Sunday, November 29, 2009

A case of 48 books for $48.

A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to buy some of my first book from the publisher back. They had pretty much stopped selling, and were dumping them for $1 a copy, so I said, hey. Can I get a few? They said, how about the remaining?

Somewhere around 1,300 books.

It presented a dilemma. I am not traveling around speaking, or have any real way of getting the books into the hands of men, and young men at a large scale. They ain't flying off the shelves or in high demand.

But imagine if all your hard work and labor of something was being discounted at somewhere around 90%. Maybe a version of you at a really cheap rate. I'd like to think while many of us would pay more for our own version then most, we do like ourselves. How could you not go in at 90% off of yourself. You would have to buy yourself at that price.

And how many of yourself would you buy at that rate?

1, 5, 100, or 1,300?

I guess I figured if anyone was going to take that price, it should be me, right? So, I ponied up the money, and bought them. Priceless, original, out-of-print copies of my first book. Pretty dang cheap.

And now they sit. and sit. 1,300 of yourself just sitting there with no one to want them but the person that made them. and to be honest, he's not sure if he made the right choice. I think all 1,301 of us are kind of getting bored at staring at each other. while they are pretty independent, this one has to eat.

I figured, maybe I could sell them. so, i offer me to you, the 90% off me.

you could hand them out to a youth group, use them for firewood, or a ministry, or just give the old beggar a few coins in the tin cup, but I am willing to get rid of them for $48 a box. which includes 48 copies. then $10 to ship them.

So $58 for 48 books.

I think Donald Miller's newest hard back is selling for about $58. so maybe that is where you need to make a real economical decision. 48 of xan, or 1 of Donald Miller. those could be some true odds.

If you are interested, give me a holler at

Good tidings.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All things come together.

As a young teenager, one of my good friends was Wade. We worked out together, dreamed of our girlfriends, and in some ways, felt a bit outside of the circle of friends we ran around with. He went to one high school, I went to another. We were dreamers without much to back that up, or without understanding of how that was part of a potential calling in our life.

I just placed my first order with Buffalo & Company with his company that he has built called USIMPRINTS. Ordered some croakies as they say in the south, or sunglass straps for the rest of the world.

I doubt it made much of a dent in their bottom line for the month, but it was a great full circle, and coming around for me. I have watched Wade grow his business, and watch him grow as a great man of integrity, and strength. He has supported our work at Training Ground with some of those profits. which has in turn, allowed me to grow in my calling as well.

In ministry, you can often feel like a beggar. We are in the end of the year giving season, and so our plans begin for how to invite people into our work, and ultimately ask for their resources. While it's more dignified, it is still begging. Asking for something, that you know, will not necessarily return something in return for them. We are begging on behalf of others, not just for our ourselves, but we are begging.

I have had to learn how to walk into that. I am not an easy begger. But God has called me to that, to intercede for others and their journey.

I think that is what felt so coming around for me. I could step in the chain of business. I could trade one item of value for another. He could serve me a product I needed, and I could return give him the cash for it he was looking for.

There is most certainly a difference in the realm of business and ministry. and some of us are called to beg, and others to give. and that goes from money, to counsel, to just about anything. we all should be beggers at some point, it is a gospel mandate.

I guess, I just feel so grateful to be able to give back the market value of what is asked. not to necessarily ask for a donation. ministry folks need that. in fact, i kind of have this brewing theory that those in ministry, would do good to learn the other side of the table for awhile. and business leaders, could do well to learn what its like to in some form, beg. for others, or even themselves.

its too easy to stay on one side of the table. either out of shame, or pride. I feel honored in this season at Training Ground, and for Buffalo & Company, to experience a bit of both. Both needed, both good.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


What does true creativity look like?

There is a self expression inside creativity, that is marked with uniqueness and distinction of all its own. Nothing tied down, or limited. Its a form of making something all new.

Being part creative, and part business, there is always a place between the two I have enjoyed blending. I think for capitalism to work well, you have to provide a service or product needed for people. It has to serve a need. If not, the business fails. So, there is plenty of marketing, and I guess you would are not say, "creative" ways to get people to see something in a certain way.

And then on the other side is the pure artist. They are not bound by conventional means. Production is a negative. And expression and uniqueness is the full means to true art. Fleeing all that business and marketing crap.

It is quite ironic that most of the art, whether it be writing, or music, or you name it, come from very well aware business and artistic types. They know there is a place for both. To get your music to be played in many places, requires some major commitments to be a good manager of your talent, your time, and your pursuit of sharing your art.

I think that is why I love the two dilemmas. the artist needs to eat. the business man needs to create. neither probably are naturally wanting that. the business man wants the bottom line, the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the numbers for his investors. but most people buy, for very immeasurable reasons, often because of something like art. and beauty. and desire.

the artist tends to want to stay in their focused place. not to be consumed by the world of production art, or mass anything. they are purists. but then, the rent payment comes around. and the cost for those guitars.

I think there is a beautiful tension between those two. how do you create honest art that also creates a paycheck. and how does the businessman offer value to his stockholders, while knowing full well that even at the end of the day, when the rich investor goes home, he probably took some of that money to re-decorate his house, with designer chairs, and beautiful paintings, and sculptures that are all one of a kind.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

From our friend, Sister Therese.

I just received this from a lady I met a few years back who teaches at Training Ground the ancient practice of contemplative prayer. She is a benedectine nun here in town. I call her my spiritual grandmother. She wrote this in response to a newsletter we sent out at TG about our time hunting.

Dear Xan: Thanks for the update. You are coming along fine.
I have a question - Why does hunting to kill an animal make a man?
Many blessings on your ministry to young men.
Sr. Therese

Many different thoughts are there. John Muir spent time with Teddy Roosevelt, and one of their more argumentative topics was on enjoying animals vs. killing them. Muir the naturalist. Roosevelt the hunter. Muir thought a man was meant to come out of this place. that killing for sport was an adolescent experience.

Here is a quote I read from Muir,

"All hale, re-blooded boys are savage, the best and boldest the savagest, fond ouf hunting and fishing. But when thoughtless childhood is past, the best rise the highest above all this bloody flesh and sport business, the wild foundational animal dying out day by day, as divine uplifting, transfiguring charity grows in."

There are many sides to this argument, but a look at the fall, tells us death will come. And maybe even God was the first hunter. Killing something in our place for Adam and Eve to put on their shame and nakedness. a shadowing of the blood needed to come. There is so much in this conversation. so much. There are some who hunt for merely trophies, other for the meat, others for the bonding time. not an easy one to try and sum up. but i believe any sane man, who hunts, needs to ask that question. and live from it in the hunting process.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Worship and Sex.

From what I take on the great metaphors of the gospel, it seems one of the greatest is Jesus as the groom and the church as the bride. The culmination is the meeting of full consecration, and one joining the other together, and forever. I guess, Jesus making love to his church. It is actually very beautiful, despite having to wince a minute at the thought.

It seems that our experience of worship (here and now), of entering into that holy communion has the taste of love making. Some divine experience of opening up, and inviting him in.

I find myself to be a worshiper. but I can't help to think about how we schedule our sex with God. I mean, taking the metaphor he offers us, and we schedule it. 10 a.m. on Sunday. If I take this to a much more practical place, my own wife. I can only imagine what she might say to my weekly invitation.

And that is not to mention the performance anxiety for those minutes. We have ourselves a little baby girl on the way, and with this being the only time we ever really "scheduled" all that metaphor making reality, lets just say, it was a bit difficult.

I guess that is what is hard about sunday morning worship. its kinda of, well, scheduled sex. and while, I am not trying to make a case against church, or planning the songs, or practicing for the act, I just had a beautiful time with worship, over a cigar, some pearl jam, God, and a luke warm hot tub with dirt floating around. Quite an unexpected moment of joy in all this metaphor of love. Jesus just snuck up on me in an unexpected place.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Animal Sacrifice.

The Training Ground guys spent the day down at a mom and pop butchery and processing place in Fountain, CO. We made sausage, but before we made it, we went to pick up our pig.

She greeted us hanging on a rack. It was my morning coffee.

We spent the morning with Dwayne and his son. They showed us around the place. Goats. Pigs. Chickens. And lambs. All in a holding cell, awaiting their ultimate fate in the wood shack room we went in. It is fun to pet a goat. Especially when it is a pet. But to pet it wondering, here in a few short days, someone is gonna come by and point. And instead of taking it home to little timmy for 12 years of dog food, and extra human loving, not this time billy goat.

