Category: Significance

“Just One More Shooting Star”

“Just One More Shooting Star”

​The STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch, CO is disturbing to all of us. We may differ in our convictions of what the main solutions to this scourge in our nation are, but I think we agree on at least three things:

​1. These kinds of repeated trauma ​leave an enormous heart and soul wound on our nation whether they have touched our families directly or not.

​2. We must find solutions. This must end.

​3. The solutions will ​​include reaching angry, isolated, broken men and helping them to be connected, healed and transformed.

​One of the men in a weekly teaching/discussion group I lead, called The Journey, wrote about his feelings on the shooting. One of his best friends has two kids who attend the school. Carl’s words are artistic, honest and emotional and include some implied profanity in quoting the shooter. If you prefer not to see that you can just skip it. But if you’d like to see a heart-level expression of an honestly searching man you can read it by clicking here: “Just One More Shooting Star.”

Another man in the same group agonized over the shootings 20 years ago at Columbine High School, also in the Denver suburbs. In the days after that horror he gave voice to the jarring perspective behind the distorted lies isolated young men believe when they choose to bring random violence into the lives of others. “So My Pain Can Be Heard.”

Most of us are unfamiliar with this kind of despair. Many men and women around us live with it every day. Some of them choose to end their own lives. Others choose to end as many other lives as possible along with their own. Those in the latter category are almost always males. (The STEM shootings brought an exception to this pattern in that one of the suspected shooters was a transgender woman who self-identified as a male. I wonder, did she see this kind of violent act as distorted proof of her “masculinity”?)

I believe most of us who view these horrific outbursts with some degree of honest objectivity can agree that the solutions must acknowledge a critical need to provide better care for those who struggle with emotional and mental health issues. The solutions must include the establishment and enforcement of limitations on the accessibility of weapons of mass violence for those who have no qualifications to own them.

And the solutions must direct specific, convincing, healing, and empowering messages to young men that they matter, and have a crucial place in the world. Without that, they will continue to unleash their pain on the rest of us and sadly choose to be just another shooting star.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Ps. 40:2, 3

Brilliant Jerks

American culture does a good job of creating, idolizing, and then rewarding, young men who are convinced of the following life principles:

  1. Life is a party. Rock on.
  2. You’re the master of your domain. You get to decide how life goes. Others are at your service.
  3. You’re special. The rules that govern others don’t apply to you. You get a pass.
  4. You’re invincible. You’re forever young. You’ll avoid the natural consequences of injury, illness and aging.
  5. It’s all about you. You’re the center of the universe. Grab it.
Brilliant Jerks
Today’s News Confirms: Men Matter, They Just Don’t Think So

Today’s News Confirms: Men Matter, They Just Don’t Think So

In one breakfast of scanning the newspaper this week I came across these stories:

1. The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker wrote a moving editorial regarding Charleston church murderer Dylann Roof. He’s the self-professed white supremacist who slaughtered 9 African Americans while attending a Bible study at their church. (Just typing those words makes me both sick and angry.)

Roof may want the public to believe his insistence that he wanted to start a race war, or that he has justified grievances against blacks he supposes are the cause of his life of misery and social rejection.

Parker eloquently lifts the veil to the real truth of what drove him to this awful act:

“…even a cursory review of his short resume suggests that what Roof really wanted was attention. He wanted to be the somebody he never was. Despite our insistence that there must be some explanation—a “broken brain,” as a forensic psychiatrist proposed— there may be little more to Roof’s story than a sad young man who marinated in one existential crisis after another until deciding that killing people was a certain route to self possession.”

Like all lives, Roof’s matters; he just doesn’t think so. That doubt drove him to indescribable violence.

2. Just a few pages away I read the awful story of six Colorado Springs males, ages 16-19, who sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl. The girl was led to believe she was going to play video games at the apartment one of the men. She used the bathroom, and when she came out, the room was full of guys twice her age ready to prove their “manhood.”

What drives guys like this to go after defenseless girls? A culture that convinces them that they are the center of the universe—It’s All About Me. The way they demonstrate their manliness is to control, intimidate, assault and demean anyone who is “less” than them. A young girl-on-her-own will do. She’s a safe target.

The real truth is the complete opposite! Men who are truly convinced of their significance have no need to flaunt it. Men who are genuinely assured of their own value elevate and celebrate the value of others—especially women who are at risk at the hands of predators.

