Monthly Archives: April 2014

Progress

They call it progress
They call it expansion
They call it growth

As the houses creep in
Warehouses spring up
And concrete cows are created

Habitats are destroyed
Natural homes displaced
Peace is replaced with chaos

Green turns to grey
Flowers are covered with dust
Beauty is covered by ignorance

The never ending quest for more
The rat race traps yet another victim
One more person gets richer as one more gets poorer

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Reading? Yeah, about that …..

Last year, when embarking on this conscious journey to become better / more / whatever the word should be, I made the declaration that not only was I going to make myself read more in 2013, but I was going to write about what I had read.

When I initially thought about this catch up post, I was going to chastise myself and try to explain why I had failed so. Then I thought about it and you know what? I read a ton in 2013, I might not have completed my list, but I read books not on there and I also read more blogs than I ever expected to read in my entire life. It’s amazing how much pleasure can be found in reading blogs, prior to entering this world I’d probably never have believed you if you told me.

When on vacation recently I finished up a book that I have been reading (very slowly) over the last year.  I found myself really enjoying reading, I enjoyed the peace and quiet, I enjoyed being still and completely against my norm, I enjoyed the tv being off.  So without trying to make it a chore, I am once again going to try and read some actual books this year. I mean,  I have half a shelf full of unread books, it only makes sense to read them!

So lets see if I can remember enough of the undocumented books I have read in the last year to at least say something on them.

 

Fire in the hole by Elmore Leonard

This is the book I finished on vacation. It is  a collection of excellently written short stories. The title story was the inspiration behind the tv show Justified, my favorite show. I expected that to be my favorite part of the book, however knowing exactly what was going to happen definitely detracted from that somewhat & I found myself enjoying some of the other stories more. Short stories are an interesting concept to me, they allow you to read the story & then put the book down without being compelled to start the next story. This is convenient, but if you’re like me can make for a very extended book reading. It is nice to be able to complete the tale in one sitting, however in the case of most of these stories I found myself wishing there was another chapter, they were just that well written.  I really enjoyed this book and already have another collection of the late Mr Leonard’s stories waiting to be read.

 

Fathered by God by John Eldredge

I read this book as part of a study with my men’s group at church. It is both an excellent book and an excellent guide to authentic manhood. In today’s broken and confused society with so many man finding themselves as adult children as opposed to having masculinity bestowed on them as it should be; this book in the context of a healthy group study is an invaluable tool. It can really help to straighten things out in your mind, help you find healing, help you find some direction and purpose and help you to recover some of the lost parts of growing up that we all have.

 

It’s not about me by Max Lucado

 

Another book that we read as part of a study, the great part for that use is that the study guide is contained in the book itself. The book is interesting, it starts of kind of basic and feels a bit simple, yet every chapter deepens, the book will open your eyes are really challenge you with how you live your life and live out your faith. The last chapter of the book is probably the most powerful word picture I have seen with regards to how we as Christians represent the Father and how we live our lives shapes the perspective and opinion of God for those who have not met Him yet. It is worth reading for the last chapter alone!

Happy Easter

On my very best days
When I think right, speak right
Walk right and act right
Still you died for me

On my very worst days
When I respond in anger
When I fall foul of sin
Still you died for me

When I didn’t even know you
When I had run as far as I could
Trapped in desperation
Still you died for me

What astounding love
Unparalleled grace
That you would die for us
So that we could know you

And then, beyond comprehension
Not only did you die for me
You were resurrected for me
Now you live, for me

Thank you for all that you did
Thank you for all that you do
Thank you for all that you are
My beautiful saviour

Broken male culture – Part 6 – Identity

Identity, this is a subject I have touched on so many times in different guises over the last year it seems almost redundant to write about it again. Yet in addition to giving you the links to some of my previous entries, I feel there is something specific to broken male culture that needs to be said here.

You see, I firmly believe, and you will never shake me on this, that the only way to receive your true identity is to hear it spoken to you from God. The Father who you can only gain access to through Jesus Christ. This is why identity crises are such a problem in male culture today. So many people who garner their identity from what they do, instead of who they are.