I have killed a few deer and turkeys now. so death is not all that new. but when we held down the goat, and it began to "bleet" and "baah" and the throat was slit, it all came to me. I stood back. and struggled.

I think in part because in my mind, when I think of meat, and my daily dose of nuggets and round and square burgers, in my mind, someone else did the dirty work. and I dont have to take in the death, and the fall of man. I like the creation story. I like how beautiful it is. but I dont think much on how when Adam and Eve sinned, God went somewhere and skinned some animal skin, to give to Adam and Eve. the first hint of a sacrifice needed. that for us to have life, death had to come.

I dont like death. and somehow I think even in those burgers and patties I think that maybe they just found their way into a patty. they somehow chose it. decided on their own to do that for my $8 combo meal. but watching the goat, watching its struggle and fight, and even its noise, as they held it down, reminded me that it was a sacrifice.

When you hunt, there is a sense of sport. but today, there was nothing of the sort. it was for the meat. and there is something really horrible about having to do that to anything living. its not how it was meant to go. and yet, God's provision is blood. blood as a sign. for us. I am excited when the day comes when the one who was slain, is in completely in full reign. when the blood is gone, and all the tears are wiped away. and the lion and the lamb are together.

and the little goat, can be what it was meant. no sacrifice needed.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Buffalo & Co.

I regret not posting in awhile. Life has been quite busy. I actually read a fascinating book, Money, Greed, and God by Jay Richards. a few weeks back. I don't believe a book has ever shaped me more in thinking about money and free markets.

It has taken me down some interesting paths. From thinking about micro-lending, and social enterprise, and eventually to the thought of starting a business. I have thrown together a website that I am collaborating together with a few people. It is in the very early start-up stages. But we are moving forward with it.

It is in some ways, my trying to reconcile my southern traditions of style and class of my upbringing, with a more western experience in Colorado. From blue collar roots to white collar. It is a twist on men's clothes, designing a new brand to speak to those in-between places.

It's online here...

I would love if you took a gander.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Do dogs have political beliefs? And views on technology?

I got this from my wife today in an email...

Tacoma (our bernese mountain dog) got a hold of my phone and it's completely destroyed. Yeah, I know. I'm going to kill him. Just so you know, that's why you can't get a hold of me. I'm going to try to find one off craigslist. And he destroyed your Communist book.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Serving the poor by teaching them.

It is interesting what has been coming out of the news about a new wave of thinking in Africa. One women wrote a book discrediting the beliefs that all the aid that came into Africa over the years has helped. But instead, made them dependent on it. Hooked onto assistance. She believes if change will happen, it must come from within. the old adage, “give a man a fish, feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.”

It seems to be the issues at hand for much of our country, regarding entitlements. government subsidies, and programs. “handouts.” It is a sad story to see the native American story. An independent people who lived off land without a need for printed money. But over time, as we have given them territories of often, barren lands, and offered them various financial assistance. They received checks for the resources taken from that land (oil or natural gas), which has them hooked onto our system for payments. A sweet Shoeshone lady, Sparky, in Wyoming told me all about it one day.
And I grieved at how we in part, made them dependent upon us.

Behind all this often lies a poverty mentality. No sense of making the way through it. rising up. Often, there is very little motivation. Or reason. Those in power, are in power and in control. I will take what I can get.

Karl Marx believed that we needed to overthrow the powers that be. All those benefiting from the working class. We should take them out. And give over control to all the normal joes out there. But the free market capitalist believes that you can earn your way to the top by hard work and dedication. No one requires you to stay stuck in that position. You have a choice to engage, or lay back on the couch and collect government checks. That is the beauty of free markets. You are free to decide.

One of the all time great best-selling books is called, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. As the website explains, “the conspiracy of the rich” It’s premise is that a rich father teaches his son something much different than someone poor. And that secret really leads him down a very different path. I have some good friends who have read it, and reading it. and for awhile, I always saw it as some hoakie get rich quick scheme. But lately, I have been wondering if in it lies more of the answer to our problems in America.

In my field of work, and with Training Ground, much of what we initiate young men into is the world of hardship, suffering, and hard work. Many of these young men need an experience of working with construction workers, and an experience outside the world of academia. And our entitled culture. It can be a wake up call of sorts.

But what about the opposite side? What do they need?

I wonder if part of that book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, is offering fathering. Some form of invitiation into capitalism, and business, and understanding of financial systems to get on top of the capitalism ladder.

Getting back to Africa. I wonder what it would mean to father, initiate, and lead these men and women into ways of business, free markets, and economic freedom and prosperity. “teach them to fish.” For people who are poor, and come from poverty, well, they see themselves as always being that. As Jesus speaks of in the parables, you take one talent, and bury it.

A friend, Paul, told me a story of how a project was taking place in Africa where they built a “chicken factory” for thousands of chickens for a village to raise and sell for profit. The delivery of 1,000’s of chickens arrived, and they received a call back in the states with the statement, “they ate all the chickens!”

When you see a chicken. You eat it!

But what does it meant to teach them how to take that chicken, and make a few more, which make a few more, and one talent becomes ten. That doesn’t come very naturally for someone who is just looking for the next meal. Or being handed a fish for the day’s food.

All to say, it seems you have to change the mentality of the people. teach them. Lead them. And call them up. Karl Marx wrote off the wealthy merchant class (bourgeoise) because they did not care but anything but their own profits. Exploiting the lower classes for their own gain. But what if the wealthy class, went and taught this to the poorer class. They taught them their secrets in Jesus. And how to multiply talents.

I just think that would be so beautiful. so redemptive. And to me, instead of dividing the lines further, like all this talk of socialism vs. capitalist, it might merge the two, and make them have a deeper respect for one another. Not to mention what all the rich people would learn from the other side in the process.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Communism or Free Markets?

I am realizing that I have been writing a few 'political' blogs. I don't know why religious people always seem to end up there. Is it ego, ambition, or where the intersection of so many ideas get injected in the marketplace of humanity? I decided that I was going to read two viewpoints. Today in the mail arrived The Communist Manifesto. I felt very un-patriotic opening it up. And quickly hid it from any neighbors. McCarthy would surely be tracking me a few years back. But I also picked up Mark Levin's, Liberty and Tyranny - A conservative Manifesto. Two manifestos. Two very different opinions of just about well--everything.

I just switched them up. Read a bit on one, then on the other.

What a great new experience. Of course, both is slamming the others side. But the beauty of it all, is that it actually made me formulate some opinions. I got to hear from two leading sources. And I am realizing I am not as much a socialist, as I was starting to believe. It helped by reading from the source.

But I also can't deny that Marxism, and socialism, still has dignity in it, and addresses some issues that are too easily pushed aside. There are class struggles. There is the rich and the poor. Bourgeoise, and proletariat. Marx writes, "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." I think there is a lot ot be said about that. While I don't agree with the solutions formed, I think we need to spend more time (us conservatives) on looking at how capitalism can easily usurp the less for profit and gain. the abuse of capitalism and greed has caused a lot of people to re-examine motives, and control. and ask what is the best economic system.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Fox or CNN?

What political side do you lean on? Right or Left?

And from that, do you watch your news, or your counter-ideas?

I found it interesting to watch the presidential debates months back, and hear on one side, how Obama missed the point, while the other channel was enthralled by his composure and statements. Same speech. Two sides. Two opinions. Which did you want to hear?

It is intensely hard to hear things and take them in, objectively today. There are always two sides. And with our country so polarized, I find that we would rather just have people affirm our beliefs, whichever side they are, than challenge them. It is so much easier to have people tell us we are right, than question them.

I keep flipping channels wondering, which side do I believe? and which side am I supposed to be on? And while we are there, am I supposed to have a side?

There is a lot of good fights out there needed between the two. What is light without darkness? Good without evil? It will always be the case. Two differing views. But I think that is beginning to come out more and more. We can't just blindly live for the one, and not see the other.

This all really came out of a question of which news to watch.