As awful as their behavior is, these guys do matter. They do have the potential for bringing security and blessing into the lives of others. They just don’t think so. In fact, chances are they’ve never met an adult male who does. So they bring destruction instead.

3. On the same page as Parker’s editorial, Cal Thomas proposed faith-based solutions to the enormous surge in gun violence and murders in Chicago in the past year; Chicago’s total being more than in New York and Los Angeles combined.

“Most of the violence is gang-related,” Thomas writes. “ Fatherless kids seeking a sense of belonging and family are attracted to gangs they believe will give them both.”

He poetically quotes Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics from the musical “West Side Story” to describe the thrill for lost boys to be accepted as a gang member:

“You got brothers around, You’re a family man!

You’re never alone, You’re never disconnected!

You’re home with your own; When company’s expected,

You’re well protected!”

Man, those words sound so enticing to teen boys who just want some older guy to say, “You matter.”

One former LA rapper named The Game, part of a coalition of religious groups working to resolve his city’s gang struggles, has this to say, “Because the sad truth that no one wants to face is, before we can get our lives to matter to anyone else…We have to show that our lives matter to us!!!!”

The melt-down of families stuck in poverty has a terrible impact; the proliferation and ease of access to guns in the hands of not-yet-men is inexplicable; the ravages of a drug-addicted culture have a predictably deadly result.

But the core hunger of these young males is that while they matter enormously (to the God who created them) they just don’t think so. So they’ll do anything for the acceptance of a legendary god-like gang leader who gives them the slightest attention.

Like women, men have the option of bringing primarily good or evil, blessing or destruction, to the world. And of course, there are examples of both men and women who choose either. But the clear distinction is this—men bring a disproportionate level of violence to the world than women do.

Just like the stories above from my paper, almost every local, national or global news story of violence you and I read will confirm the same. Compared to women, men cause out-sized pain and suffering in our world. It’s undeniable and it’s awful. It’s one reason men matter. Because many of them are killing us!!

But I am utterly convinced those same men have the opposite potential for an equally significant impact for blessing, provision and protection. As a Christian minister my conviction is that nothing provides a foundation of significance for men (or women) more than knowing these two truths:

  • The God of the universe made you on purpose and for a purpose
  • Jesus, the Son of God, died for you even though you may not believe it

These two truths can change everything in a man’s life when he finally believes them.

Men matter; they just don’t think so. Today’s news confirms it. Tomorrow’s will, too.

Our violent world desperately needs men who are convinced they matter for reasons far deeper than power, control, or destruction. When they do they will be freed to use their strength, not for harm, but for the benefit of others.

Dads Matter; Piece by Piece

clarkson husbandMedia confession: Beryl and I watch American Idol regularly. Because it often actually moves us.

Sometimes the performances are lukewarm; every now and then they are jaw-dropping. Recently, Kelly Clarkson, the Season 1 winner, told a story through song that brought tears streaming down my cheeks—and those of the judges and many in the audience.

We intuitively know dads matter, but in our dramatically changing family culture that often questions the value of fathers, we sometimes need a reminder. Kelly gave us a jaw-dropping one.

Her song, Piece by Piece, compares her experience with a father who disappeared when she was a young girl, to her husband who is a present, loving father to her kids. “He filled the holes you burned in me when I was 6 years old…He restored my faith that a man could be kind, and that a father could stay.”

Build Good Men. Continued.

Build Good Men. Continued.

Yet again, we come face-to-face with the bewildering, heart-breaking news of another mass killing in the U.S. This time, for my wife, Beryl, and me, it pierces even closer to home—3 killed, 9 wounded in Colorado Springs, our home for the past 16 years. Revulsion, grief, ache, and anger boil to the surface.

And, just days later, another horrific scene of slaughter takes place in San Bernardino, CA. We watch the horror unfold in stunned disbelief.

Coming so shortly after the bombings and killings in Paris and Mali, a world that already felt unstable and unsafe, now feels even less safe and even more bewildering.

What is going on? I feel compelled to comment, mostly on the Colorado Springs event, because it happened in my backyard. I’m intentionally bypassing the political issues of abortion, terror or gun control. There is another time and place for that conversation. I’m landing on the common thread in these stories that motivates me more than any other.

