Category: Courage

The Banner That Unites Us. Session 1— Loss

The Banner That Unites Us. Session 1— Loss

On the last day of a sabbatical I took this summer, I had a Zoom conference with my board and shared with them the themes I wanted to teach on in any Peregrine message spoken or written this fall. The themes are: Hope, Courage, Light, Peace, Joy and Unity.

They agreed and said, “Those are great. Go for it.” Then one man spoke up and said, “Craig, before we go to those themes, there is one more urgent one we have to be honest about. It’s Loss. We all have lost so much; it needs to be acknowledged in order for us to heal well.”

Oh, man, is he smart. And he’s right.

If we splatter superficial whitewash over our losses of this past half year, they will fester. If we pretend, we haven’t been affected, and even wounded, by what we are experiencing, we risk ongoing spiritual and emotional infection.

What have we lost?

  1. We have survived, so far, the worst global pandemic in a century. This hit home for me and my wife, Beryl, when she contracted what was diagnosed with the flu late February while traveling, then was hospitalized in Chicago for 11 days, including 5 in ICU.

She had severe pneumonia, atrial fibrillation and suffocating oxygen deprivation.

Back here in CO, I thought she just had the normal flu, until the cardiac doctor’s phone call informed me that she had a 20% chance of stroke.

Wait…what? Cardiac doctor?! Stroke?! What happened to the flu? She survived, thank God, but doctors here confirm she nearly died.

Some of you have lost a friend or loved one to COVID-19 in recent months. If so, I’m deeply sorry. I can’t imagine your loss and I grieve with you.

  1. We watched the greatest collapse of the economy and the largest spike in unemployment since the 1930’s. Perhaps you and your job are one of the casualties.

My son-in-law, Vince, in the hotel industry, was put on furlough for four months, before he unearthed a new job. My son, Conor, in the business travel industry, was just told his job had to be eliminated.

Certain industries may never be exactly the same again. I wonder about you…how is yours? Have you lost yours? Is it hanging by a thread? Do you complete your tasks, at home or at a workplace wondering if this will be the last day? That’s a loss.

  1. We are watching scenes of legitimate demonstration and protest, turn into indefensible destruction and violence. We witness occasions where police are being utterly demeaned, then turning on the public in rage-filled violence themselves. I wonder how I would react if I were them?

Downtown Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Seattle and Portland and 200 additional American cities are covered with graffiti, profanity, destroyed police precincts, and the blood of fellow American citizens.

We are losing something essential as a society.

  1. We are torn, or at least I hope we are, by the agony of a growing sisterhood of African-American mothers who yet again mourn the loss of their sonswhose deaths are caught on body cams of the officers who shot or suffocated them.

Yet, we see the utter courage and patience of police officers who risk their lives every day to keep our society civil and safe. They sit on assignment in their cars, hoping the person who walks up to the door, one who may need help, isn’t packing a pistol with the intent to kill. This is an enormous loss on all sides.

  1. We watch with heartfelt disbelief the shredding of any sense of national unity and civility, as our political parties and leaders tear into one another with the intent to destroy rather than build.The divisiveness and hatred seem like the worst our nation has experienced since the 1960’s. Or perhaps, the 1860’s.

Our loss can hardly be measured.

  1. The west coast and Rocky Mountain regions of our nation still battle months-long raging infernos that have become the largest in history. Millions of acres, thousands of structures and dozens of lives have been lost.The southern gulf coast has had so many hurricanes we ran out of English alphabet options and have turned to Greek letters. As Romans 8 says, “All of Creation is groaning!”

Thank goodness, we don’t have a presidential mail-in ballot controversy that threatens to dissolve into a constitutional crisis. Oh, wait. Never mind.

Well at least we are spared yet another gut-wrenching battle over a Supreme Court appointment. Oh, wait…never mind

What in the world is going on?!What’s going on is the most overwhelming and destructive convergence of attacks against our physical, emotional and mental health in our lifetimes. It is a horrific, perfect storm that assaults us— heart, soul, mind and strength.

