Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Jumble: I Am My Father's Son!

Having recently turned 54 years of age, I always find it fascinating when God presents moments of clarity that make me utter the words, "I am my father's son." Over the last month or so, I find it coming into play with an innocuous piece of literary wonder called...

The Jumble.

As a small boy growing up in the Bronx, I loved when my father would return home from his overnight work as a city bus driver. I knew he would always have the latest edition of The New York Daily News tucked under the arm of his bud driver's uniform. My interest in this hallowed periodical was quite simple - I wanted to get my hands on the Funnies. For some reason, I had a fascination with Dondi and the other comical characters that were brought to life through pen and ink. But I digress...

You see, there was a fascinating piece of treasure buried in the pages with the Funnies...a small picture nestled adjacent to a string of mixed up words waiting to be solved. Even as a young boy, I loved a good mystery...and thanks to my Mom (who got a library card into my hands even before she ever put a tricycle under my ass), I found the Jumble to be an excellent way to sharpen my love of words.

There was one slight wrinkle in this educational frontier: my father owned the Jumble. That meant no one - no one - was allowed to complete it inside the paper before he did. As a rambunctious type of boy, I could understand the territorial enthusiasm he was showing...after all, he bought the paper, so he should be (and always was) the first one to read it and, by rights, complete the prize within...the daily Jumble. If memory serves me, there was more than one occasion where the fifth-floor Bronx walk-up became a battle zone because someone forgot the rules and did the Jumble before he had a chance to conquer it.

The Jumble may be child's play to some (i.e. your New York Times crossword puzzle aficionados), but to me in those years (I'm talking 5 to 9 years old) it was an amazing chance to test my intelligence and, on the rare occasion, even be a contributor to my father's victory. In his story, he never even finished high school and was always a man of few words. I even recall finding it fascinating to see him in his easy chair (think Archie Bunker and you know it was my father's chair), settling in and putting on his black-framed reading glasses, shuffling through the pages and readying his pencil to go to work. He was like a dog on a leg of lamb, sometimes smiling at the gift of deciphering the words with ease while at other times his face twisted into a snarl of frustration. Sometimes I would even get a chance, if I was in the room alone with him, to hear a few choice words that my Mom wouldn't want me to either hear nor repeat. 

Even as a child, the frustrating part was this: he left the answers behind, like some sort of literary crime scene that I was both fascinated with and repulsed by. In the timing of my youth, I would return home from school just after he awoke in the afternoon; by that time - with homework and such - it was usually too late by that time to lay claim to the paper, if even for a few moments to copy down the Jumble for later investigation and completion. And, mind you, this was that late 60's and early 70's - well before the Internet could lend a hand in the need of any eventual word-cracking that left me stumped and stymied. 

Flash forward decades. It's 2016, and I'm in the break room at my place of employment. I know, I know...the Jumble has been in syndication for decades, but it seems to me that after we moved from New York to Kentucky in the mid-70's my fascination with this wordy enigma completely disappeared. Maybe I was reading more and comfortable with my vocabulary. I know my father was fascinated with and completing the Jumble his entire life until he passed away in 1996. So here I am, looking through the copy of our local Courier-Journal here in Louisville and what do I stumble across? The Jumble...in all of its black and white, literary-mystery brilliance and beauty. I swept up the paper before any other employee could get it and rushed it to the copy machine. I'm not kidding - when I pressed the Copy button and waited for the print to exit the machine, I felt like I was 5 or 6 years old again, somehow challenging my father and honoring him in the same moment.

In the quiet of the morning office flow, I cast my eyes to both the small comic in the Jumble (which, through it's dialogue and picture can give the user some important clues about solving the final piece of the puzzle) as well as the list of mixed up words waiting on my courage. As an adult, have you ever had a moment where you were reintroduced to that younger part of you that is golden, full of joy, and not wanting to grow up so fast? I picked up a pen (always the boldest move a Jumble man could make...what if I make a mistake?) and dived in. Some of those first words came easy, my eyes and brain doing its best Russell Crowe-like A Beautiful Mind impersonation. With one of them, I found myself repeating the facial tics and f-bombs of my father from years gone by. Sweet!! 

