Sunday, June 22, 2008


The second week, the painting gang, Carlos, Jack, John, Juan Carlos, Juan, and Jesse and I walked into a Chipotle Mexican restaurant to get a quick bite to eat. On my white pants, now were two weeks worth of paint, and caulk, and a half days worth of sweat from the hot sun, along with the overspray of some stain. By this point, I was getting down a bit of the lingo. Relating better. Feeling like one of the crew, like a painter.

We rolled up to a restaurant in the business tech district of Colorado Springs, laughing, and relieved of our 30 minute break. After grabbing our burritos we sat down next to a group of guys my age. They looked like my from college. We were surrounded with men dressed in ties, and suits. The clean cut, and well spoken, and good looking people. People I had grown up around. Been friends with. Admired to become.

I looked and really noticed my crew. How different we were. Slouched over, dirty, cussing a bit, from different countries south of the border, joking on each other, and ragged. I kinda felt ashamed. And embarrassed.

I starred at this table of the guys next to me, reminding me too much of myself. Thinking about what I had left leaving Nashville, and the business world, and starting this job. I felt the loss. As if I was starring at what I could have been.

I wanted to take off these clothes, and grab them, and say, “Hey, I am one of you. It’s not what it looks like. I am really white collar, not like these guys.” It was a weird reaction. I wasn’t expecting it. I felt so cruel thinking it. But they never looked over anyways, never noticing us.

It kept happening. Walking into a mall, or even at a homeowners house. Normally I was given respect, looked at in my eyes when talked to, seen as a bright young man. I felt noticed. But not in this job. Something about putting on the painter pants, and shirts, and grabbing my tools, that took away all that from me. Stripped me of my previous life, and view of myself.
I was rarely respected, or noticed. I was one of the workers. A laborer. People were kinda afraid I might steal something, or ruin stuff. I didn’t seem trusted in these painter clothes.

I never knew how much I needed it. How I put off an image, that I needed people to see me as, and relate to me as this golden boy. I wanted to be seen as spoiled, and well-off, wealthy, good looking, and college educated. I used that, to get people to like me. It wasn’t until I put these pants on that I felt such a lack of it, a deep desperation to somehow get that back.

It was hard to take. I kept wanting to explain myself. I wanted to pull aside and tell the homeowners, you can trust me. There were even times I didn’t want to associate with the painters. I wanted to sit at a table all my own. I wanted to tell the homeowners talking to us about their house, about my college career. I remember constantly checking email on my phone during the day, to see if I had any good news. Something to tell me I was more than this lifestyle, and this paint on my clothes.

God was doing something in this place. Breaking something in me, that I didn’t even know was there. This place of entitlement was being stripped away, day, by slow day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


This week we are talking in our group, and large meeting time about failure. It is a topic that hits home for most of the guys at this point. We have climbed mountains, biked through valleys, worked in the heat, fly fished on a 10,000 foot lake. And with all the great joys, and scenes, and experiences of life, for all of us, failure is something we have been exposed to.

As men we hate these lines... I dont know what to do.

One young man with tears in sharing his confession, "I can't fix it."

We aren't taught to go there in our culture. Everything in our culture is set on rising up. In fame, fortune, and life. In some ways, beauty, and success, and the ascending part of life is a good thing. It's really true. But to get there, we must come to an end of that. The goal is not those things. Because we live with the idea, if I get those things... then I will be loved. noticed. respected. honored. embraced.

We work hard, to earn that. Most of us spend our lives in that path.

As much as I hate it, it seems the path God takes us is to descend into those dark places. and to feel the pain. the hurt. the loss. I dont know what to do. I can't make it better. I can't fix it. It is such a powerless place for a man. We are in some ways, created to bring order, and law, and rule, and dominion to things. But not on our own. Jesus as our guide.

You see man doing this on his own in Genesis 11, in the Tower of Babel. Man is starting to innovate, design massive structures, with one language, and working together. God scatters them and their language, because who knows what they might accomplish on their own. He wants them to know Him. To experience God in those buildings, and creations. If we can do it on our own, we dont need him.

When we fail, we face shame. As one of the young men pointed out, when you watch a game, when a player misses the last second shot, or field goal, he looks down. He shrinks, and moves inward, and closes up. Shame. Failure takes us to shame. Being exposed. Feeling inadequate. Adam and Eve feel naked, and ashamed, after their sin, and they hid.