Don’t believe me?  Until the past few years, if you had asked me to describe my identity to you, I would have told you about my geographical origin, about my job, my sports affiliations, my family, on a goo d day, maybe even my faith.  The result of my identity being tied to these “things” is that it only ever added to my struggles. Just look at my twitter handle, LUFCTX, on the face of it, it looks like a Leeds United fan that lives in Texas. Which is true, however, the truth is I garnered a big part my identity from that for many years. A big part of who I would tell you I was, was based on people I will never meet who either watched and cheered for the same team as me or people who chase a ball around a field for obscene sums of money. Heck these days they’re not even any good at it. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with being passionate about sports, or anything else. However when it becomes who you are, when something like a sports team is the highest ranking thing in your life, it should be a warning that things are not right.

How did Leeds United come to be at the center of my identity? Looking back, it was about acceptance, about belonging. At a time when the world around me made very little sense, football mattered to me, it was my passion. Standing on the kop screaming, singing, shouting with thousands of others, it felt good, it felt right. So over time, as the rest of life went from crazy to chaotic and back again, the one thing that was always there was my identity as a Leeds fan.

Of course, that is an external identity; much more significant is the identity at the core of your heart, the things you believe to be true about yourself. I’ve heard it said that a lie believed to be true will accept you as if it were true. Some of the things I believed about myself were that I was unlovable, unforgivable, insignificant and would never be good enough. The route of these beliefs? That is for a face to face conversation. The effect of this collection of lies? I lived with a spirit of fear for most of my life, perfectly adept at surviving and living life in the world. To the outside most people would not even notice anything, I was just like everyone else. However on the inside I was rotting away, my light was not allowed to shine for fear that it was not a good light. That is what Jesus changed, that is the lie based identity He took away and replaced with the beautiful truth. I am a beloved child of the King. Adopted through salvation, significant, worthy, forgiven, loved and just the type of good enough that He likes to use.

 

My hope with this series, other than to get back on track blogging? Is the hope I have for the rest of my life, to encourage others to move away from what is secretly rotting them inside. Whether it manifests itself in a spirit of fear keeping you from being who you were created to be; or if it manifests itself in some obnoxious overly confident front, yet you have never let anyone get truly close to you. Whether you are trapped in a quest for success at the expense of all else; or if you are trapped in medicating your pain through whatever your substance of choice is. Whatever ails you, even if you have yet to admit it ails you.  You have a Father in heaven that loves you and wants to help you move into your true identity. He wants to heal you and He wants to use you. We all have a story to tell, our stories are our testimony. We overcome the enemy by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. You may not see it yet, but my friend, your light is beautiful, it is time to let it shine. Ask God to tell you who He says you are. Be patient, pursue Him and watch him change you before your very eyes into the you that you were created to be.

 

Be blessed my friends & have a wonderful Easter.

 

Here are the links I promised, just some easy unhiddenlight reading if you have nothing better to do today.

 

https://unhiddenlight.com/2013/02/17/identity/

https://unhiddenlight.com/2013/06/16/happy-fathers-day/

https://unhiddenlight.com/2013/04/18/the-kingdom-matrix/

https://unhiddenlight.com/2013/08/05/the-disguise/

https://unhiddenlight.com/2013/05/31/living-an-authentic-life/

https://unhiddenlight.com/2013/04/26/complete-surrender/

 

Broken male culture – Part 5 – Forgiveness

If knowledge is gained through experience, I should be pretty familiar with the subject of forgiveness. I have had much to be forgiven for in my life time & have also had much to forgive. Some connected, some disconnected but all necessary & all small steps towards what I feel is finally some sort of real mental health, peace & stability. That is not to say I have life figured out, but I am fully connected to the One that does. Nor is it to say I don’t continue to do things out of my stupidity that will not require some form of forgiveness again. Sinning out of brokenness is one thing, sinning out of stupidity is another, connected, just as bad in the eyes of God, yet somehow different. The knowledge that I have made a mistake comes so quickly now, without prompting (or desire to know sometimes), I just know.