This convergence has left us damaged, on every level of our being. Last spring 1 in 15 American men admitted to feeling depressed. Now it’s 1 in 3. And those are the ones who were courageous enough to admit it. Think the actual number is higher? You bet it is.

I have a lifetime pastor friend who has courageously confessed in public his battle with depression and exhaustion. He’s far from alone. 93% of Americans admit to feeling depleted.

At the very least, when I honestly look in the mirror, and when I look in the face of an honest friend, I’d say we are WEARY. Weary to the core.

We are experiencing multi-faceted assault on levels that our hearts and minds were not built to withstand. The unending news cycle of disasters, the intensity of threats we read about or face, continue to pile up. This is an indescribable loss.

Ultimately, I believe at its foundation, what we are encountering is a spiritual battle hidden beneath the surface and beyond our imagination. Our hope for healing can only be spiritual and beyond our limited human capacity.

If we can’t truthfully acknowledge the personal impact of some, if not all, of what we are living through, then we risk remaining weary, depleted, or angry, indefinitely.

In Peregrine’s weekly men’s teaching and discussion experience, called The Journey, we have chosen this theme: The Banner That Unites Us. It’s a call to Unity. Not unity behind some clearly dysfunctional political party. Not unity to some flawed candidate we are regularly disappointed with. Not unity to some antifa or Alt-right political movement.

For we who call ourselves Christ-followers, we are called to unity far above any of those. It’s unity under the Kingdom to which we are called: The Kingdom of Heaven.

You may think, Craig, that sounds good, but what does that mean, Kingdom of Heaven? Please read this blog again next week. And the week after that. Each week we will explore themes for encouragement, guidance and inspiration. Hope, Courage, Light, Peace, Joy, Unity.

Better yet! Click here to see the first message I gave this week. Take a quick look to see what it’s like. If you would like to join us, all you need to do is register right here. The cost is $30 for 10 teaching sessions. If finances are tight for you right now, that hurdle is removed. Men have given scholarships so you can join us. Just select the Scholarship option and you’re in.

We will claim the promise of 2 Chron. 7:14:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Next week, we’ll take the next step in a journey of healing and encouragement. We’ll look at the subjects of Grief and Hope. I truly hope you’ll join me, and over 100 men from across the country, through this blog or through the teaching videos.

Please, don’t stay isolated. We want you. Join us.

He Is For You

Right now I think it’s easy to wonder, Is God paying attention? What’s on his mind? The words, music and facial expressions in this powerful collaboration by dozens of churches in the UK provide and answer: He is for you. It’s the same message wherever we live. I encourage you to take a few minutes […]

He Is For You
“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”

Those were my words when the first accusations against Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek, came out in the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today last spring. My words were in response to a group of men who asked how it felt for me, knowing I had served on staff at the church for four years in the 1990’s.

Those words still hold true for me today; they are just stronger. As weeks have gone by more women have courageously stepped forward to reveal shocking stories of harassment, intimidation and inappropriate behavior they say they experienced from Hybels. He still denies the accusations and the elders are now re-investigating the claims, after months of their own denials and unkind characterizations against the women.

From the perspective of 20 years of distance following four years of immersion in the Willow Creek soil I pray for the following:

  1. That all the truth finally comes out. The scope and breadth of harmful behavior, crude touching or worse that Hybels apparently directed toward numerous women must come to light. As long as patterns remain hidden or denied they will remain festering and unhealed. For the sake of the women, for the church and for Hybels’ own emotional and spiritual health all of the truth needs to come out.
  1. For full confession and repentance from Hybels and the elders for their actions and words. Those who have harmed others privately and publicly must confess and repent privately and publicly. This means Hybels admits what he has done. This also means the elders and pastoral staff at the church, and leaders at the Willow Creek Association, many of whom have resigned and have begun to admit their previous errors, take personal responsibility for assumptions they made in defense of Hybels, as well as conclusions they reached and publicized against the women.
  1. For forgiveness when the time is right—for the women. I disagree with the apology approach that includes the words, “Will you forgive me?’ Those are not the words an offender has a right to say to those he has harmed, let alone a response he has a right to insist from them. The offender’s responsibility is to apologize and repent. It is up to the wounded one to determine when and how she will respond. For her sake choosing eventual forgiveness can bring her peace. But she has every right to decide when and how her heart is be prepared to do that.
  1. For the names and reputations of Willow Creek and the Association to be eventually restored. The global impact of Willow Creek can hardly be exaggerated. Certainly there will be hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who will spend eternity with the Lord because of the vision and message of the church. It’s my hope that some day, through genuine self-examination, apology and repentance, Willow will be held in high esteem once again.
  1. That the honor and reputation of the Church at large will be defended. Let those of us who claim to be brothers and sisters of those who have made terrible mistakes of judgment, as well as of those courageous women who have stood up and spoken up, make a commitment to examine our own areas of weakness, selfishness and condescension that harms other Believers, our families, neighbors, co-workers and others who trust us.
  1. That there might be a time when the women who have been harmed would see a spirit of contrition and humility in Hybels, a spirit already demonstrated by the elders and former pastors, that would cause them to welcome a restored relationship on whatever level is safe, healthy and right for them.
  1. That I would cease any arrogant spirit that might cause me to think I am incapable of the hiddenness, defensiveness and deceit that Hybels appears to have carried out. May I turn my eyes toward my own wounded story, healing, and repentance, and allow God to build in me a deeper spirit of humility and compassion toward others.
  1. That God’s name will eventually be magnified and honored because of how those in the center of this profoundly tragic story carry themselves as his followers. And because of how we who call him Lord conduct ourselves.

The challenges we encounter in life have the potential to destroy us. They also carry the equal potential to be defining and transformational steps in increased Christ-likeness. The impact depends on our attitudes and actions in the face of those challenges. I pray this deeply tragic episode causes Willow Creek, the Church at large, you and me to more deeply reflect the Spirit of Christ.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II

In my previous post, Random Male Violence, Part I I began to unravel the mystery of why the random violence we regularly encounter happens in the U.S. on a level unlike any other country. Our soul searching requires that we recognize that we are developing wounded males. But all countries have wounded males.

There’s another inescapable reason random mass slaughter happens within American borders so much more than anywhere else— the ease with which anyone, regardless of capabilities, mental health or training can get their hands on assault rifles—weapons of mass destruction. The solution to this issue has proven exceptionally difficult to find, but I don’t think there is any question that this is a central part of the problem.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II
American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again?

We’re familiar with the spectrum of suggested causes as well as solutions—it’s a mental health issue, it’s a gun access issue, it’s a cultural issue. It’s all of those to some degree, but in my opinion it’s a horrific case of American Exceptionalism.

I love my country, but I really dislike the way that term is typically used. It implies that American culture is first and best, as if we’re all in a global competition for a mythical cultural gold medal. Having traveled to more than 60 countries over the years I’ve experienced qualities in every one of them that are admirable as well as unfortunate. Mine included.

Yes, we Americans have demonstrated an outstanding technological ability to fly humans to the moon or to instantaneously connect and communicate with others half a world away. But honesty also compels us to admit our exceptionalism in incarcerating the highest number of citizens per capita of any nation in the world.

In grief we must also admit the exceptional acts we regularly face—young males who randomly unleash deadly violence against their own kind. Even a short-list of the locations where slaughter took place over the past 19 years evokes memories and emotions that should never entirely fade: Columbine, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Las Vegas, and now Parkland. (See my previous post, Our Spirits Groan.)

Each stands out in its own uniqueness of location and horror, but they share two common characteristics: the perpetrator was male and he was an American.

Of course, other nations have violent young men, but they tend to slaughter those who are different from themselves. They go after those of another religion, ethnicity, tribe or political persuasion. In the US our violent males slaughter randomly.

