How Many Laws Have You Broken, Today?

Moses

Come on, tell the truth, you know that you broke some law today or this week, didn’t you?  Heck you’ve probably broken more than one law, but then how would you know?

The headlines at the first of this year included,“40,000 New laws enacted as of January 2014, from tanning booths to lemon pets.”

Wow! 40,000 new laws, is that all?  I was shocked but then it is almost impossible to determine the total number of laws, statutes, and regulations that are currently on the books.  Go ahead dig into Google, Bing or Yahoo and see what you can find.

My Googling led me to the Library of Congress where I found a statement that it wasn’t possible to determine the total number of laws currently in effect!  It seems I wasn’t the first person to ask this question.

It was entertaining and enlightening to read about one of the new California laws that requires food service employees to wear latex gloves when handling raw food that won’t be cooked, this would affect your favorite sushi chef amongst others.  It was unclear, according to the report, just who this new law would affect.  Would bartenders need to wear gloves because they handle both money and raw foods?  Just imagine the number of gloves they would go through in just one shift…Mix the drink, put on gloves, add the fruit, take off gloves, serve drink and collect money, repeat the process!

So how many laws do we truly need?  100,000, 500,000, 1,000,000?

How about 10?

1. I am the Lord, your God.

2. Thou shall bring no false idols before me.

3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother.

6. Thou shall not kill/murder.

7. Thou shall not commit adultery.

8. Thou shall not steal.

9. Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

10. Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).

I strongly recommend that you read the linked article by Dennis Prager on the relevance of the Ten Commandments to our current culture.  The modern application of the Commandments is clearly and profoundly presented by Mr. Prager.  If we were all to write these “laws” on our hearts the world would be a better place.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.

The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.

Psalm 19:7-9

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Another excellent study of the 10 Commandments is the book “Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Law Guides Our Lives,” by Alistair Begg.  I discovered this book one Saturday morning as I sat in the Prison Chaplains office inside California State Penitentiary Sacramento (New Folsom Prison).  I was waiting for the inmates to arrive for our weekly Mens Group and I noticed the book on the desk.  I’d heard of Pastor Beggs, my wife often listens to his sermons on the radio, but I had never read or heard anything he had produced.  As I waited I thumbed through the book and was stunned.  God had provided us with the Commandments, not to control us, He provided the Holy Law to empower us to become the men and women he always intended us to be.

Pastor Beggs presents a powerful, yet succinct, thesis that we as God’s children are not justified in our faith through obedience to the Law, we are justified by living our lives in accordance with the Law, we are the Law because it is written on our hearts and the Law is part of who we are as Christians.  God is the ultimate moral authority, eternal and unchanging, and His Commandments provide a structure for living authentic lives in the righteous Kingdom of God.  It is this moral authority that separates God’s Law from the laws of man.

“The Law sends us to the Gospel, that we may be justified, and the Gospel sends us to the Law again to enquire what is our duty in being justified.” Samuel Bolton, “True Bounds of Christian Freedom”

Career politicians believe that they must pass laws to justify their positions.  What else would they do with their time in office?  What authority do these politicians have to attempt to control behavior and morality via legislation?  The Federal, State and local governments and agencies have wormed their way into every aspect of our lives, from birth to death, from work space to bedroom.  Under what authority?  The laws these “public servants” create are born from their own prejudices and judgements about how life should be lived, what controls are required to mold and shape the lives of the “people.”  The legislation and regulations are generated from man’s authority as an elected representative not God’s so that by definition they are finite and imperfect.

Another aspect, or limitation of man’s law is that they are not written on our hearts.  Human laws represent an ever-increasing number of “shall not’s” and “don’t do’s”.  The human laws are like papier-mâché, layer after layer of regulations glued to the broken seed of man.  Each law telling you that you can’t do this or you shouldn’t do that, without ever addressing the fundamental moral and behavioral issues that drive my actions in the world.

We don’t need 40,000 new laws, we need to focus on the 10 Commandments from God and transform ourselves into the authentic Children of God!

The River Flows Through Me

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 “Who am I, really?”

“Do I have the courage to find out who I am?”

“If I’m able to discover my true self, will I be able to accept it?”

“How is my belief about who I am affecting my life, especially my relationships?”

Pastor Dave Johnson

These were penetrating questions, challenges really that Dave Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Minnesota, put forth in a series of messages given during the annual Oak Hills Church Men’s Retreat.  During the small group sessions after each of his messages you could tell that his words were striking a cord in the men as they chewed on the question, “who am I, and do I really want to find out?”

Pastor Johnson painted a picture of our lives as a river that flows through us, cutting a groove through our inner core. The longer we ignore who we have become, the judgments we hold about ourselves, the deeper the groove and the more dysfunctional we become.  It’s not until we jump in and “disturb” the “river,” changing its’ course and filling in the groove with positive self images and blessings that we can truly turn our lives around. He taught us that words matter and we need to be blessed by men in our lives if we have any chance of finding and integrating our true self.  He also taught us that it was necessary for us to have intention, relations and the supernatural in order to radically alter our beliefs about ourselves.