I’ve heard it said that this is because once we become a new creation in Christ, sin is no longer our nature, we are no longer sinners by nature. That does not mean we do not sin, but as I’m sure you know, there is that immediate knowledge that comes from inside letting you know you did something that was not good for you to do. A lot of the time it is something that used to bring you pleasure with no remorse, not that same act is contrary to your very nature. This allows me to be in a place to rectify the errors of my ways much quicker than in the past, where it could be many, many days, weeks or even years before I even realized what was causing an issue.

So I suppose this is where I could tell you about how important it is to forgive people, to forgive yourself, to restore relationships, especially a right relationship with the Lord. I could tell you that, but you already know it, deep inside you know it. What I want to do is to look at what exactly forgiveness is, what I know of it & what the bible says about it. Maybe take a little look at why people are so afraid of it. It seems to me that sometimes people become so numb to their constant pain that the thought of a brief, if worse pain, that leads to freedom from pain all together is not a choice that is easily made.

Sometimes you are so numb to the truth, that you think everything is ok, that there is nothing to deal with. This is what happens when we develop coping mechanisms to avoid our pain, we live in these masks, with these lies long enough, that we forget that they are not correct. It is at this point that our core identity becomes based around a lie, our coping mechanisms, our life. We feel like we can handle the mess that is life because, hey that’s just the way life is. The good news however is that life does not have to be that way.

What is forgiveness really? It is not saying something is ok. Forgiveness is like a wound that was once deep but had been allowed to heal. This wound has been treated. Now it is just a scar. Each day you think less and less about the scar. You can look at it and remember something that was once very painful; but as you look at the scar, you know that the wound itself is only a memory. This is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not about trying to be a nice person, or trying to do the right thing. When we really forgive people, we release any feeling that they owe us for the wrong done. We are the ones to release the wrong.

When I see the wrong done to me by another as their problem, not mine, and my pain as my problem not theirs, I have forgiven. When I forgive I let go of control. When I forgive I let go of blame. When I forgive I choose to not hold you responsible for me and to not hold myself responsible for you.

You say, well that all sounds great, but I can’t do it, I can’t forgive them. Even if I know what it really means, I just can’t do it. Well no, you probably can’t, but through Christ you can. Through the power of His spirit that lives within you, you can, because its not you doing it, it’s Him. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, then my friend, that is where all this begins, if this is on your heart, then right now is the perfect time to confess your sins to Him, and accept Him as your Lord and savior. In the eyes of God, the wages of sin are death. However because He loved you so much, He came to earth, fully human and paid the price for your sins, my sins, anyone who will accept Him, sacrificially in our place. You see, when you experience the love of God your capacity to love others grows. This allows you to forgive the seemingly unforgivable.

Jesus did all this (in covenant) for you (me, everybody). He surrendered his rights & assumed responsibility for our sins. He could have called down an army of 10,000 angels, but instead he made a covenant with us through love.

Not interested? Think life is just fine running along with your anger and bitterness? Did you ever wonder where that anger comes from? Where the resentment comes from? That bitterness that makes the happy moments oh so brief and the rest of life a miserable grind? It comes from unforgiveness. When you have been hurt, when you have been offended, when you have been abused, it is natural to feel pain, anger, resentment etc.

Forgiving people, even the seemingly unforgivable, is not handing a license for someone to hurt you again. Forgiveness is not an agreement between two people, it is a decision of the will to remove the hold that situation had over your life. To let go. A lot of the time it will not be a face to face situation, there is a good chance other person doesn’t even know that you are mad at them that they hurt you. Even if they do, this is not about them, this is about you and you receiving the freedom that God wants for you in your life.

Unforgiveness is like eating rat poison & hoping it will hurt someone else. Don’t listen to anyone that says you should hold a grudge the rest of your life, that message is from the devil. Tell the devil to go to hell, God wants intimacy with you, do not settle for less than friendship with Jesus. If you are so caught up in your pain, you will never get to that place of true intimacy with God.

That right there, the fear of the Lord should be the overriding motivation to forgive others. The fear of the Lord is not the fear of punishment by the Lord, it is the fear or not being with the Lord. The fear of losing His guiding hand, His loving discipline, His unending grace. The fear of not knowing the Lord, is the only fear we should ever carry, not the fear of what will happen if I surrender my anger and resentment for the things that have happened in my past. The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom.

