Men, Pick Two…


BusinessmanIf you’re a man still in the prime of life, this may apply to you.

I’ve been an adult male for a few decades now, and this is what I’ve learned:

  • You can have a great career.
  • You can be a great husband.
  • You can be a great father.
  • You can be a great man of civic duty.
  • You can be a great friend to other men.
  • You can be a benefactor of the downtrodden.
  • You can be a creator, dreamer, or visionary.
  • You can be a pillar of your church.

In 2014, you can pick two of those, three if you’re a Type A personality.

But the rest you must lay down and leave behind.

Some aspirations alway suffer. I think it is harder than ever to be that kind of man who somehow does all those things in the list. I knew a few men like that, but most of them have passed on. You just don’t see their likes anymore.

It’s not that there’s something wrong with men today. Society is different, and the demands of being male in America have never been so difficult. Most men I know are struggling just to keep their heads above water, and not always in the one area we always think, financially. Men today are weighted down with a level of expectation that their dads and granddads never had to bear,  and someone is always adding more deliverables.

Increasingly, men are making choices that don’t include being a pillar of their church. American churchmen are starting to see that they can’t measure up to whatever demands the Church asks of them. That list seems endless, and curiously, it often consists of the very line items that precede that pillar of the church line. Sure, all noble ideals, but something’s got to give!

I think there are men across this country who plop down into that same old pew on Sunday morning and get a message about how they’re not measuring up to some ideal they never asked to be compared against. Fact is, they compare themselves against that standard Monday through Saturday all on their own, and none of them is really dying to have someone else add to a burden they so crushingly bear all by their lonesome. Yet there they sit, taking it, because they think that this is the abundant life.

While grace is the antidote that that life of burden, too few men ever find a place of respite, and for all the Christian men I know, darned few seem to have found anyone or anything around them dispensing that most precious grace. If anything, grace is a fountain in Shangri-La to most men. They may think it exists, but practical expressions of it feel like a fairy tale.

If I were to have one hope for 2015, it’s that I hope our churches can become bastions of grace and not dispensers of millstones. God knows men everywhere need more of the former and less of the latter.

Dad Gone


I read during lunch every day. This summer’s reading includes two very different books that, sadly, share one read-between-the-lines moral.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough came to my attention from a Facebook friend posting that it was one of the books on Bill Gates’s reading list. As a father and as someone who majored in a field that deals with how people learn and succeed, I felt a duty to read this.

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker is not the sort of book I typically read, but it has garnered considerable attention. The book examines the Long Island serial killer murders of women who sold sex via Craigslist.

The Tough book is something of a chain yank, since it focuses almost exclusively on how children in poverty can succeed. Featuring mini-profiles of poor children and their efforts to rise above a multi-generational trap of failure, it postulates a set of a traits these kids can pursue to improve their chances in life.

Meanwhile, the Kolker book’s profiles of the victims shows one way for girls in poorer families NOT to succeed: by turning to self-managed prostitution. Almost without exception, the lives of the young women in this book mirrored those of the Tough book, save that the victims here are all white.

What neither book really wants to come out and say is what is most disturbing about their similarities. How Children Succeed dances around this reality like a soldier trapped in a minefield, and Lost Girls (so far) reports just the facts, also avoiding the issue.

In both these books what is most obvious is the lack of a concerned, involved, stable father at home.

Dad and kidsAn endless stream of ne’er-do-well men drift in and out of the lives of the kids in How Children Succeed and Lost Girls. It’s so glaring and so routine that the authors’ failure to elaborate on it speaks volumes, especially in the Tough book, which I found particularly gutless in its unwillingness to state the obvious: that children succeed when they have a stable mom and dad at home. And in the Kolker book, knowing that most of these women started life with an absent father makes their ultimate life choices and demise all the more heartrending.

But this blog is not about poor children and murdered prostitutes.

I’ve written previously on Cerulean Sanctum that men in the Church have a greater responsibility than they assume. At a time when so many children are being raised by a mother alone, Christian men cannot cocoon within their own nuclear families. Men of all ages in the Church must understand that their responsibility to the next generation does not end with their own children.