  • Intention, the awareness that something must change.
  • Relations, the necessity of engaging with others to achieve transformation.
  • Supernatural, surrendering to the spirit of God.

The teaching was clear, now how do I get there?  How does transformation take place?

This concept of jumping in and disturbing the river seems to be one approach, a radical one at that.  It dramatically illustrates what’s necessary for a man to change his life, he needs to dive in and radically divert the raging waters of his false self.  It takes extreme action by the man if he has any chance to uncover the negative beliefs about himself and to reframe those beliefs!  It’s this action, this disturbing, that is at the core of what’s necessary for men to transform their lives.  In order for a man, or anyone really, to unmask their true identity, to expose and embrace the gift of who they are, as God created them, they need to experience the transformative power of an intentional circle of support that is dedicated to integrity, authenticity and supernatural intervention.

These circles of support need to focus on intention, relations and the power of the supernatural in conjunction with what I call the trinity of transformation – Awareness, trust and action!

  • Awareness:  We need to open our minds to the possibility that we need to closely examine who we are, how our actions affect others and how we are perceived by those around us.  Once we open our minds and begin the study of who we are there comes a time when we must accept that understanding and take ownership of our lives.
  • Trust:  Once I become aware of the challenge do I trust anyone enough to share the journey with?  Am I willing to let another person know my inner-most secrets?  If I share what’s going on will I only be hurt more?  Trust is the life blood of transformation.
  • Action:  This is where intention, relations and the supernatural come together to wash the jagged “stone” of who you are down the river , through the ragging waters until we are smoothed and polished into the “rock” God always intended us to be.

We are blessed at Oak Hills with two exceptional teachers in Kent and Mike and they have been and continue to provide insight and direction on Kingdom living.  Many of you are participating in small groups studying the Word of God and how it relates to your life. The Men’s retreat is another example of how the Church creates opportunities for us to grow and transform.  We can read books, attend lectures and workshops, in fact there is no limit to the opportunities we have to address what works and what doesn’t in our lives.  Yet, how many times after a Sunday service, a group meeting or a retreat do you recognize the importance of the message but have no idea how to actually integrate the value into your life?

It would take a book to fully explain a process for personal transformation so let me share a brief overview of what has worked for me in my journey down that inner ragging river.

Step One: Intention:  Make the decision to intentionally dive in and “disturb” the river within so that you can discover and own who you truly are.  This may mean you need to create a new group or alter the current group structure and process to focus on transformation.

Step Two:  Relations:  Bring together people who share your desire for transformation and who are committed to taking action to fully live in the Kingdom of God.  For men it is a great paradox that they need to have other men to help them take responsibility for their own lives.  This is counter-cultural and may pose a significant obstacle.

Step Three: Supernatural:  Here is where our faith, our knowledge and our words matter most.  You’ve created an intentional circle with people who share your vision and commitment, it’s time to wade into the “river” and explore the gouges in our souls, the recesses of our heart, and you begin by asking these questions:

 “What’s not working in my life?”

“What do I get out of acting as I do?”

“Where did I learn this?”

“ What is my ‘negative’ behavior hiding?”

“Who am I, really?”

“What needs to change?”

Notice that I didn’t ask “why.”  It is vital to understand that navigating this “river” is more like rewriting a play as opposed to solving a puzzle.  I’m not trying to “fix” myself or anyone else, I’m trying to discover who I really am, deep within the protective armor that I’ve built up over my life to protect myself from the pain of the world. I’m empathizing with the person and helping that person navigate the swift currents of their emotions ever deeper into the depths of who they truly are so that they can gain clarity about the power that God has placed at their core.

 I once was full of self, and proud

Just like a Pharisee,

Until one day, quite by surprise,

I caught a glimpse of me.

Hawthorn

As the members of the group begin to answer these questions and as they discover how their actions actually affect the other people in their lives they will be encouraged to change the behavior, to become authentic. With awareness and practice they can rescript how they react in difficult situations, how they can make a positive impact on the world.  The group can help each other accomplish this by following-up with each other during the group to explore how the “new” behavior worked or didn’t work and how they feel about that.

As I stated earlier a book would need to be written to fully define how to create intentional circles of spiritual transformation and what I’ve provided here is at best an outline, a general direction to follow.  The key lies with the awareness that change is necessary, trusting that God will guide you and the courage to take action!  I pray that this will empower you to follow the ragging river to the headwaters of the person that God always intended you to be!

 James 4: 7-10

Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Colossians 3:1-4

Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The Second Emancipation

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

Image via Wikipedia

Over the course of the past year I’ve written several articles related to what it means to be a father, to be a man.  I’ve explored the influences on our character, the need for mentorship and blessings and that we have a responsibility to step up and lead our families.  Well, the time is now for authentic men and women to rise up and reclaim America, or risk losing our liberty, forever. Our liberty and freedom are under assault, not by force of arms although that may follow if the tide isn’t turned; but instead by legislation, regulations and the systematic erosion of morality and values.