I confess...at one point, I found myself going to Google to rescue me on a word that, in the end, wasn't hard to decipher but had stumped my ass up and down the block. It felt like and was - in the memory and legacy of my father - cheating. And I haven't done it since.

That was weeks ago. My daily habit, Monday through Friday, is to now sit down at my computer, download a fresh copy of the daily Jumble, and be both a young boy and a man in the second half of his life...a wordsmith detective on the hunt to figure it out. The best part of completing it each morning? I get to smile, think about my father, Michael, and say these words with love in my heart: "I am my father's son!"

If you want to join me and learn more about my story and my heart for the spiritual and masculine journey that God has called me on, please visit MAXIMUS HEART - Stories from the Wellspring of Life by clicking HERE.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Hiding Man

I was recently on a walk home from the local grocery. Coming at me from a distance down the sidewalk by 2nd and Ormsby near where I live were three people...two men and a woman, walking in single file, male, female, male. As I passed them, as is my habit, I looked at them to offer a visual greeting, smile, just noticing. Oddly, the men did not even look up. Wow, I thought, they can't even look me in the eyes. The woman, mind you, was smiling, looked me square in the eyes, acknowledged being seen and seeing me. As I passed them by, I realized that the men were just reminding me about that part of me - the hiding man.

In my life, I've known him well. I know him less now more than ever, but he still can make an unannounced visit in the most interesting of places, times, situations. Yes, not only The Situation can have situations. The masculine journey, for me, has been an incredible journey of such moments. And it made me ask some questions:

"Why do I hide? Why can't I, won't I, look another man in the eyes?" For me, could be guilt, shame, fear. The first story I made up about those two men as they passed me by was that they weren't happy with where they were at or what they were doing. That wouldn't remotely be on my radar of emotional thoughts anytime recently, would it? Again, looking into the mirror on the masculine journey is a fascinating risk that is worth the reward waiting.

At Maximus Heart, we connect, inspire, and battle for deep healing and true freedom within the hearts of men on their spiritual and masculine journey. The Hiding Man, in me, wants to hide because I haven't healed in a certain part of my heart that gives me safety, trust, and courage to be me in front of others. I recognize the hiding man in other men because I've seen him in me.

My encouragement to men is: LOOK UP! See the world as you walk through it. Recognize the other men in your life - where you walk - and know they have their own journey to travel but it is very much like yours in many ways. BE SEEN! As a man, you were designed to magnify and manifest the glory of the Creator - and that is powerful, and much needed in our communities and world!

In my sojourn to and from the grocery, who knows...I might be looking to see if you see me seeing you seeing me!!

If you would like more information on MAXIMUS HEART, please click here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Maximus Heart - An Outpost for the Masculine Journey

Over the years I've enjoyed sharing where I've been on the spiritual and masculine journey. At this point in the Larger Story I am living inside of, it's time for me to share this exciting path with others...hence, the beginning of Maximus Heart

You can find out more by clicking here - this online outpost is designed to assist men who are walking through their journey. Our mission is to connect, inspire, and battle for deep healing & true freedom within the hearts of men on their spiritual & masculine journey. Using many of the resources from Ransomed Heart that have helped change my life and the lives of so many others across the globe, we are offering to help facilitate, lead, and structure curriculum for other small groups interested in walking and living deep in this message.

We also help connect men to weekend adventures and boot camps - both associated with Ransomed Heart as well as The ManKind Project. More information is also coming soon for the Maximus Heart boot camp event for men, A Journey of Strength & Honor (slated for late 2015).

Please take some time to visit the site, let us know what you think, and register for one of the four featured small group study platforms scheduled for 2015. Space is limited - so act accordingly!!

Look forward to sharing more on the pages here at His Grace Amazing in the future about how this exciting path of mission and calling is helping make impact in the lives of men seeking a deeper walk on their journey and their lives with God!

For more information on John Eldredge & Ransomed Heart, click here.

For more information on The ManKind Project, click here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Frodo Didn't Go It Alone!!