I am glad to know in this confusion my calling as a christian is to follow Jesus. That's the more clear command. But where he heads and what the spirit is doing, seems to wander a path that is not as one sided as it once seemed with the religious right. maybe that is our greatest problem. we went a bit too far to a side. and an affiliation. I guess, we used each other. Rove and Republicans used evangelicals. Evangelicals used Rove and republicans. But with all that using, what did that give us other than a false sense of power? And control?

I think for now, I will take my meals more buffet style. a little from the left, and a little from the right as I try and make sense of it all. that means having to think a bit more while I watch. and listen. I rarely talk politics to anyone I know, really. kind of weird. But I think I am trying to take it in. seems this blog is my confession at times.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A site for the Training Ground guys.

For those who might be interested in following along some of the journals of the guys going through the summer '09 Training Ground session, you can visit One of the guys from the fall class, Sam Scott, who is our media intern, has put together one phenomenal interactive site to really get a feel for what happens around the place. From videos, twitter updates, and blogs from their week.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I always wondered why I never liked poetry. I don't know if I have the answers. But some image of a soft man putting pen to words of expressions with meaning, but lacking the necessary experiences of beauty and strength. Mercy and some balls. Why are most writers more artistic? And less rough? I guess we dont want a rough man giving us poetry.

I met a man who just made me cry over a poem. I met him on his audio reading called "Gray man." My friend, John Blase, had me read a few other of his poems, and I have finally found poetry that somehow meets me between the desire to be expressive and an artist, and not lose my balls. And to be a man, and honest, and not have to be cast off as some wanna-be cowboy.

There is no greater tension in this work, then between art and strength. killing a deer, and being sweet to your wife. and people are just waiting to put you in one of two camps. Fairchild is one you might want to read, he seems to have the balance, so sweet.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Men and Beauty?

It is has been interesting to step into the hunting world, and learn more about species. From deer, elk, turkey. In moving to a new location for Training Ground, we have inherited from the previous owners their pet peacocks. Three of them that are in a cage made up of two barn stalls, and a large area they can come outside and roost, or walk. There are two females. And one male.

But guess who is the pretty blue with the fancy feathers?

The male. Guess which gender has the racks men love to kill? And the turkeys, the two I killed earlier this year, they were fanning that big spread behind them like a 2nd grade display thanksgiving ornament. Looking in the brush, thinking I was a female, trying to impress me.

The two times I have been turkey hunting, when we have called them over, and the big toms and jakes (male gobblers) have begun their display, showing me their beautiful feathers, I just laugh. Laughed both times. It is such an odd thing.Here I am a man, in a blind, with all these pretty camo to make me look good, and there a few yards away is another male, with all his accoutrements of display. staring at each other.

It is comical. but what is fascinating is that in the animal world, the male is more often the prettier one. he is the one who has to impress the lady. fluff his feathers, or stick out his rack, and be admired. is that not something to pause and think about?

If God makes animals, male and female. some semblance to us. what does it mean that he made the males a little more colorful? and maybe, where has that gone in the male world? well, ok, there is Adam on American Idol in his makeup, and emo, but what does that look like for a rather normal man? how should we offer are beauty? doesn't it sound even bad?

I dont know the answer, but each time I walk by the cage, I watch this male peacock in full feathers, displaying for his two female friends staring at him. he most do this 100 times a day. all that work and effort, over and over again for these two lovely rather plain looking ladies.

im thinking. bud. you have a sealed deal. two women, and you are the only thing they got. your in! no more bravado needed. you are in a sealed cage. but still, there is something in, that instinct that says, I must show myself, I must display and win her affection.

how many days is she ready to mate? maybe 3 or 4? I'm thinking, 360 days times 100 displays a day, 36,000 displays of himself, for that one moment. thats a man who isn't afraid of rejection.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Desire reveals Design.

I have noticed that when it comes to issues of masculinity, lets say even, overt expressions, maybe hunting or fishing, or men who launch into some of this, there are many reactions out there. One of them is what I want to talk about. It is the one that says, "Oh, come on. That's not what a man is. A man is one who has Jesus as his guide, all that stuff is just external ego trying to earn manhood."

It is very dismissive towards a man's quest. Essentially saying, there is no reason to do that. Just be Godly. Follow Jesus. that is the way to be a man. there are a few books, that kind of lead you in that path, and can be rather reactionary towards the whole "men's movement."

I must admit, I agree. It is really about Jesus. to glorify him, and enjoy God forever. but my question, really, is how do we ultimately get there?

I think that is what is so beautiful, in my opinion, about some of these uber masculine things. they tell us something about what we deeply desire and long for inside. for the same reason, we could ask a porn addict, what are the images you look at? At first, we would rather say, dont look at porn. bounce the head. control your flesh.

but for most, from what I found, even personally, its a band-aid on a grand canyon divide. but what if inside all those desires, was a deep longing for God? And what if we honored the process, and even affirmed it?

Dan Allender says, if you are going to sin, enjoy it.

Most of us deny it at the time, give ourselves illusions of why we are sinning, till we fall, and feel the shame, and then beat ourselves up in the process. But what, if you actually threw a party for your sin? And really named what it was you wanted?

It sounds so wrong, but I think where it takes you is to actually naming what you want. and since Evil did not create our heart, and longings of the soul, to name our desire is to bring us to God, and his desires for us--ultimately. That is where the process leads us. As Chesterton writes, "A man knocking in the door of a brothel, is actually knowing on the door of God."

One thing that I think would be helpful for those looking at pornography is to name what you really want? You are not realy just looking for a naked woman, right? What specifically are you looking for in that moment? Large boobs? A wild girl? Specifically what scene are you after? What are you searching for?

And then, what specifically deeper than that scene are you really looking for? What's in that image that awakens or numbs, or is your heart searching for? Simple beauty? Are you needing to be violent because of some odd reason of life? Do you need to just be taken away by someone in control?

I think our desires might tell us about something even deeper, that ultimately points us to a God who can meet us.

I think it is the same pathway with masculinity. Why does rolling in the dirt men's stuff appeal to many men? Why might a man want to go buy a gun? I think, because there is a need in the heart, that is searching for God. I believe our desires, reveal our design from God. and to tell that man, don't roll in the dirt, is in some form to deny the pathway to which we meet Jesus. Isn't it always in our brokenness, and sin, and mixed in with longing, and desire? Why would God ask us to pray? We need to name our desires for him in its midst.

I am finding, the more we move into trying to awaken, and stir young men's hearts towards the gospel, and masculinity, a very strong current of this negativism, and a thinking, "isn't this cowboy and Indians?" type of thought. While, if we stay there, yes. But, the beauty of the gospel, the beauty of our hearts is we move towards God, whether we know it or not, we move towards our design, even when evil might trick our eyes of why we are there. It is our blindness that keeps us stuck.

But almost, always, almost always, it is a knock on the door of God. and what I pray for, is not more men to dismiss it, but a legion of men, who can honor the process, honor the man who is there for a reason, and move him deeper into those desires. by not dimissing them, but awakening him to a bigger gospel, and a deeper masculinity. we dont need more pessimism, but men who have been through that process, and can honor the young man in it as well.

I find that most of the men who write this whole masculinity thing off, are men, quite frankly, who have never risked stepping into that process themselves.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Old, Sick, Tired, Creative, Broke.

Most days as I drive to work with Cory (we carpool)there is a man with a wiry gray beard that greets us at our exit off Monument. I don't know his name. But he sits with a cardboard sign. It reads,


4 of those words, speak of pain, suffering, hardship. I guess what we might expect in a man asking for money, right? We expect a sad story. But one of them is something very different. This man's dignity. Creative. I have marveled at that sign for the last 9 or so months. Never handed him a dollar, but wondered. What is his story, so that this word remains. It makes me think he hasn't given up. there is something there, waiting to be engaged. It speaks of original glory. of God. of his hands over the six days of creation, of that image into man. what is this man's creativity?

I realized I have never thought to ask. I've been to busy getting to work so that I could create. so that I could start into my day that gives me the opportunity for much of that. and maybe my irony is that instead of holding a sign in my life, that says OLD, SICK, TIRED, CREATIVE, AND BROKE. I sign my signature on my email, Director of Development. which means, I help think through the creation process, and I even have to find money to make that possible. I guess, in some ways, I hold a sign that says only one of those CREATIVE. b/c who the hell wants to give to a dude who is sick, tired, creative, and broke. sadly, I don't want to admit the rest, only the creative part. but its more true than I want to admit. and the old is coming. one way or the other.