Why does this happen here and not elsewhere? My opinion is that American culture produces young males who are profoundly self-absorbed and entitled. (See my previous post, Brilliant Jerks.) At the same time they are deeply uncertain of their own significance and place in a dramatically changing cultural and economic landscape. And, they often pick up the message—whether through bullying, macho posturing, gangs, or violent video games— that the solution to disagreement and conflict is often best settled through some form of violence.

I had intended to start writing this blog last weekend, but found myself gripped by both sadness and anger at the violence recently unleashed in Parkland, FL. Having decided to take a break and see a movie, I was stunned at what appeared in the very first frame: this quote from author D. H. Lawrence, “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” It was all I could do to keep from gasping out loud at how horribly accurately this described exactly what I was grieving.

Man, how much I want to disagree with that statement! I know so many wonderful, connected, compassionate, life-giving men. And, Lawrence had a different, late 19th-early 20th century, American era in mind when he made that statement. But I have to also acknowledge the extent to which this quote fits today. So many young males in American culture are tough, alone, emotionless…and can so easily turn into killers.

In his book Guyland, author Michael Kimmel identified an American sub-culture of males, ages 16-26 whose key qualities are privilege, narcissism, entitlement and self-centeredness. They are convinced that they are the center of the universe, that they are the most sought out marketing demographic (unfortunately, they’re right), that they set the social rules, and that everyone else who wants to fit in, women above all others, needs to accept and adhere to those rules. As long as a male in that demographic succeeds, he’s in. If he doesn’t measure up by the group’s or his own standards, he’s out.

Some of those young males who find themselves “out,” simmer with anger and shame until they decide to resolve things in violence. Some of them grow older and never find a sense of community or significance, until the lava of hidden resentment suddenly erupts with deadly consequences. Then they become a headline.

Courage and humility require us to face the awful circumstances we repeatedly see in American culture. In the next post, American Exceptionalism, Part II, I’ll explore factors that indicate what some solutions might be.

What “No” Doesn’t Mean

It’s taken me quite awhile to learn this lesson. I now know it’s true.

Wisdom from Seth Godin:

What “no” means

I’m too busy
I don’t trust you
This isn’t on my list
My boss won’t let me
I’m afraid of moving this forward
I’m not the person you think I am
I don’t have the resources you think I do
I’m not the kind of person that does things like this
I don’t want to open the door to a long-term engagement
Thinking about this will cause me to think about other things I just don’t want to deal with

What it doesn’t mean:

What “No” Doesn’t Mean
Bias From the Bottom

Bias From the Bottom

Author Richard Rohr makes an intriguing observation about the uniqueness of biblical authors versus most authors:

“The vast majority of people throughout history has been poor, disabled, or oppressed in some way (i.e., “on the bottom”) and would have experienced history in terms of a need for change. The people who wrote the books and controlled the social institutions, however, have almost always been the comfortable people on the top. Much of history has been recorded from the side of the winners, except for the unique revelation of the Bible, which is an alternative history from the bottom: from the side of the enslaved, the dominated, the oppressed, and the poor, culminating in the scapegoat figure of Jesus himself.

We see in the Gospels that it’s those on the bottom who tend to follow Jesus: the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the tax collectors, the sinners, the outsiders, and the foreigners. It is demonstrably those on the inside and the top who crucify him: elders, chief priests, teachers of the Law, scribes, and Roman occupiers. Shouldn’t that tell us something really important about perspective? Every viewpoint is a view from a point, and we need to critique our own perspective if we are to see and follow the truth all the way through.” [Italics and bold are mine]

How might this insightful point lead you and me to evaluate our point of view and perspective? Do we automatically swing to familiar assumptions, especially about others, or do we pause to think through how issues look and feel from the “other side”?

Get Home Safely

3039844-inline-i-1-the-talk-in-americaI never knew this before, but apparently many African American families do.