If we are to make a positive impact on that next generation, Christian men need to make a concerted effort to be involved in the lives of other people’s children, especially those children who lack a father at home.

No doubt, this is a heavy task. We Christian men are overburdened as it is.

Still, if these two books depict the canary in the coal mine of our society, it’s that America cannot be great if its families are not great. And despite what the Left in America thinks, great families start with a solid, caring mom and dad at home.

If that is not possible, though, someone needs to step up to make it better than it is.

Church leaders, you know the families in your church that have a dad who has gone missing. You need to be more intentional about calling the men in your church, as a group, to do something about that lack.

Kids of all ages need strong, positive male role models. Both How Children Succeed and Lost Girls make this obvious, even if they are unwilling to say so.

Lonely Christian Men


Man aloneLast night, I got together with a friend I had not seen in about six or seven years. We shot the breeze on the porch of a pub and talked science fiction, trivia contests, copyright laws, and work. Reconnecting felt good.

Somewhere I read that by the time a man reaches his mid-40s, he has one close friend, the kind who would be there no matter the situation. Peripheral friends account for another two or three, at most.

Unlike women, who seem to keep their friends and add to them readily, men get married, have kids, and gradually so immerse themselves in their families that many of their friendships wither and die. One day, a man wakes up and wonders where all the the other guys he hung with vanished to.

For men, it’s all too easy to let friends gradually drift away.

I wish I could say that in the Church it was better, but I wonder about that. When I watch people who don’t know Jesus, it seems that the very lack of Him in their lives forces them to reach out, to value friendship just a wee bit more. I know a lot of Christian men who, if asked in confidence, would confess they are lonely.

In talking with this friend last night, we both noted how hard it was to get any group of people together. Everyone is so scheduled. Some have bought into a cocoon mentality and can’t seem to break out. Instead of doing anything as a group with friends, we instead pursue hobbies that can work without a group or we fall into a routine of only doing activities with our wives or kids.

Some of this is surely because of the guilt ladeled out by many parachurch organizations and some churches that contend that if we’re not spending time with our families, then we’re poor fathers and husbands. I think a lot of Christian men feel that oppressive burden. They can’t determine how much is enough or too little, so they spend all their time with their wife and kids, just to be safe—just to be “Christian.”

This is, in part, a lie.

Jesus said this:

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. ”
—Matthew 12:25b ESV

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat…”
—Luke 22:31 ESV

I am increasingly aware that the Good can be the enemy of the Best. There is too much in today’s church that appears Good on the surface, but it wars against the Best, ultimately hurting Christians and churches. Because so few Christians are actually listening to the Holy Spirit, that Best goes missing, while the Good prevails.

It is good that a man spends time with his wife and family, but the Church begins to hurt when men do not gather together regularly as just men. The lonely Christian man is a symptom of a breakdown in fellowship that is hurting our churches.

Some churches may offer a large group gathering for men every now and then. While that’s a start, it is no substitute for getting together more regularly. It’s also not a replacement for small groups of men gathering for a more intimate fellowship. Larger groups tend to stifle the kind of relational intimacy that men are dying for.

Whether large or small, groups of Christian men getting together offer the chance for men to get down on their knees together and pray the way men pray. Men and women pray differently, and it is to the shame of men that the prayers groups in most churches are comprised almost entirely of elderly women.

In reference to those Bible verses above, division is a bad thing. And Christian men are too often divided/separated by the world. We have believed lies about responsibilities that prevent us from getting together, and the result is that the Church limps along because men are off being individuals at a time when we should be united.

A house divided cannnot stand. Keep men apart; that’s the Enemy’s strategy.

Back in the 1990s, the whole men’s movement was a welcome awakening, but it was so heavily commercialized that it was doomed to fail. Too many moneychangers saw it as an opportunity to make some moolah, and love of money has a way of dooming many worthwhile Christian ministries.

In addition, the men’s movement of the 1990s was too national. It needed to be localized, and it never was, so it was doomed there too.

Christian men don’t need a commercialized, national movement. We need to cultivate friendships with other men on a local level. And as Christians, we need to rediscover what it means to be standing in the gap and covering each other’s backs.

Time is running out for us to do this. But too few recognize this because we are not getting together to discuss and counter it in the way that only Christian men can.