Maybe I need to see both the dignity, and depravity a bit more. live in both. hold my sign that confesses the gospel in me, how it delivers on some promises, and a few I have done my part to screw up. and some, I just don't really know what happened, but didn't quite work out the way I thought.

I am not sure, but I have decided to stop and see if I could get him breakfast, maybe pay for my time that he would normally collect some money during the rush hour, and ask him... what does that word mean to him. what does he create. what might he want to create.

I figured if I posted this on here, it will be my accountability. and I can follow up.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Listening to Richard Rohr

A couple of us went up to listen to Richard Rohr, a catholic priest, who teaches/speaks/preachers on many wide topics, some of which I have been deeply changed by. He was speaking about "The path of Descent."

I wrote down a few of his quotes...

"You cannot see what you are not told to look for."

If you are profiting from your current situation, you probably don't want change (repentance)"

"It is only true religion, that can explain what to do with your pain."

"God creates those who in turn create themselves."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Brown before Green.

Read this on Mike Rowe's website, (the Dirty Jobs guy)

Like my friends who espouse all things Green, I want to live on a healthy planet. I really do. But I’m tired of the guilt. I’m suspicious of the manipulation. And I’m weary of being lectured by people who seem to care more about the planet than the people on it. Hollywood and Washington have shaped the issue, and now, all things Eco-friendly are up for sale. Well, that’s fine. But when it comes to jobs, the people who make a difference aren’t covered in green. They’re covered in Brown - dirt, mud, grime, grease, or maybe something worse. I’m no expert, but if we’re going to save the Earth, the color of Dirt makes a heck of a lot more sense than the color of Envy. The way I see it, if we really want to get clean and green, we’re gonna have to get down with brown. In other words, we’re going to have to get our hands dirty.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Socialism or Capitalism?

I've been dabbling a bit in learning about social and economic theories. I would have never known I cared about these things a few years ago, but I am seeing how much those are some big forces in the world, and why we fight so many wars. And it seems some important issues we are going to be having to think through.

I've asked a few people some questions about it. And while it is not substantial at this point, it seems the great divide over the last 100 plus years has been this issue. These deep philosophers who have driven us to two polar views. Our cold war, our Vietnam war, and so much has been against communism and fears of the red scare, that we were headed for a socialism. And we hear the rumors of it again. We are becoming a socialist country. What does that really mean?

What is socialism anyways? I admit I am one of the dumb americans who gets afraid, not knowing for so long what it even meant. well, I am probably still on the uninformed side, but trying to get me an edumucation in it.

I have wondered if capitalism says, "we live in a fallen world. lets take advantage of it. and motivate people by some of those fallen needs (and good needs too)" When socialism says, "Lets bring heaven down to earth, now, and, well, forget about God, let's be God (the state)."

Neither seem a right answer to me.

If we look at God's story in a few parts. Creation(past). Fall(present). And then Heaven coming down to earth (future). (very simplified)You can kind of imagine why socialism is not some evil thing, but maybe a desire to bring a community of peace and equality with a longing to make it happen today (all of course, under the dictator and governments control and sway).

I think what we must look at in understanding what is the right model is what will we one day experience in the New Earth. Read the book, Heaven, by Randy Alcorn for some great scriptural views, and Alcorns interpretation of what The Word says about the New Heavens, and New Earth.

The economic model there, is something we need to usher on earth, as in Heaven.

With a world that does not know Jesus, this is where things get messed up. We are living out our desires of the fall, and our desires for heaven. We long in some ways for peace. But as Christians, we know it will never happen apart from Jesus coming.

But the world is trying to make their model work, not knowing God, or really inviting him into the story.

I think for now, I am not sure if I am all for capitalism. but I sure don't think socialism, with the state becoming the owner, and telling us who we are, and what we do (being God) either. And what CEO's to fire (current administration)is the answer either.

But I do find it interesting that capitalism has claimed religion, and been associated deeply with christianity in its banner cry. while socialism tries to kick God out and be God for its people. Its been something I have few answers for. but wondering about that.

especially because from what I understand some of the greatest conversions to Christianity, are not necessarily coming from capitalist governments right now. But those places that kicked God out. China, Russia, Vietnam. And where does Christianity seem to be losing its strength?

I wish this was an easier topic.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Grandfathers and Grandsons.

At Training Ground, we are a few weeks away from application deadlines for our summer class. This is always a fascinating time to receive the applications, and listen to young men's stories from their application. It is one of the most enjoyable, and humbling things for me.

There is an essay question at the end, where we ask the applicant to interview their grandfather (when possible) and ask what it was like when they were (grandsons age) what jobs did they have, what was life like, school, family, etc.

It is one of the most beautiful moments for me to sit, and read the interaction. Many of the young men say, they were suprised at the conversation, and had no idea about their grandfathers life. While my grandparents passed away too early for me to really sit in their story, I was given the chance to interview a few men from Easy Company a few years ago. And my buddy, Jesse and I, sat in a hotel in Monterey for hours as they recalled their experiences. I couldn't believe they were sharing, all their sacrifice, courage, it was like sitting with kings. and yet, it hit me as we left, that maybe no one ever asked, maybe no one every took the time to hear their stories.

There is something beautifully authentic in the words they write about their grandfathers. hearing them learn about their life of hardship, of war, selected war service, and making 75 cents an hour. living in a house with 12 kids with 800 square feet, or walking to school for miles.

I think what I so enjoy, is the thought that these great men, the greatest generation, for even an hour, hear the call of their grandson who wants to know about their life. while the young men apply for many reasons, what I hear in their stories is I want an experience like my grandfather, I wanted to be tested. I want to know who I am. and have experiences that teach me.

I am at loss for words for understanding how far just three generations live. we are so different. so many different experiences. I imagine that no three generations in the history of this earth have changed so quickly and drastically. I can barely relate or conceive of what they have been through. but I love, that even for a few young men, they can honor both their need, and desire, and connect it to their grandfather, and honor the life he led, and many of the sacrifices he made for his family, and his country.

I think about how many old men are out there, who had so much to offer this generation, but how little we ever ask, or believe it is relevant today. these men are dying, and many of their stories are too. as I look at the past 50 years of culture America has created of success, and with many years of little sacrifice or suffering, I wonder what these grand men have in their life we could learn from. while I dont wish a depression, or another great war, I pray peace on earth. there is something that suffering and hardship that seems the only thing that really teaches a man.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Air Force Training.

Cory and I were given an opportunity today to attend a character development program for the soon to be graduating cadets from the Air Force. It is called ACES.

We drive by the Academy every day as we head to work, and yet, I had never spent time, or really interacted with any of the cadets till today. I have been pretty intrigued by leadership development, and how we learn. My buddy, Jonathan, is an air force fight pilot, and he has shared how their training, for the most part consisted of him flying against an instructor, until he screwed something up and failed. they would head down as soon as a mistake was made, and spend the rest of the time debriefing what happened, and the mistakes made. day after day doing this.

They learned by failing. then with evaluated experience of what really happened.

The idea is that they will never make that mistake again, and can move into more.

This concept has really made me re-think discipleship. If you look at Jesus way of teaching, 80% of his interactions with his disciples is them doing something wrong. then him explaining what happened, rebuking them, or empowering them, maybe restoring them, like Peter.

I am fascinated to see how much of the time today, was about the older men, many who are retired air force, or instructors, teachers, were sharing their mistakes and failures. many of the activities were experiential, and interactive. they broke the cadets into groups of 3 or 4.

It feels like when I look at discipleship, the way Jesus led his 12, it looks much more like Air Force training then how we are teaching in the church. for the most part, we are given a manual, maybe a book, or spend an hour opening up the word together. we write down the verses, the answers to the questions, pray, and go about our day.

but Jesus takes his disciples out. he pushes them. they fail. time and time again. and he speaks to them, then. he lets them go out, and try. sends out the 72. "you go do it" they cant believe what happened, when they return.

I dont have a lot of answers, but I am intrigued that fighter pilots, probably one of the greatest investments of the military in training, millions of dollars in each man. and flying 15 million dollar jets. they put a lot of hope and faith in these guys, and they do it with money, and with thousands of hours of teachers. I dont know where they developed their program, but the more I hear, the more I listen, it looks a lot like Jesus teaching. makes me wonder if Jesus knew a thing or two about how someone grows, and learns, and their faith is expanded. he could have sat around, and conducted seminars, and large crowd gatherings, but he seemed to pick a few good men (marines) and then pour his life into them, by taking them out. by screwing with their beliefs, with their understanding, letting them fail, and eventually growing their faith to change the world.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Neutering Tacoma.