It’s the same thread I referred to three years ago in the first blog I wrote entitled Build Good Men, following the slaying of over 20 school children in Newtown, CT. I just need to say it again.

“How do we build good men?” This, radio commentator Dennis Prager says, is one of the most important questions for any society to effectively answer. I agree. It’s why for the past 20 years it has been my life calling. While we in the U.S. are grateful for the countless good men around us, we are also clearly failing in this arena in dramatic ways.

Why is it that we have to ask this question about men? Isn’t it also exceedingly important for societies to “build good women?” Absolutely, it is. But when we watch the violence and slaughter that surround us with increasing frequency, we should admit the obvious…women aren’t the problem. It’s the men.

You’ve heard me say it before…men matter. The past week reveals it once again. Don’t women matter too? Of course, they do. But women so often seem more other-centered, and live their lives with a focus on the well-being of their families, their communities and their work colleagues.

Why do men matter? Because the difference between good men and wicked men is so extreme. Men seem to cause a disproportionate impact on society, especially when they bring violence.  We men have a life-impacting choice to make: will we direct our energy to bring blessing or destruction to those around us? Our answers affect the world.

Just a month ago I told a group of friends of Peregrine ministries, “We don’t know when the next act of mass-killing will take place, what state it will happen in, what weapon will be used, or what location it will take place in. But we do know one thing in advance…the perpetrator will be a man.” We had no idea how soon those factors would be answered, so close to home.

The exceptional factor of a woman being one of the shooters in San Bernardino actually emphasizes the point—she was absolutely exceptional. In fact, once the FBI discovered there was a woman involved, their public statement was that this was no longer a typical mass-shooting. Later we discovered she and her husband were likely radicalized Islamists.

Yesterday a friend asked me, Why are the killers almost always men? When we pay close attention to the violent stories that surround us throughout the world, a pattern reveals itself: When wounded women lash out, they most often hurt themselves. They direct their energy inward: suicide, prostitution, addiction, cutting, eating disorders.

When women DO kill, sadly, they often kill family. With some regularity, we read, in horror, of mothers who kill their children. To me this is a woman’s ultimate attack on her own soul—killing her own flesh and blood. The primary victim of these women is themselves as mother.

On the other hand, when wounded men lash out, they most often harm others. They direct their energy outward: rape, murder, assault, beheading, slaughter.

There are exceptions to these broad descriptions, of course. There are some women who harm others outside their family, but those examples pale in comparison to the women who harm themselves. And certainly there are men who turn inward and commit suicide. But I think we can all agree that the pattern of mass-killing, random destruction and even terror, is clearly a male-dominated phenomenon.

A few years ago a Kenyan pastor shared with me an African proverb: “The boys in the village must be initiated into manhood, or they will burn down the village…just to feel the heat.” This statement is directly relevant to what we have seen in Colorado Springs and so many other locations.

Men must be initiated; that is, they must be guided by older men into an understanding of their heart, their calling, their significance, and the truth that their life is not primarily about their own wants, lusts, biases and prejudices. If young men wander aimlessly without affirmation or guidance they will turn their strength to destruction, against others. They become older men convinced that their life is “all about me,” and unleash self-serving destructive energy to make sure the world notices. Even if they die trying.

The Colorado Springs shooter is clearly a deeply wounded man. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, while he’s a male, he isn’t a man. He lived the life of a recluse in the hills of Appalachia, then moved to Colorado to live in the isolation of a remote region of the state. One of his neighbors described the area as “a magnet for loners and dropouts.” He clearly doesn’t fit comfortably with society.  When he decided to turn destructive, he directed his fury outward, killing innocent lives. I hate that he decided to do it in my town.

By contrast, Officer Garrett Swasey, one of the three victims killed by the shooter, was a heroic man. He was “initiated” as a self-disciplined Olympic athlete, a trained security officer serving the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and a respected, admired elder of his church. When he received the call that others were in harm’s way, he immediately responded by driving across the city, entered the building under fire, and placed his life at mortal risk in order to protect others. This is outward-directed power on behalf of others.

The public response in Colorado Springs to a man of this nature is further evidence of how much we long for good men. Over 5000 people attended Officer Swasey’s memorial service, including hundreds of fellow officers from around the U.S. Several hundred students from UCCS respectfully lined the edge of their campus along the highway as Swasey’s funeral procession, which extended for miles, passed by. One of those students who knew Swasey, was asked what she thought of him. She responded, “He was just willing to run into the line of fire.” That’s a good man.