Some parents of black kids have this talk in order to increase the odds that their kids will get home safely if they encounter the police when they are away from home: “10 Rules of Survival if Stopped By Police.”

I never had this talk with my kids; it never crossed my mind. I’m pretty sure none of my grandchildren will ever hear this talk from their parents. But it’s considered crucial parenting wisdom for black families. I had no idea; perhaps that’s the case for others of you who are white.

Value Your Values

Value Your Values

“I violated my values and it was wrong. I behaved shamefully.”

Those are the words of Christopher Correa, the former scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, recently convicted of hacking into the player personnel system of another major league team. He has lost his dream job, faces 46 months in prison and has been ordered to pay a fine of nearly $280,000.

What he would do if he could only turn back time and make another choice when faced with temptation to further his reputation as a winner! Too late; the secret is out.

How sadly often it is that we read very similar stories in the news:

  • imagesHead football coach Art Briles, a man of faith, whose decision to ignore, hide or discredit the stories of numerous women who reported sexual assaults by his football players, cost him his job and has cast a dark shadow over the outstanding reputation of Baylor University. He is not an exception; he is only the most public and recent of coaches to betray their own beliefs, and those who trusted him, for the sake of success.
  • images-1Closer to home for me, the former sheriff in my county of El Paso, Terry Maketa, who 4 years ago stood at the summit of our political scene due to his heroic leadership in battling devastating wildfires in the Colorado Springs area, had to leave office accused of sexual misconduct, financial impropriety and discriminatory hiring and firing practices. A local university political professor spoke for everyone when he said in disbelief, “Here you have this rising political star…and the next thing you know, he’s leaving office in disgrace.”

Men, these stories, which appear on a regular basis, smack me in the face. How could a man of integrity make such an awful error of judgment? How could a man who calls himself a Christian compromise every past victory or success, by choosing a character short-cut, in order to get a piece of power or praise? It’s almost beyond belief; until we remember, all of us have the capacity to make just one questionable decision to enhance our reputation, our influence or our wealth.

That’s all it takes, one choice, for the possibility of everything to collapsing. We don’t expect it to, because it hasn’t before. That kind of tunnel vision, or arrogance, is shocking when we see it in others. Are we toying with the same risk?

Someone has perceptively said, “Don’t just give people rules to follow; give them values to believe in.” I think that is remarkably insightful. The list of lifetime rules to follow can be almost limitless, and they can change depending on circumstances. But values are more encompassing; they don’t waver; they provide a foundation; they determine how we live our lives.

What are your values, the principles on which you have built your life, or at least intend to? I’ll bet some are:

  • Integrity
  • Dependability
  • Faithfulness
  • Humility

If we are honest, we know there are circumstances in which we have been, or might be, tempted to take one risk (which usually soon leads to the next one)  just to look or feel better. Men, I urge us all to regularly ask ourselves whether we are compromising any of those bedrock values for the more superficial “success” the world praises.

After his cheating was exposed, Correa lamented, that he is “overwhelmed with remorse and regret for my actions.”

Let’s decide that our words, actions and decisions, today, will not bring that kind of compromise of our values. Let’s commit instead, “I’ll never let that statement be true of me.”

 

Black Lives Matter; Blue Lives Matter; All Lives Matter

Once again, I’m stunned at the video footage that confronts all of us:

BLACK LIVES MATTER

  • 49 patrons of an Orlando dance club are brutally slaughtered by a man who apparently hates gays, non-Muslims or both
  • A black man in Louisiana shot twice in the chest as he’s wrestled to the ground by two officers
  • A black man in Minnesota is shot four times after getting pulled over by an officer for a broken taillight, as his wife and 4 year-old daughter watch in horror
  • A protest in Minneapolis turns into a virtual riot as firecrackers, Molotov Cocktails and bricks are thrown at police, who then response with smoke and tear-gas. Dozens on both sides are injured
  • A peaceful protest in Dallas, in response to these shootings, turns into a sniper attack where a black man kills five police officers and wounds several others