So, our sweet dog, Tacoma, while behaving much better thanks to our training classes, and forced discipline, and hot dog treats, is still presenting problems. I watched him walk into the living room, prop up his leg, and take a wiz on the couch. Marking his territory in case any ladies came by.

He has testosterone. And us americans, lets be honest, we have been known to cut that out. Neuter the thing. It seems a metaphor for how we have dealt with testosterone. the answer everyone gives is, neuter the guy.

My wife is screaming it too.

Ok, it costs a few bucks. which is not really something I am that excited about spending. but, there is something in me, that is hesitant. something deeper for me. there is a wild, maybe semi-wild animal, running lose in our house, and I am told to drop his levels so we can live in a normal house, and not deal with it. What should we do? Ok, its a dog. I know. But why does that feel the answer to how America has responded to maleness? And why does it seem we are so in trouble as a culture because of it? What if we learned to live with it, work around it, honor it, and let the boy be a boy, and the dog, well, be a male dog with his junk in tact.

I don't know what we will do yet.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Writing a book with your help.

Hey. I am not sure who reads the ramblings of this blog. But I appreciate you glancing here every once in awhile. The thing about blogs for the most part are they are a one way conversation. The blog talks, people read it. But as my friend, Jon Dale explains ( there are new ways to communicate. Better ways depending on the purpose.

I have put up chapters I have been working on for a new book on this site in past posts. But it seemed a bit impersonal. We really had no way of really communicating. Well, there is a new form to do it in, called Ning. I have started a website specifically for feedback and your thoughts, and conversations about it. My editor thinks that we might be able to put some of the stories in the book, and to be honest, I would really love your feedback as I write. I have a few months left, and I am finding with those who leave thoughts, stories, and critique, that it helps think through these topics, and influences the editing process.

If you would like to join in the discussion, and be in the process, join up at

Thanks. And looking forward to making this blog as random thoughts that come.

A quick update, not worth mentioning on a full blog is that our dog is slowly learning a few things. But he did lift his left and pee right on our chest in the house two days ago. Marking his territory. which makes me think that either I have been gaining some territory for him to have to re-mark, or we are in a showdown.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Over our heads.

Cory and I have spent the better part of almost three years beginning the ministry, Training Ground. I can't think of how many days, and moments we have felt over our head. From the very start, we had to learn everything. How do you raise support? What is the biblical version? How do we build a website? Recruiting? Oh, gosh. How does that work. Then the program, what do we put in it? What does a young man need? We are going into the wilderness, we need a guide to map that out.

I think the grace of it all, is that we couldn't pretend we knew what we were doing. We hadn't enough life, or years, or experience in anything to fake our way through it. Though, that has always been some portion. It has had to fall on the help and support of men.

That has probably been the greatest gift. We meet with some of the most amazing people, from fundraising, foundations, to ideas, and recruiting, and they honestly help us, like a father would a son. They are scattered all over this country. We keep asking them questions, and they keep giving us answers. We have a pile of notes from every man imaginable, and somewhere in all that, is God, and our hearts being directed. as we lean into it, and the Spirits lead.

I am a perfectionist, so I strive for getting it righ, and want to be the best. And the odd thing about throwing yourself in this job is that, you really can't. you can never get the website just right. never fundraise the way you want to. or care for the guides in the way they truly deserve. And yet, the men keep offering, and taking their time to help us.

It is such a gift to live as a son. needing help. and while I am yet to be a father, I hope it is just as much on the other end.

I encourage you to throw yourself into something you have no understanding of, but the heart. and see who might direct you. it would seem that every man just wants to be asked.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dog Training.

Jayne has been talking to me for awhile about dog training. Our pup, 90 pounds of pulling strength, Bernese mountain dog, has in a rather puppy way, taken over our house. He has eaten our hot tub, chairs, and while he is getting better, listened to me about as much as the deer do behind our yard, especially when he was at play.

I resisted every attempt to go, thinking that the dog would somehow get his place, after his young years, but that has not proven to be the case.

So we went to dog training.

I am supposed to be the alpha dog in the house. But I am not going to lie. This dog took over probably the day he walked in. As we listened in the class, and had over the instructor for the private lesson, I couldn't believe how many numbers our dog, Tacoma, was pulling on us. She explained how these various signs were his way of saying, "I'm in charge."

And he was.

Chewing on your arm, means I dominate you. Humping you, well, thats pretty obvious. and so is getting in your space. coming up to you, when you dont ask him. not sitting when you have guests over. pretty much this dog said to us, "your my bit&%*" There wasn't an area we had on him. He ruled the Hood house. And I never saw it, or seemed to care that much I guess, minus the humping part.

The dog trainer is helping us learn to put our dog in his right place, 3rd in the family pecking order. She admitted he was a very stubborn dog, and he kept wanting to fight that, and I just thought how beautiful that God gave us a dog, that was pretty close to us. Three stubborn Hood's. All in some form trying to be the alpha in the house.

I found comfort in that I was not alone. We showed up to a basement of a animal hospital like a informal AA meeting of people. The class had mainly couples in it. You saw all the women perk up, and asking lots of questions, and very engaged, wanting to know how to put their dog in place. While the dudes sat back in there chairs, twiddling their thumbs like second graders waiting to get out for recess. No greater picture of the fall, and man's pull to passivity, and women's to control.

It was really comical. knowing, I too, was dragged there by my wife.

I never knew it, but while I try and work out God's grace of restoring these stubborn Hood's, I had found myself as the Charlie male in the house. While my dog very easily submits to a little chunk of hot dog, and can be changed by behaviors, I am going to stick to God giving Jayne and I little treats, as we work out where we fit together, and how we will lead as a family.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Simple men.

Life is ironic, that those who have a lot, sometimes lack a lot, that those who have little, sometimes possess some rich, remarkable, puzzling things.
Robert Coles

One of the things I most enjoyed about some of the men I was meeting was the simplicity of their lives. They were not as eager and ambitious as me. It was not about chasing grand dreams, and looking for big breaks and ruthlessly seeking the success that could launch them into stardom and power. They seemed to enjoy their work, and the life God had given them. Straight up. While, I am sure there was a time when they wrestled with their life, and the track they were on as a young man—they had seemed to at some point to have settled it, and instead of being upset, or frustrated that it didn’t become all they wanted, they chose to participate with the people, and the events, and hobbies they did enjoy that was around them—and that be enough.

But you had to be careful to just call them simple, as to write them off for being small minded, or basic, because it was to underestimate the complexities of these men. They were simple in execution of their life, and how they went about it, but they also had minds and brilliance that would be on the level of a Nobel Prize mind or a great philosopher. Bob, a builder in Monument, by all means seemed to fit in this category of simple, and go with the flow. He was never up tight. Always pleasant, never upset. But when we went to visit his home, and opened his barn, there were all types of projects contained in it, a trailer he was creating from welding metal pipes, and adding axles and diamond plating, along with fixing a hot tub. He had extended his Jeep out 12 inches, talking about so simply, as if it was like replacing a tube of toilet paper with a new one. All this while he constructed homes, built completely on his own, with just his two hands. Cory and I walked around his barn like we were in Disney World, there was no hay and pitchfork, it looked something similar to the Bat Cave with all the gear, and equipment for his business, and hobbies scattered throughout.

I envied these men, because they were doing what they loved, and the way God made them.

They knew that they loved to fly-fish so they did. They had great pleasure in making wood—so they did that. I envied this gratification. Envied the sense of satisfaction, and peace, and contentment that came with this rhythm of life that I could not settle down, and find. They had this peace, internal rest that came from doing it day in and day out. And not being so easily enticed by the changing waves of the world, and dreams. So much of this collection of activities and hobbies, my pursuit of dreams and goals, and trying them all on, was to understand which ones I enjoyed. And part of it was not just doing them to check them on the list, but ask the deeper question… what did I enjoy? Do I love fly-fishing? Or is hunting more my thing?