"What I am suggesting is that we reframe the way we look at our lives as men. And the way we look at our relationships with God. I also want to help you reframe the way you relate to other men." (From Fathered by God by John Eldredge - 2009, Thomas Nelson, p. 11)

One of my favorite movies is The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films. If you are familiar with the series, you know that - once the prologue has been presented - the story hones in on what some consider its main character...the hobbit named Frodo Baggins. Each time I watch these epics, I always come away with the sense that in his initiation and masculine journey, one thing is ultimately and most importantly true for Frodo: he didn't go it alone!!

It's absurd for me, as a man among men, to conceive of being initiated alone or traveling the paths of my spiritual and masculine journey by myself. Of course, in both crucibles, there are moments designed for solitude and reflection. This is good - Scripture, of course, bears out many instances where Jesus himself chose to go off alone to a place where he could pray, regroup, rest, grieve...you know, be human.

So, on this amazing sojourn known as the masculine journey, ask yourself a question: "Who is my fellowship? Do I have a company of men to walk with, talk to, trust in, and fight/live/love/play alongside of?" If the answer comes back, "No!" or perhaps, "What do I need that for?" you may look at reconsidering your options. Believe me, I've loved to go it alone in my life...but from this point in my journey, it wasn't wise.

A lot of that came from the pain of agreements I made: such as "I'm on my own and it has to be me to figure life out" or "I can't trust God to show up for me - he's too busy, doesn't care..." I believe what Eldredge is speaking to in the reframing encouragement is to come from that place in my masculine heart where courage meets vulnerability. It is a scary proposition for many men - who know God or don't - to discover that allowing for the fellowship of men to come around him in spirit and truth does really equal having the willingness to change the ingrained patterns of pride or stubbornness or ego of the go it alone myth of being a man. 

Here's a question I found invaluable at that stage I asked of myself: "What if ALL of what I've been seeking - love, wholeness, initiation, courage, living deeply in my calling/mission/purpose, peace, healing and faith is to be found within the fellowship of men...and having God father me?"

In one of the final scenes in the trilogy, late into The Return of the King film, there is a beautiful scene where Frodo awakens after being rescued from the destruction of Mount Doom. One by one, starting with Gandalf, he is reunited with the fellowship of men - his fellowship of men - and the joy keeps growing intensely as they share in the victory of what it took them all to do. Frodo didn't go it alone. God, in his wisdom and love, doesn't invite us to either. 

For more on John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart, click here.

To purchase a copy of Fathered by God, click here.

For more on John Fontaine & MAXIMUS HEART, click here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Holiness Is Worth It

I truly love it when God smacks me upside both head and heart...especially in the early morning hours when my time with him is most precious and unencumbered by the pounding drums of the Matrix waiting for me to step out my apartment door and into a world at war.

This morning, I was reading a chapter from Free to Live, a wonderful book by John Eldredge (originally published as The Utter Relief of Holiness). In the chapter entitled "The Fruit of Holiness," the final paragraph was what struck me most deeply after the deep truths I had read on the pages leading up to it:

"So let me say one more time, the pursuit of a deep and genuine holiness is worth whatever it costs you. Because holiness is an utter relief. It is a joy and a healing of your creation. It will make you powerful in the Spirit, it will rescue you again and again, it will fortress you to the enemy's attacks, it will make your life a compelling argument for Jesus because it is of the same quality as his. Finally, in these last days, the saints are being sorely tested. Holiness is your strength and your safe passage through the trial. It is worth it." (p. 168)

Wow...let me pull a few words that light my heart on fire: "...relief...joy...healing...powerful in the Spirit...rescue...fortress...compelling argument for Jesus...quality...strength...safe passage through trial..."

As I continue my journey of becoming as a man, this masculine journey with God and others is full of risk, reward, honor wounds, and dangerous for good moments throughout each day. And to seek holiness, I know that whatever it costs me I become more and more willing to pay. The currency of holiness is to become whole - in me and for God. 

For more on John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries, click here.

For more on John Fontaine and Maximus Heart, click here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Are You Ready for Your Adventure??

Each week my heart is saddened to see - either first hand or through a variety of media reports - more evidence that the world needs grown up men. While the challenges of being a grown up man myself continue to sharpen me as iron, I am grateful I do not have to walk this path alone.