Every society must decide how to build good men. Because the difference in the outwardly destructive impact of self-absorbed males, and the outwardly protective impact of other-focused men is so enormous.

The cultural, theological and political issues at the heart of the disturbing random mass-killings we see are terrifically complicated. What can you do individually in response? Be a man who brings security and life to as many people as possible.

  • Ask God the Father to continue to transform you into the likeness of Christ, the ultimate model of a man
  • Pursue, build relationships with, and learn from older, wiser men you admire and respect
  • Look for the younger men around you who are searching, wandering, looking for someone who believes in them
  • Bring your presence, voice and action to bear by initiating, supporting and working for societal change that protects rather than destroys

Can you or I alone change the world? No. Can we, together, stop the local violence that stares us in the face on a regular basis? Perhaps. There are many other factors that need to come into play for that to happen. But we can start with us. Then we can influence other men in our lives. We can then touch the next generation through our mentoring and fathering.

My heart aches at the enormous pain inflicted on the world by wounded men. I so deeply long to see us doing a better job of building good men. Lord, continue your work in me.

Are You Constrained or Unleashed?

Are You Constrained or Unleashed?

Not long ago I heard a speaker, sadly I don’t remember his name, say, “Don’t just give people rules to follow; give them values to believe in.” I think that is remarkably perceptive advice.

Rules constrain people into obedience due to another person’s position of authority or ability to punish non-compliance.

Values unleash a person to action based on what he or she believes in; they form a powerful connection with ideas or principles that matter on a heart level.

At Peregrine Ministries, we guide and inspire men on their life journey, to help them leave a life-giving legacy. In doing so, we are compelled by the following values:

Legacy
Legacy is the part of us that lives in others after we’re gone. We receive an
inheritance we didn’t choose. Transformation determines the legacy we will pass
on.

Transformation
Every word we write and every action we take as a ministry is to see the hearts
of men increasingly transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Authenticity
We aspire to conduct our relationships with a commitment to being truthful about
ourselves, so that the man others see is increasingly consistent with the man we
are beneath the surface.

Community
We pursue the “Third Place”- not home, and not work, it’s a setting where we
know others deeply, reveal ourselves genuinely, and simply enjoy each other’s
presence.

Integrity
The commitment to make every decision with honesty, even when it hurts.
We willingly speaking the truth in love; bringing both courage and compassion.

Compassion
The conscious choice to feel what others feel, and to act on their behalf. It comes
from our own wounds that are healed and redeemed.

Redemption
When God takes a part of our story that is broken, and turns it around 180 degrees to
make it a powerful source of healing for others.

Mission
Being compelled to act, speak and live from the deepest part of our hearts for the
benefit of others. The unique combination of God-given talents, gifts and values
that create God’s calling in our lives. We can’t not do it.

Adventure
We embrace the risk, challenge and exhilaration of regularly engaging with
Creation.

Significance
Reminding ourselves, and teaching men, that our significance is not based on
our Power, Possessions and Prestige, but on the foundation of who our Creator
is.

Transcendence

Though we live in a broken world, we intentionally anticipate, plan for and celebrate the periodic glimpses of overflowing joy, jaw-dropping beauty and staggering glory we encounter in nature, music, art, writing, sports and relationships. These are all clues of an eternal, transcendent hunger in our hearts.

These values inspire us at Peregrine to do what we do.

Have you ever identified your deepest values? What do your actions, your priorities and your emotions reveal about your values?

I’d love to hear what they are.

Deep Impact

Deep Impact

IMG_4505If you’re a man, I have good news for you, and I have sobering news for you.

The good news: you matter. Despite the questions our society often raises about the value of men, and especially fathers (think Homer Simpson), you have a deeply important calling as a man. Your presence and your words have an enormous impact on those around you.

The sobering news: you matter. Your words and presence have impact, but that impact can go either way. It can bring life, security and blessing into the lives of others, especially our wives and children—or it can bring fear, shame and violence. Glory or ruin.

In my work as a minister to men, I regularly encounter men who question their value and competency. In fact a deep, hidden doubt in their ability to effectively manage the requirements of their lives is one of the most common traits I see.