They had an anchor that seemed missing in so many of us guys. Moving in and out of jobs, not wanting to commit and settle for something that was a little below us. It seemed that these men never thought that way. They did what was needed, and took it in stride. And found their enjoyment and pleasure through it.

I think it was why I enjoyed being around these men. They had a calming affect when I was with them. I slowed down. Talked slower. Thought about less. And enjoyed more. Looked at the landscape. The trees. Savored the potatoes and meat more. They were not barons of industry, or great musical success stories that I saw growing up in Nashville. They were men that would never be talked about, or made into a bestseller book, or looked to for success stories, and that was the irony of it. Most people were reading and learning from those spiritual gurus in hopes of actually finding the peace and contentment these men had.

In a world, and the American dream that told everyone they were free to pursue dreams, and telling us we could be the next cover story, and with my own personal drive that was eager to find that by reaching for the moon, it seemed these men reached for their tools, and their guns, their fly rods, and their often simple routines, and that was enough.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blood and Death.

Hunting is one of few activities that allows an individual to participate directly in the life and death cycles on which all natural systems depend.

Ann Causey

I could see myself in those animals. What had been a game to me was suddenly not one. That’s the worst part of hunting—to pull the trigger knowing what will result: pain, shock, blood, death.

C.L. Rawlins

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for one’s life

Leviticus 17:11

I kneeled down into the dirt, and packed snow, as if praying, exhausted from the steep climb, as my eyes fixed directly on the brown eyes of the elk—laying lifeless before us. I touched his limp carcass, and ran my hands across the thick fur like you might pet a dog, feeling his warm body with my fingers. He was dead. The blood was cast around the area, like a massive oil tanker spill of a deep rich red, and while horrific, I was still more fixed on the magnificence of the elk. He was much bigger than I had expected. Much stronger, and noble an animal than the earlier glimpse in my binoculars, and hunting videos had revealed.

PJ had invited me to go along on his afternoon hunt, to an area, called 511, according to hunting units, just outside of Woodland Park, CO. We had hiked a few miles with our packs, and while I had known this was where all this was headed, it all took me by surprise. He had spotted the elk from a lookout atop a high stone ridge, and ran about 250 yards to a clearing that gave him a visible shot across the valley, and hit the elk from the opposing ridge about 150 yards from the elk. I heard the thunder, then crack, and the ripple echoing in the valley. After some confusion on the radio, and if he had a good shot, I ran to meet him, and moved towards the location of where we last saw the elk—separated by the deep ravine of jagged rock we had to descend, and climb to the other side.

I came upon the cow elk, through smelling the foul odor, and putrid scent during their rut (mating season), which is so unique to their kind. As we moved him around, I was feeling his body, and legs become stiff, and getting stiffer. I had never felt so many mixed emotions of remorse and excitement before. It was such a moment of joy, and celebration for PJ, along with a soberness of what had just occurred. A life had been taken. I had helped. A soberness slammed into me. The ambivalence of joy, and death, pain and life all lying here—900 or so pounds of it being brought down by his gun.

There was not time to be Thoreau, and ponder. PJ wanted us to get to work as darkness set in. He explained as we went. With only the two of us, it was all hands on deck. We tied the elk’s rear legs to a tree with some rope, spreading his legs wide that gave us access to his belly. PJ began cutting into his fur, and then hide. He made one long incision all the way up, to near his neck. He cut some bone, and then pop. The rib cage expanded, fanning out like a cinnamon role tube being cracked open. His hands went deep inside, as steam and blood poured out with body fluid dripping out as well. I would have been fine just observing, he needed my help, and within a minute my hands were deep in his body, feeling around for the esophagus to cut, and yanking together on the gut bag to break it free from the body. It had the look of a massive water balloon that contained all the organs and intestines trapped inside. A few cuts, and it dropped right out of the elk and into the snow next to us.

It was too dark to continue. And we needed more help to hike out the hundreds of pounds of meat anyways, so we took off, and PJ made a few calls to come back in the morning with more help. As we hiked out in the dark, I had time to think about it all. It was so weird, what we had just done. There was such an odd sense of feeling in it. I had just experienced my first animal death, and had my hands two feet up the body of it, with drying blood covering my arms and legs. I did not know I had it in me, and that I would actually be able to do that. There was always this deep fear of blood, and guts, and death. But I did it, and really, while it was much as there was a deep emotional experience, it felt part of me—almost instinctual.

Over the past year, I had thought a lot about taking an animal’s life. The questions that it brought up. A living being that was being hunted to shoot a bullet through, and stopping its life in a rather unnatural way. I would put my scope into the air, and imagine a deer or an elk in its sight. Could I pull the trigger? I would watch the deer that came into our backyard, and imagined raising a rifle to their body, and it just seemed cruel, and I wondered if when ready, I could actually pull the trigger. And kill an animal.

You see, I never liked the sight of blood or death. I never had any blood lusts, or attachments to it. Never had the addictive pull to kill soldiers in video games and watch blood spew, or rent horror movies and see the display of blood. And I was really not one of those risk taking kids that was getting cuts and bruises and stitches every few days like some daredevil junky on Mountain Dew. I seemed to plan my moves, and decisions more precisely, a little more meticulous to avoid that. I was not sheepish, but not reckless either. I was more calculated. Even my time on a mountain bike in Colorado kept me pretty clean, in the midst of all my friends getting major thrashes, I found a way to avoid them. I think I just hated the thought of all that mess, all that blood, and pain, and broken skin. My life was spent in some form of avoiding it.

I had never been around blood. Or death. Never experienced it in animals or in people really. Never come on a horrible traffic accident with an arm hanging out, or ripped opened my flesh to see bone sticking out, or watched a butcher cut up an animal for food. Blood and death was very foreign to me, and the way I saw it, probably the best thing for me. It seemed a good exchange of paying for that meat in a little package, to avoid all the rest. Just wrap it in a nice plastic wrap on top of styro-foam.

Even as a boy, blood meant one thing, pain, and hurt. It meant you were on the path to dying. Blood was what came out of the body when you were wounded. A scrape could bring pain, but as a child, when you saw that red coming out—huge screams of terror and wailing.

I also had this great fear of the day my wife would give birth. I knew it would be a bloody mess. I just imagined the baby coming out, this moment I was supposed to be such a proud father, eyes gleaming, but all I could think about was this disgusting pool of blood, and placenta sack that was around this baby coming out, and wanting to leave the room. Or maybe even pass out. Instead of seeing this beautiful baby, I would be disgusted in shrieks of some horror movie. And imagining it was the last time I could ever look upon my wife’s body, as intimate, and lovely after a haunted house had just been pushed out her hole down there. I would never want to look there again. Blood was bad. And I was doing my best to avoid it. Maybe we could do an emergency C-section, or even better, find a stork to deliver it.

As we woke up early the next day, we had to head back to finish processing the elk. We came back with some more help, Cory, and Morgan, and hiked into the valley to cut up the elk and haul the meat in our packs. I was feeling more confident, like I could really do this. We seemed to have with us saws, buck knives, gut hooks, like a portable butcher shop. We started by peeling the hide and outer layer of fat. It was just like pulling up an old shag carpet from a home. It was not as disgusting as I thought. Before us were all the muscles exposed, tendons, ligaments, and joints, the fleshy red color, revealing an entire mass of meat to be cut.

We began the process of quartering it, and cutting the elk into sections, and extracting specific pieces to pack it out. We started sawing into leg bone, cutting off the feet, and then removing the ball joints to make the meat into hindquarters, separating it while ripping muscles, and tendons, then placing them in large 60-80 lb. cotton bags then in our packs. It was fascinating to see the legs, and tendons, and to have pulled the organs. It was not like cutting up a cake, or slapping together hamburger meat into round patties. I was looking at my own form, seeing the resemblance of my own body that made me so much aware of this as a real living being. This was not a tree, or dirt. It was a living being, a creation of God’s kingdom, now split into chunks, and quarters, and half pieces lying on the ground, bloodied, and drying darker on my hands and pants. But the more we cut, the less it was an animal, and the more I was seeing it in parts, and chunks of specific meat that could be sold as Safeway or Krogers.

