smiled on that ministry.

We boarded the plane early Friday, connected in snowy Chicago, and arrived in the sunny Lone Star State around Friday lunch.  The Hallal group was commissioned to conduct a worship conference called Stream at the Westover Hills Church. 

Karen and I will be forever grateful for our new friendships and our refreshed relationship with God.  If there is ever a Stream near you, it really needs to be among your top priorities to go.

Check out www.hallalworship.com for more details.

The days grow short and the gray alleys of mid- and early mid-twentieth century nostalgia are fading and breaking into small, brittle pieces. His mind now is like a photograph pulled from the wreckage of forgotten storage.  The corners are gone, and the tape that had repaired it a long time ago has browned and is crackling.

He barely and fully remembers days of clothing that was original, not throwback. Days of art, music, experience and experiment, all wrapped up in browns, burgundys, deep greens, and yellows. The film lies.  He imagines their time smelled of must and neglect.  They were happy, hardened, and as ignorant as any generation before or since. Their sports were rougher, their smiles were earned, and they became his history.

One by one, another piece of the photograph mingles with the dust and gnats at the bottom of a suitcase. Memories caught in time now forgotten, now crumbs. They laughed on the hood of a car on an Indiana back road. They squinted their eyes and smirked in the sun. They stood in the school parking lot with their huge collars and folders. They gathered in his great-great-grandparents home, or at least in their honor. In the corners sat the sages and elderly, “that’s my uncle” or “I don’t remember him.”  In spurts are the sporadic splashes of the younger, newer members of the family, up close, mouth open, eyes wide and smooth.

The scenes are blurry, the trees have silver garland and popcorn. The dresses had belts, the hairdos had wings, the pants had plaid. The glasses were black, the hats were dapper, the televisions were forgotten.

Weak images of strong recollection. Pieces of a single frame.  He prays to see them move, breathe, wink, cough.  His petition granted with a catch: silence.

In their background, they must have the constant rattle and hum of running from spool to spool. It’s all he knows of them, and they have to be hearing it, too. There must be large spots of dust in their world that appear then disappear as quickly. Their mouths move, but they don’t speak. There is background music, but he doesn’t think they hear it. If they do, they continue to smile, smoke, laugh, hug, and blush.  They move so much more quickly than he remembers.

They struggle with the same sins, he believes. Theirs are far more hidden, of necessity. Their tastes are simpler than his own, yet more complex than their parents’. Their word is their bond, and he will never again hear their bond. Their love is deeper from the start. “Till death do us part” meant they were both leaving, together. They, too, are a cycle, and their memories are crumbling just like his. Tin crumbles, too, and gathers, stains, and fills the space between floor and bed.

The screen goes blank. The spool beats the projector in hopeless rage. The vinyl goes white.  The room goes black.  Suddenly he feels he is a picture in his own hand.

The pictures fade. Their images are soon stock. No one remembers them anymore. His wrinkled hand hurts as it grips the faded, little paper. Drops of moisture are no issue by now. He can’t really save them. He knows so much more than they, and so much less.

They are now names that another explorer in a distant generation will discover in a library, and those names will be called branches. And those branches will hopefully make an herbal salve, healing wounded consciences that are unclean because they belong to fingers that didn’t write, hold, call, or wave.

The explorer hurts.

His memories are brittle, too.

One of the new shots from the latest photo shoot is on the website now. Check it out: www.vocalunion.com
While there, figure out which show you get to come to!