I said I was going to involve the bible in this didn’t I? Well, here are a few of my favorite verses on forgiveness. Hopefully they will speak to you as they have done to me.

Luke 11:2-4  New International Version (NIV)

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation

 

Luke 17:3-5   New International Version (NIV)

So watch yourselves.

“If your brother or sister[a] sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

Luke 23:32-34 New International Version (NIV)

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Luke 6:37-38 New International Version (NIV)

Judging Others

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Matthew 18:21-35  New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

 

 

I really could have just stopped with the Lord’s prayer, forgive us as we forgive others, but I like scripture so I gave you some extras. That says it all though, I’m sure we have all payed the Lords prayer at some point, think about it, we are asking our Father to forgive us, just as we forgive others. If we are withholding forgiveness, then how can we expect to be forgiven?

 

Now, the main focus of this series has been men and what I call broken male culture. However this subject, forgiveness, like much of the rest is completely applicable to all. I just believe that if we could empower men to get past their hurt, to get past their blocked emotions and to start working on getting healthy. Then I think we would see a transformed world.

Can we change the world of broken male culture? I believe so, but it will be slow small steps, one man at a time, I’ll be working on me, with the guiding hand of the Trinity. Hopefully as my light begins to shine ever brighter, it will encourage others to light their lamp. Maybe one day instead of broken male culture, we will be talking about the light of the city of the side of the hill that cannot be ignored.

 

 

 

I’d love to pretend this is all my own work, but much of what I have learned on this subject has come from the below wonderful people

Pastor Toby Slough – the senior pastor at Cross Timbers Community Church

Pastor Alan Smith – from Gateway

Graham Cooke – Brilliant publishing, look him up on youtube & twitter (and probably other places too)

Making Peace With Your Past – a 12 week course I took that was the true genesis of my understanding of forgiveness and what it meant in my life

 

Broken male culture – part 4 – The causes of brokenness

Brokenness is caused by pain

Pain that is not processed

Pain that has been buried

 

The pain can be caused by so many things

Abuse, neglect, bullying, failures

Too many things to name can cause the pain

 

The side effect of brokenness

Is coping mechanisms, pain barriers

The masks we wear to protect ourselves

 

They can manifest themselves in so many ways

Anger, aggression, passivity, addition

Materialism, lust, shallowness, isolation …….

 

All these things, these false selves

Prevent our true selves from being known

The course of our lives perverted by lies

 

You have a true identity

One that is not based on a lie you believe to be true

You have a destiny, there is greatness within you

 

Only our heavenly Father can show you your true identity

He will speak into you & tell you who you are

If only you will allow him

 

You are loved, you are wanted

You are worthy of his love

Come just as you are, He loves you completely already

 

The Father loves you more than enough to accept you as you are now

However the Father loves you way too much

To want to allow you to stay in your brokenness

 

The cure for brokenness is forgiveness

Forgiveness leads to healing

Healing leads to freedom

 

If you say you cannot forgive

There is a good chance you are correct

However through the power of Christ you can

 

Cast your fears upon the Lord

He will bear your burden for you

And you will be free to begin anew

 

A fresh life

A guided life

A life of being fully loved

 

 

Then, when you are healed & living in freedom

Do not allow someone else’s brokenness

To prevent you from being who you were called to be

Broken male culture – part 3

Why won’t you be a Dad?

Does seeing your child alone not make you sad?

It certainly makes me sad

That you are afraid to be a Dad

 

There you are, lost in your drunk

Trying to hide from repetitive funk

Further down the slope you have sunk

To the outside looking like just another punk

 

Hidden meanings

Long lost feelings

Coping mechanisms

Hiding behind skepticisms

 

There nothing wrong, or so you say

Yet deep inside you hope for another way

Yet sometimes we must first hit rock bottom

Before we can begin to climb from Sodom

 

Another way is yours to find

Hopefully with some others of similar mind

There is always hope, so long as there is breath

The Way offers such hope, a cure for the age old curse called death