Failure takes us there. Hiding. Staying away from all those places that might produce that shame again. We live safe lives, with little risk.

Since shame is experience in the presence of others, we feel failure in the midst of people, and in a crowd, or with a friend. We avoid it. And the last thing we want to do is expose that, and ask for help, from others, and God.

I can do it on my own. And for many of the guys, that has been how they have lived their life. I will do it on my own. I will not trust others. Or I am afraid to let others lead me. I think that is the beauty of what failure brings a man. His need for help. His need for God.

Ultimately, the scriptures are about God's restoration of humanity. Success, and victory is the theme of God. We will reign with Him, as co-heirs. I think the path there, is through failure. We come to be those co-creators, and co-builders, as we begin to find our identity is in our belovedness of God, as his sons (Romans 8)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nice Church.

I walked into church, a few years back in the middle of opening worship. It was this large metal rafter auditorium. Full of sights and sounds with lights shining in front. Everyone was praising Jesus. Hands in the air. I took a few moments to collect myself. Then started singing. Praising Jesus. Raising my hands. Experiencing God.

But then I just stopped. The music in my head faded away. Not sure why, but I opened my eyes, and I looked up at the stage, and all the lights, and all the young people around me. I just started watching the guy singers, and looked around at all the guys around me. Song after song I starred.

It was an array of sea foam, and pink colored shirts. Stylish hair, and frosted tips. The black square glasses. And tight shirts, and pants. It was like a giant starbucks gathering. And the truth was, I kinda fit some of that description too. The more sensitive understanding kinda guy. The good guy. The guy great at conversations. I was the guy girls liked to hang out with, and talk. I cared about what I looked like, the type of clothes I wore. I didn’t do those other men manly things. Not a man’s man, whatever that really meant. I had never really wanted too either. The whole hunting and fishing. That wasn’t really my thing. And I knew it was definitely not what made you a man. Man beating their chest in the woods. No thanks. I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone.

But I couldn’t sing anymore. All the boyfriend Jesus, Jesus, stuff.

Everything felt girly. The dudes on stage. The type of music. This building. These outfits. I didn’t even know what was happening. I didn’t want to raise my hands anymore. I didn’t want to sing at an octane beyond me. I wanted to check my pants, see if my balls were intact. I wanted to punch the dude next to me. I wanted him to punch me.

They started talking about small groups. And getting together to talk at people’s houses. They were bringing together community. I felt it rise in me. The hope. This was the answer. It could happen here. But I had kinda done that already. And although it sounded perfect, and Christian, and served a good purpose. and the right thing to do, sitting in some room with metal folding chairs, and tables, I just wanted to vomit.

The more they talked, the more this urge came to walk up to the front of these worship guys and mess up their hair, and have them mess up mine. I wanted to slap them around a bit. I wanted to unplug their guitar, and plug in a power tool, and start making music with hammers and drills, though I did not own one myself. Maybe we could borrow one, or rent it from home depot. But we were probably not going to get it from any dude here. There had to be something more than this as men. As far as praising Jesus, and always being happy, and looking cool, and wearing these oufits, and having accountability groups about porn, being these sensitive, and nice guys for God. There had to me more than wearing the newest shirt, understanding our feelings, and having good conversations at Starbucks.

All I knew is that I didn’t feel like a man. I never had. And being here was not helping that.

We sure didn’t look like men, and we definitely weren’t singing like them.

I wanted to make an announcement, “Men. Yes, men. Some of you hiding in those outfits you were told you needed from GQ. Yeah, I got one too. What if we take off these designer shirts, and designer jeans, and these nice guy personalities, and walk down this carpeted aisle, and out of this square air conditioned building, and run outside, strip down naked, and roll around in the mud and scream.”

I didn’t do it, though. I was too nice a guy.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Work. Kitchen work.

"Some say that the man's task in the first half of his life is to become bonded to matter: to learn a craft, become friends with wood, earth, wind, or fire." - Robert Bly

We spoke to the young men this week about work.

They have been working for a few weeks now, laborious, and hard, and long hour construction jobs. It is not easy. Nor are they hours they have to wake up for, to get there on time. It is hot. There is plenty of hardship.