I relate to George Wallace experience, “I see him as meat for the first time. Component parts—meat, hide, antlers, cape, divisible into quarters, loins, ribs, in turn divisible into steaks, chops, roasts, stew meat, sausage, and hamburger.” (David Petersen, p. 100) It was true. I began seeing parts of meat. The beef brisket that I had enjoyed barbequed with vinegar base at Stroud’s B-B-Q in Nashville, I was slowly slicing off the rib cage, and thinking, I never knew this is where it came from. The back straps, and inner loins, that came off the spine like a long tube of meat. It was the most tender and delicate of meat due to its limited use on the animal. I had always eaten beef tenderloin, and the filet mignon, which had come from this place on a cow, and it made sense why it was such a delicate and delicious cut. I was slicing off neck meat, and PJ explained how that would be ground up, as hamburger, because it being the toughest part of the meat. It was fascinating to see as every cut of meat, that I had eaten, or ordered, was actually somewhere on the animal, and named because of where it was taken. I had never thought about it. A rib-eye. Brisket. Filet mignon. T-bone. Ribs. Tenderloin. All were named because of where they had been taken. I somehow thought they were just fancy words made up. My friend, Wade, who would join us on a hunt months later would say, “Who knew that $40 steak from Ruth Chris began here.” I felt the same thing.

While blood was something to be outlawed for children, most cultures before us so it as very different. They were surrounded with it. There was not a processing plant to kill all the meat; it was done in the house, or on the farm. As a boy, you were probably part of helping out, and getting the meat slaughtered. Even a nasty deep wound might have been dealt with right at home, and opened up, with medicine put in, and patched up over the kitchen counter. No doctors, or white surgical gloves and cotton swabs.

In many cultures, blood was a ritual that meant nourishment and life. These tribal cultures seemed to draw on the symbol of blood as nourishment, like food. Robert Bly shares a story of an initiation rite for boys, “One of the older men takes up a knife opens a vein in his own arm, and lets a little of his blood flow into a gourd or bowl. Each older man in the circle opens his arm with the same knife, as the bowl goes around, and lets some blood flow in. When the bowl arrives at the young man, he is invited to take nourishment from it.”
While disgusting, and pagan, what it brings is a belief that blood is not bad, it is needed. A part of life. What the story shows, and what had been happening in my own life is escaping blood, and escaping the thought of death, and how those two are connected.

Even for women, blood is seen very different. Blood often means life. To have your period, and stream blood means that you can fertilize an egg, and bring forth a baby. Flowing blood means life. It is so fascinating as I write this, because my wife for two years had lost her period because of health issues. She had spent two years dreaming of the day blood would flow again, and that we might have the chance of having a baby. Today, she comes home with joy on her face and says, “I have good news for us!” And when as I ask her why, she says, “I started my period!” Meaning, blood is flowing. There is a chance for the creation of life! Richard Rohr says that a women is initiated into blood. She grows up with it. It is part of her life. As a teenager, she experiences blood. And it is seen as a good thing. A sign of maturing into womanhood.

It seemed for a man though—he needed to be taken into it. He needed a man to show him. It seemed that part of many boys fascination with blood was the need for initiation. That somehow we know inherently that blood and pain needs to be involved to make us men. I have read where often war, is some sense of self-initiation. Taking it with our own hands. Think about even video games, and the over and excessive violence and blood. Why? Well, what if we need to experience some form of blood, and with no one taking us out, or teaching us, we find it on our own.

While much could be talked about here, the irony of all this bloody mess is that the bible is covered in it. More so than a horror movie. You can barely find a page where something or someone isn’t dying, or blood isn’t being shed on the account of the Israelites in the Old Testament. It’s not one of those things we like to highlight, but it is there. In fact, God seems to be obsessed with it. Blood and death, and the sacrificing of animals might be argued as one of the major themes of the bible, and especially the Old Testament. Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish scholar writes, “Every unprejudiced reader of the bible must feel that sacrifices constitute the centre of the Old Testament.” (Edersheim, p. 75) The center? That is a big statement. This is no G rated Disney Special with Hanna Montana. It seems more like a horror flick. Here is where the words rank with a few other big words of the bible…

Love – 700 times
Life – 589 times
Death – 452 times
Blood – 389 times
Hope – 174 times
Birth – 153 times
Money – 114 times
Sex – 56 times

So what is the deal? Well, it has more to do with us, then it does with God. It all started with Adam and Eve back in the garden. We were made for union with God. God creates this wondrous landscape of gardens and land, and beauty, and gives us the entire place to take care of, and enjoy. Life is everlasting. Our hearts are forever cared for, and in love with our God. We are in union. There is no bloodshed. No death even. Just un-ending pure joy that is hard to even understand. Even the animals are in union with man and God. Everything is perfect. The way God made it to be.

But this wasn’t enough. Satan tempted them with the fruit they were commanded not to eat. And they ate it. They disobeyed God’s plan, and in choosing to be like him, knowing all good and evil, their sin took them apart from God. There is a spiritual death and separation that begins, along with the death of the body, while opening their eyes to shame. “They realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and hid.”

As scriptures say, “Death reigned from the time of Adam. (Romans 5:14) It is right there just a few pages into our story with the first sign of blood and an animal dying. But it’s not real obvious. You can easily miss it. I never knew from the story, but God replaces the fig leaves. They aren’t left to wander with green leaves on their bums. God replaces it with something else. Here is the account… “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) It is fascinating to think. He replaces the fig leaves Adam and Eve made with garments of skin.

This can only mean one thing—first hunter was God.
I don’t know where he found it. But he went around the garden, and killed an animal, and skinned it, and put it on Adam and Eve. It was the first bloodshed. And it happened because of sin in the Garden. Sin brought the spiritual death of man, and his separation from God. This death brought blood. It was this subtle sign, but this blood, this death and sacrifice of an animal, was going to be God’s great sign to all the Adam’s after this, letting him know that he had sinned, and needed blood to bring forgiveness of his sins. It could be argued one of the greatest most important elements of the entire biblical narrative. Blood came from Adam’s choice, but God was going to redeem all that by giving his own son. The story of Abraham and Isaac is that representation in a more full way. He asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, then at the last minute pulls it away and replaces him with a ram from the bushes. It was a sign for us. A son was going to die for us soon. God’s own son. But before all that, it seemed God felt it necessary for us to get all covered in death, and blood, and sacrifices so we would one day see it.

And yet, in this culture that avoids blood, how easily we miss it now. I can remember a few years back performing in our Anglican church communion, administering the communion cup. I would say reverently, “this is the blood of Jesus, shed for you.” A whole line of people I would pass the cup to, and say this, but I tell you, I did not really connect to it. It never really hit me. To me, it was a cup with wine in it. And while I understood the meaning, the whole blood thing was just not an analogy I really never connected to.

God gives Moses in Leviticus one of the most detail meticulous, and maybe even anal, instruction plans for all this sacrificing, along with the duties that were to be performed in part by the priest, and what is to be done by the person. Read through Leviticus, if you can make it without falling asleep. It’s filled with directives, information, and commands on how to sacrifice these animals, and how to atone for all their sin. God was brilliantly setting up a system of rituals. But in high school bible class, I specifically skipped over this part, as did my teacher because of how boring, and unrelated it seemed to today.

But the people would have to come to the temple and offer an animal. There were a few choices. An oxen, a sheep, goat, or turtle doves, or pigeons. (Edersheim, p. 78) Without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness, and no atonement for the wrongs. But it was not forever, but just a substitution, so they constantly needed renewal. Meaning more death, and bloodshed on a regular basis. Tradition has it, that on the Day of Atonement no less than five hundred priests were [needed]to assist in the services. And we are not talking about priests walking around shaking hands and drinking coffee, they were busy catching blood, sprinkling it on holy items, and collecting the blood in massive vessels.

Maybe the bloodiest day of all was at the dedication of the Temple that Solomon built for God. He sacrificed 22,000 cattle, and 120,000 sheep and goats. In the midst of their celebration, it was a bloodbath. While the priests wore white, I can’t imagine the people came in their Sunday’s best coat and tie. The people had to perform, “laying on of hands. Slaying, skinning, cutting up, and washing the inwards.” (Edersheim, p. 80)

While I was cutting up the elk with PJ, Morgan, and Cory, there was something related. While we are free from this system because of Christ, and his atonement, I can’t say I did not feel something holy, and in awe of what was occurring that helped me identify with what Jesus did. Some deep appreciation and understanding of life, and pain, and sacrifice, and blood. Many of the people I know would kneel down next to their kill, and pray. They would thank God for their blessing. Other men, not even God fearing, would still connect to the cycle of life and death, and with a respect for God in it.