For over 25 years, the ManKind Project has held the space to nurture stronger, safer and more connected men. In Kentucky, this work has been going on since the early 1990's. Our flagship training is the New Warrior Training Adventure, a modern initiation experience for men over the age of 18.

At the ManKind Project of Kentucky we offer community, connection, growth, inspiration, and a chance to become more the man you've always wanted to be. We are fierce defenders of time-honored values: Integrity, Accountability, Compassion, Generosity, Inclusivity, Authenticity, Leadership, and Respect.

For info on the ManKind Project of KY, please call:

Earl Shiring (502.494.5993) or John Fontaine (502.712.1972)

We also host open circles (weekly or bi-weekly) that men can visit (see our website link above for more info on our Integration Group circles). Men are always welcome at our monthly Intro to Men's Work gathering at our MKP Kentucky Lodge (1728 Mellwood Avenue in Louisville).

Are you READY for YOUR Adventure? If you need a visual, take a few moments to check out the video and give us a call if you want to learn more or step into the journey of making the radical choice to become a grown up man!!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Confessions of a Celibate Man

I am nearly 52 years of age. I am a heterosexual, white, Christian man. And, for the past 10 years, I have been celibate. For those of you who have forsaken the dictionary, it can mean "...the state of not being married..." or "...abstention from sexual intercourse..."

Some of the synonyms for celibate are abstinence or chasteness. On the flip side of that coin, some of the antonyms are debauchery, lechery, or whoring. Pretty black and white...but walking that road for a decade has been anything but black and white.


So I was more than a little surprised this morning when God asked me to write about this, to confess what it's been like to be unmarried and abstient in a society, frankly, that doesn't care about its abysmal divorce rate, the damage done by infidelity to hearts and families, or the tsunami of sexual license that has flooded lives, bodies, and souls without care to the cost or the repair that is always necessary in its wake.


In his wonderful book, Epic (2004: Thomas Nelson, Inc.), author John Eldredge brings up a great point: "One of the deepest of all human longings is the longing to belong, to be a part of things, to be invited in...Loneliness might be the hardest cross we bear." (p. 23) When God captured my heart in 2005, I had already left a trail of broken hearts, bodies, and souls (physically & sexually) in my wake. And that wasn't even addressing the bonds of slavery to pornography that still gripped me.

Why this topic? On a popular social network yesterday, a "friend" shared a story link about a beautiful, young (19 years old) woman who killed herself with a shotgun after filming her first porn scene. She was a straight A student with dreams and hopes of making her mark in the world. Obviously - and sadly - it wasn't to be. I commented on the post, recognizing that, yes, it was a sad story to read but it also made me angry that men - especially men who are of God - have failed the daughters of Eve in such contemptable ways, from the church to the home, in not standing up for and protecting the Beauty from such pernicious and destructive forces. 

Could celibacy helped save that young woman's life? Of course it could have. As a celibate man, I am not a freak nor unable to honor my sexuality. Porn is not sex and sex is not love. In my life, I invited two different women to marry me. Both said "Yes," but in the end, both chose to leave me because I chose to destroy my life in front of them instead of becoming the man God created me to be. That was a long time ago - and I am not that man any longer. But celibacy isn't something that I wake up to every morning with glee and shout, "Man, I'm not going to want to be married today or ever have sex again and it's gonna be a great day!!"

I am grateful not to be enslaved to pornography anymore. I am grateful that I have become a better man, that the world is a safer place because I have recovered a relationship with God, myself, and others. I am grateful that I have a stronger heart and a clearer sense of duty as a man in relation to what a woman is and seeks from a man. I am grateful that I can still desire to be a husband and, perhaps, a father before my earthly life turns towards eternity. I am grateful that my heart is open to love - true intimacy with God, myself, and others.

And I am grateful that celibacy is my choice...and that even though, for now, I am alone - I am grateful to not be lonely. I'll wait...I'm worth it and so is the woman who would say "Yes" to such a man.

For more on John Eldredge, his books, resources and ministry, please visit Ransomed Heart.com