And they are really impressing us. They want it. They want initiation. To feel hardship. and pain. One young man said he would have never had this experience outside of this place. To be around other men, blue collar, who are far from his world. He grew up on a golf course, and caddy'ing. Went into the financial services out of college. But he missed something.

There is this mysterious thing, Christ calls us to, in descending. "Until you become the least." "You must become like these little children" "The first will become last, the last will become first." "Picking up our cross" There are all these places we must go, often down, to understand how to move up.

The descent. The humilitation. "The way down and out"

Robert Bly writes, "For young men who have graduated from privilieged colleges, or who have been lifted upward by the expensive entitlement culture, their soul life often begins with this basement work in the kitchen."

We must start at the bottom, and work our way up. Its a sign of maturing, of process, of growth. And yet, we rarely go that route. I struggle so much in that. I want to move ahead, pass around the hardship, the sweat. Ascend into glory, beauty, and success. And yet, its through. Through the pain, the sweat. The adversity. It's how God makes us men.

But we don't want to go there. The curse on Adam, is you will work by the sweat of thy brow. There is something connected there to earth. To physical labor. To futility. The curse is God's way of pushing us into hardship and suffering. In order... to find Him. To understand the Cross. The sufferings of Christ, to take up our cross, our sufferings, and belong to him.

I think its why a young man needs to be bonded to matter, in craft, or through wood, earth, wind, or fire. There is something about the natural world, we need to find out about. What we have inside of us. To feel pain, to feel our bodies, and use them. To experience the glorious parts of the curse, and the obvious hard things.

But we move on. To the risen Lord. The resurrection. Its a beautiful thing. But getting there, is through. Not around, as Cory Smith expains. As men, we must learn how to navigate into those places. And maybe be pushed there. I know I needed, and still need that. I dont want to. I need to be nudged in that direction.

Remember the disciples a few days before Jesus heading to the cross. Quarelling amonst themselves about who will sit at the right hand of God. They wanted power and position. Not all that bad. Some of it being good. But Jesus said, the way up, is first down. the least.

One of the young men heard from his father the other day, and after explaining his job, working for a day labor company, and how hard it has been, his father shed some tears. I can't interpret all that happened, but there is something in a man, that knows we must go through those places, in order to rise up, and be men. Our fathers often tried to get us to work hard, put in the hours, work a hard summer job, but so often the response was why? And when you are young, its pretty hard to convince us otherwise. Not to mention the entitlement culture that says, you dont have to go down. there are ways around. you can move up. you can pass that road.

It is my deep hope that somehow we are able to help in those places, even that many of these fathers have encouraged their sons in. My father was that way. work hard. spend a summer feeling real hard work. but did I want to do that? why Dad? Do I have to? It seems so easy to go a different route. I had to learn the hard way. I guess, so many of us do.

these young men are choosing that path. and I feel so honored to be with them. and watch them learn from these discoveries. and the stories that come from their work. they are entering the futility of the curse, and they are being blessed by it, becoming men.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fight Club.

I am reading through Chuck Palahniuk's, Fight Club. It was made into a movie, starring Brad Pitt. The movie is dark, and yet enlightening, and so far, so is the book. It speaks to the rage of the young men we are around, and I know myself. Along with the confusion of what to do about it.

Here's a quote...

"My father never went to college so it was really important I go to college. After college, I called him long distance and said, now what?
My dad didn't know.
When I got a job and turned twenty-five, long distance, I said, now what? My dad didn't know, so he said, get married.
I'm a thirty-year-old boy, and I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer I need."

Isn't that our dilemna. We are angry. We are often more boyish, and uninitiated, and unfinished than we want to admit. No wonder this character goes off to fight club. He has never had a father leading him, walking near. It can be too easy in our culture for fathers to come from a distance with their sons. Advice. And tips. But truely what we need is our father, and fathers around us, and Our Heavenly Father.

I have found most young men just launch into whatever next "season" is supposed to come. Get a job. Get married. Settle down." All these things being good. But few of us discover, what we really want... our father. Love. Guidance.

I think that is what happens to so many young men out of school. the pressure, and expectations. with little real world experience, and wisdom. they launch out for these things, only to come out 30 years later, empty, and in a crisis. may God help us rescue, and restore these young men to see their need for guidance, fathering, and the one who saves us from gaining the whole world, but losing our soul.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


I spent the morning writing this about a backpacking trip from a few years back...