I remembered a story Eugene Peterson shared about it…

"My father was a butcher and owned his own meat market. I always thought of my father as a priest. He wore a white butcher’s apron as he presided over the work of slaughtering heifers and pigs, dressing them out, cutting them up…My father was a priest in our butcher shop, and I was with him, doing priestly work…I grew up experiencing the sight and sound of animals killed and offered up, the smell of fresh blood and the buzz of flies. A bull on the altar of Shiloh couldn’t have looked or smelled much different than a shorthorn heifer on the butcher block in our shop on Main Street…It never occurred to me that the world of worship was tidy or sedate."

Leaving that day from the trail, blood drying on my pants, and on my hands, blood meant something different to me. From an understanding of the blood of Jesus. And as I turned to look at the guys, I laughed and said, “I think I am ready to have a baby.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Axe for young men.

You might have seen this in an advertisement? Axe body spray. Axe cologne. And now their newest product, Axe Hair products.

It is marketed to a specific generation of young men, ages 18-25, give and take a few years. What is fascinating to me, is how they market this stuff. It is always with very sexually imagery and women oogling themselves at the guys who put it on. Here is an image from their website...

It seems to be a cave woman, sniffing around for her man. Bringing us back to prehistoric times. Its pretty dang sexual. There are bunnies in front of her, umm.. another suggestive thought.

So why is this brilliantly evil? Why do millions of teenagers go for it? Well, I think it has to do with young men, and what they need.

Richard Rohr tells a story in his book, Adam's Return, how young men in the aboriginal culture were taken around the age of 13, away from their mother, and into the community of men. They were taken away, sometimes up to a year, and taught the ways of their warrior men. Part of this ceremony was taking them to the place of the stone axe. When the sons had completed their initiation rites, they were allowed to wield an axe. But up until that point, they were not permitted a sharp weapon. Only for those who knew how to use it, were given permission. Only those who had been initiated. A man needed to be taken into his power, before he was given some form of it, like an axe.

He took it back into his community, and used that axe for the good of those around him.

With the loss of initiation rites of passage, and without the men doing this work for their sons, a boy needs that symbol. Regardless of who gives it to him, he will seek it out. We were made for it. for strength, power, and drive. It is a good thing, that as Christ taught I believe, through suffering, hardship, and knowing your Father, was to be wielded for good. Love first, then power. But power, as Dan Allender says, was meant to be sweet and enjoyable, and good.

But when men dont come around, Robert Bly says that often a boy becomes naive to women. He sees no connection to his need for men, and women seem the promise to hold the key to this power. In a culture where men do little of the initiation, hence, we are vulnerable to be exploited by this promise that women could validate our manhood.

Even the spokesperson for axe seems to explain it this way...

“Our products are based on the consumer insight that guys groom to get the girl.”

I am amazed at how this symbol seems to be still coming out. The promise of Axe, the body cologne, is more than a scent. It is manhood. Power. The ability to get a woman rolling around half naked in the woods, looking for you. It's as if this AXE, is really what we need to find, again. Power. Strength. Validation. The latest commercial for Axe spray has them saying, "Get girl-approved hair." Completely taking it to mean, a woman will do these things for you.

I grieve this. Because as young men, they need AXE. But they dont need this false form of it. And they dont need some exploited woman in the woods, to give it to them. They need the men to rise up, and take them out, and offer them the deeper need behind this. They need a man to give them a gun, and then take them out hunting with the men. They need a man to give them they keys to an old beat around Jeep, and then go spend a few days learning how to drive it together. What we need is power, men, and Jesus who leads us into power, only to surrender it for the greater good. Until a boy steps into some real power, and has men offer this, will he ever then choose and be given the chance to use it to serve love. And Jesus.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Stories from work. and Mr. Grace.

I have been thinking a bit on wholeness. From a conversation with a man in Chattanooga a few days ago, and an article I read from Tim Keller on hell.

What makes us whole, and full, and complete as humans, and followers of Christ? If the opposite is destruction, and hell, which Tim Keller describes as "decay and decomposition," apart from Christ. Well, then what makes us whole? And moving towards restoration.

A friend from Milwaukee who sits a few stories high in a beautiful rising office building looking out to Lake Michigan, sent these words. It was such a great capturing of his days as a young man, and his background, I wanted to forward along, used with permission.

I think about this man, and his places of working with large calculations and strategic formulas on market timing, and then these stories, and I am left with some version of whole. Or complete. and least partially on this side of heaven....

This is some of what he wrote...

I recall working for Mr. Grace one summer on his farm. The elder Mr. Grace everyone referred to as Pappaw, even though he was not my grandfather. Pappaw's son was known to everyone as "Happy" or "Hap". Hap was my father's age, mid-40s, when I was in college. The farm they owned was multi-purpose. The only "crop" they grew was hay. The other sources of income were raising Holsteins to sell to beef processors, selling sand, culverts, backhoe and dozer work and a few small oil wells. I was always intrigued by the work ethic which permeated the place.

I remember the smells of the farm: the musty smell of the hay barn, Levi Garret chewing tobacco, Miller Lite and Old Charter bourbon. The fence around the barn and office area was made from oil well pipe and "sucker" rods. The fence required painting at least once per year. It was a tedious job because it required prepping the fence with a wire brush to remove all the rust and old paint. Fortunately, Mr. Grace was not too particular and allowed me to apply the paint directly with paint "gloves". It was honest, hard work that paid well. We always had a break for lunch, ham sandwiches and tea (sweet, of course).

I remember one day Hap telling me we were going to deliver sand. I was excited about getting a reprieve from the painting. I was more than excited when Hap said that I would be driving the dump truck while he handled the backhoe. Happy would fill the truck with sand while I waited in the cab. I would then drive down the road several miles to dump the sand for the client. Looking back now, I realize what a gift that was from Happy. His trusting me with the dump truck was an invitation of sorts into the world of men an of work and machinery.

Every summer, Happy bid for a job clearing a portion of a levee on the Red River. This particular summer he was awarded a job to clear 9 to 10 miles of the levee. Brush and small trees had grown on the levee since the last time it was cleared. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the levees and they prefer to keep them clear of undergrowth.

This was a team effort, my father, Ross, drove the bulldozer while Happy drove the backhoe. I led the way with a chainsaw, cutting down the trees that were too large for the bulldozer to snap. We worked hard for several weeks in the sweltering heat of an Arkansas July. It was hot, dirty, grimy, sweaty work. But, it was great! Being invited to work with these men and being trusted with a chainsaw was very affirming for a young man. We ate our lunches together under the shade of a tree. We shared ice cold Miller Lite's at the end of the day.

On Friday's we would stop by an all-you-can eat catfish restaurant for dinner, swapping stories from the day, enjoying a good meal and a pitcher of beer (Miller Lite, of course). I remember those days of hard work vividly and fondly recall the good times we had. Those weeks were some of the best times that I had with my father. I definitely took away some good lessons of hard, honest, dirt-under-your-fingernails work. The money, which was great for a 20 year old, is long gone but the affirmation and validation as a man still remain.

The Holstein cattle arrived on the farm as bulls but departed several months later for the processor as steers. You may or may not be aware of what is required to turn a bull into a steer. Shortly after the bulls arrive they are marshaled into a corral. Lots of mooing and bawling in the corral as the young bulls seem to sense their fate. Each bull is funneled into a narrow chute. At the end of the chute the fence tightens so that the bull is held stationary (they don't like this at all). Lots of bucking and moving, even though the chute is supposed to hold them steady.

The first step is to cut the horns, which are only a couple of inches long, with a device that looks like a pair of large bolt cutters. Getting a firm grip on the horns of a bull with the bolt cutter is difficult. Once you get the grip you pull the cutter together quickly and after a gruesome crunch the horn flies off and the blood spews straight up into the air with every heartbeat from the bull. The last step to transform this bull into a steer is castration. The bull's boys are removed with a large, sharp knife. Lastly, antiseptic is sprayed on the wounds and the steer is released into a separate corral. Blood and snot fly everywhere as the newly christened steer shakes off this experience. It is a messy, nasty job. After the first one, the jig is up and all the remaining bulls are bellowing loudly because they know their time is short.