A few years ago I met a 30-something man who seemed to have the world by the tail. He was the hotshot CEO of a growing company; he had a trophy wife, a beautiful home in the suburbs and a red convertible Porsche he drove at ridiculous speeds to work every morning. He apparently had it all.

Then one morning he called me. “Craig,” he said, “I’m on the shoulder of the expressway. I’m heading into a meeting with my board. They know everything. They know my lies, my cheating and my cover-ups. I can’t pull this thing off any more. They know the truth about me—I’m ruined.” Then he burst into tears.

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) had it right when he said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation…” That’s just as true today as it was in his time. The only difference is that the desperation is not as quiet. How else can we explain the unbelievable risks so many men take to pursue that forbidden affair, to pad their wallets while their employees lose jobs, to bilk others of billions of dollars in pyramid schemes?

What’s going on here?

Intrinsic Value

What’s going on is that men have fallen for the lie that their value is defined by performance, position, power or possessions. Too many men believe that they matter to others solely because they have the world’s external badges that prove their worth. At the same time they know the truth beneath the surface: they wrestle with fear, anger, confusion, exhaustion.

The internal conflict these men live with, the demands of keeping the secrets or keeping pace with expectations, results in men who either passively give up or violently take their rage out on those who least deserve it. You may know some men like this. You may be this man.

In Psalm 139, we learn that all men and women have deep intrinsic value because we were knit together by the God of the universe. Even before we were born, God knew us and formed us uniquely, regardless of gender. But when God chose to reveal himself to mankind, he did so as a Father and as a Son.

When I did training for a mission agency several years ago, my colleagues and I had the dual roles of preparing those candidates who would go to the field and holding back those who should not. Invariably, some had unhealed emotional wounds that profoundly affected their ability to relate to others in a healthy way.

Over the years I saw a consistent pattern in those who were deeply wounded, whether men or women, single or married: almost always, the factor that most heavily influenced their wounded self-esteem and personal sense of value was their relationship with their father.

That realization glared at me like a flashing light: Craig, it’s about the father. It’s about the father. That awakening had a deep affect on me as a dad.

Bless Me, Father

When God chose to reveal himself as a father, He laid a spiritual mantle on all men who would follow. The presence and words of men carry a message of love and grace—or of judgment and condemnation. Children believe what their fathers say about them, whether it is a message of blessing or of shame. And they make the assumption that God agrees. Many of you reading these words know from personal experience that this is true.

Even Jesus needed to hear words of blessing from His Father. We know that Jesus’ impact on the world was largely unseen for 30 years, until the day he was baptized. “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (Matt. 3:17)

The Father gave His Son words of identification; He gave words of love; and He gave words of pride.

Later, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5), the Father spoke the very same words about His Son with one additional phrase: Listen to Him. With that blessing from the Father, the Son changed the history and future of the world.

Here is one of the most amazing principles of fathering I know: A boy’s primary model for masculinity comes from his father. A girl’s primary model for femininity comes from her mother. A boy receives endorsement of the innate value of his masculinity—that he has what it takes—from his father. A girl receives endorsement of the innate value of her femininity—that she is worth loving—from her father, as well.

It’s about the father. When a father withholds blessing from his son, the son will look for it in a community of men through performance or destruction. Or else he will retreat into defeat and passivity.

When a father withholds blessing from his daughter, she will look for it in the words and the arms of another man. It may not necessarily matter who he is…he just needs to be a guy. Again, many of you already know this from personal experience.

Embrace It

Mothers deeply impact the lives of their children, and they seem to intuitively understand this. Most sacrificially give their lives to bring love, safety, nurture and presence into the lives of their kids.

It’s men who so often seem to confuse their value and their role. Men are called to speak words of blessing into the lives of others, whether to their wives, their children or other men. But so often men swallow the lie of our culture that says, “Your value is in what you own, wear, build or drive.”

Men matter. Deeply. This is the core message I speak to men. But it has nothing to do with the external trappings the world esteems.

I urge men to understand their deep value simply because of Who created them.

I urge them to embrace their roles as men by bringing blessing into the lives of others.

And I urge them to live out the unique personal calling that God has placed on them through their giftedness and their healed woundedness.

Men, you matter. For blessing or destruction; glory or ruin.