As I sat over this mound of accumulated gear, it hit me that I probably needed to use it. There really was no real purpose of collecting it, if I didn’t at least have either a story to tell, or something to show for it. (what kind of motivation is that anyways) I think I bought it to use it, but the more I got the more I wondered what this little wonder lust was really about. After a few days of thinking of a place that I might launch out into, I decided on Lost Creek Wilderness, right outside of Divide, CO. It was a few hours away, down the highway and into some mountains.

I collected all my things, electronic GPS, gear, gear, gear, and took off.
Although I had probably 5X more than I needed, I really didn’t know what I actually needed.

And so I just kinda kept adding to the bag. Boys Scouts motto, “be prepared.” And with heading into an area I had never been, knew nothing about, never backpacked, and despite all my gear, was really not prepared for what was to come.

Pulling up, I felt this sense of fear and doom. What was I about to step into? As I left my car, I felt like I was leaving my comforts. What was out there? Miles down the trail? Would I know what to do? Would I even come back alive? Would I have brought the right “thing.” I started noticing tracks on the ground, bear? Or little rabbit? Not sure again. Looking up, I saw clouds differently. I had always seen them as fun, trying to make them into Jesus face, or something. But out here, it was about surviving. Is that a cloud that will rain? Or is that a cloud that will pass me by? I was going to need much more than a Jesus face in a cloud to get through this.

What am I supposed to look for in a rain cloud? Miningitus, or Columbus, or wait, no cumulus? I am not sure.

Simple things like opening my bag of peanuts brought with it questions… am I sure I want that next bite? What if I need that down the road. Could I find a stream ahead, or should I conserve this sip of water? Choices, and more choices. And I was barely a mile down the trail. Everything felt so heightened. So important.

What about the weather tonight. Would it get really cold? Or stay nice in this sun? I just didn’t know. I couldn’t read the map, or the land. I had never had to. My life was through weather channels. And information feed to me through google and my parents. Cold- put on jacket. Hungry-go to fast food. Those were the voices I followed in my head.

I had always been told in advance what to expect, about weather, and about life, college, and a career. I wasn’t anticipating, or preparing for anything. If I really needed something, well, it was just a half block down the road at Walgreens. I had every luxury I wanted. I had been following that line for awhile. Right behind the guy in front of me. Butt to head. Like a tourist horse ride.

It was the same way with the seasons of life. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. What did those really mean for me? I mean, there was an occasional need to put on a coat, scrape the ice, but a real season. I did not feel it. Not in my perfectly digitally controlled environment at home, and at work, and surrounding. My car stayed the same tempt, the stores I went in, and my home. The only seasons I felt was the short trip of about 5 seconds between all three.

All this to say, I was not connected to something. Could not feel, or experience the earth, and God’s order of things. I did not know what to bring backpacking, because I had never needed to. Everything just kinda came prepared. My lunch had been packed since I was a boy. Then fast food on demand for what I was feeling, in that moment. I was just a little baby suckling on the bottle. Whatever was given to me, I took. No questions. The weatherman says its gonna be warm, great, I will wear shorts. Never knowing why, or even caring. I didn’t need to.
And the lessons I learned about the unpredictability of things? Fear. Good gosh, man. You are exposed. Bad things could happen. Anything in the future that was up for a question, not known.

Well, we insured it. I insured my house, in case of a fire. My car in case I had a wreck. The ring of my wife, in case the diamond fell out. Insurance if I got sick, and then life insurance if I was to die. Anything unpredictable, became managed. No reason to worry, or live each day. It was covered. And I remained a boy because of it.

And so here I was… somewhere in the woods, with lots of questions. And no one there, and no google there to help. Everything I had hoped I needed was shoved somewhere down my overloaded backpack. I was a man, lost in wilderness. I guess I even picked it. Lost Creek Wilderness. Good lord, this was not turning into what I had hoped. Not sure what to do, I just kept moving, and wondering if insurance was going to cover this.
I could not describe it better than Eustace Conway’s description of our world of boxes that we live in.

They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in the box of their bedroom because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into a box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken up into lots of little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to their house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


I just listened to an amazing explanation of the commandment, you shall not take the Lords name in vain. Its about 15 minutes... and the explanation of yahweh, and how it relates to breathing in, and breathing out... absolutely an amazing revelation of God.