The daily headlines tell the story:

  • The Obama Administrations’ attack on the conscience clause and the Constitution by requiring religious based organizations to offer contraceptive and reproductive treatment and services within their healthcare insurance programs.
  • Planned Parenthood’s blackmailing of the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Foundation because the Foundation initially dropped Planned Parenthood from their grant list.
  • The holiest of holy Liberal values, class warfare.

And these are only the attacks that have surfaced this past week!  Throw in mandated healthcare, the “Dream Act” for illegal aliens and the 9th District’s determination that California’s ban on same sex marriage is un-Constitutional and the path to tyranny and the lose of our liberty becomes clear.  You know when a Supreme Court Justice tells other countries to ignore the U.S. Constitution as a model we are in deep trouble.

I find it difficult to understand how educated, intelligent and creative people can support the entitlement policies of the Obama administration that have led to increased dependency on the Federal government in a way that enslaves over half our citizens.  I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with men teaching other men how to take responsibility for their lives, to be authentic, and to live purpose driven lives of integrity yet many of these same men strongly support Obama, even though his policies rob the citizens of their responsibility and freedom!  It’s my opinion that it’s hypocritical to help a person embrace responsibility for their life and actions and then tell them what light bulb they must use; what car they must drive; what health insurance they must purchase; or their religious beliefs are irrelevant when it comes to reproductive control.

Is it right and fair for the Federal Government to demand that health care policies provide for contraceptives and other reproductive services, including abortions,even though these services conflict with my religious views?  Under what authority does the Federal Government have the right to require me to purchased anything?  Do you see how dangerous this policy is?  Once the Government has this power where does that power end?

As I write this, Obama is trying to back off the point by saying that if you are a faith-based organization you will be exempted from the requirement!  What the…?  What about my faith, my beliefs?  The government does not have the right to prescribe this coverage in the first place so exemptions are not necessary because the requirement is unconstitutional!

Obama and his supporters foment “Class Warfare” by proclaiming immoral the extreme disparity between the rich and the poor.  The Liberals use this disparity to argue for more funds to spend on more programs to assist the least among us.  And regardless of the billions spent on welfare we still have people in this country that are poor and have less than others.  The issue isn’t that one percent have the majority of the wealth and therefore the 99% are poor?  The true issue is that we are not teaching our brothers and sisters how to take care of their lives, how to cultivate their God-given gifts to support themselves and their families.

The people who support big government programs will scream, “Where’s your compassion?”  And I say government hand outs are not compassionate.  If you are concerned about someone and their plight then step up and go help them. Gather like minded friends and make a true difference in that persons life as well as your own.  If you think wealth should be equalized then find a group of people who have less than you, combine your resources and divide them equally.  Be accountable.

Taking from the rich and giving to the less fortunate is immoral!  Creating entitlement systems and programs that enslave the less fortunate is immoral!  Empowering the Federal Government to control our lives is immoral!

Government programs have not and will not improve the lives of the citizens.  Prosperity, freedom, liberty and mentoring will.

Government programs have enslaved 50% of the population.  Continuing to support the growth of government will enslave us all!

In 1863, at a pivotal point in our Nation’s history, President Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” setting in motion the events that would eventually lead to freeing of slaves in America.  We are once more faced with a challenge that requires no less than a Second Emancipation Proclamation – an emancipation from the tyranny of an overreaching government!

The Second Emancipation will occur the minute we stop looking to the government to effect change in the lives of people and step up and take action ourselves!  The moment we take responsibility for the quality of life within the society then we will be back on the Founder’s road to liberty and freedom!  Imagine the good that could be achieved if you, personally, reached out a helping hand to someone less fortunate, as opposed to a government hand out.

Let the emancipation begin.  Drive out the big government, entitlement obsessed career politicians, of either party; Dismantle all departments and agencies that are not supported by the Constitution; Replace the current progressive tax system with one that is fair for all; and Restore fiscal responsibility.

Let’s celebrate and empower each other!  Let’s stand up for FREEDOM!

 “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Surrender Doesn’t Mean Defeat

Have you ever been at that point in your life where you have been brought to your knees, where you’ve been crushed by the  circumstances of life?  You’ve used all your skills, all your intellect, all your energy and quite possibly all your money and you still haven’t been able to achieve your goals, to succed.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been there, several times and more than likely I’ll be there again.  If you have been spared this experience then I suggest falling to your knees and thanking God for his mercy and his grace. For me these humbling experiences have taught me an invaluable lesson, I’ve learned that surrender doesn’t mean that I’ve been defeated!

As I sat on a large boulder in the middle of the forest I could feel the cool evening breeze wash over my body in a futile attempt to cool the fires of rage, sadness, fear and disaapointment that flooded through my body.  The frustration and anger I was experiencing was intense and overwelming.  My life was over and I’d lost everything, my career, my marriage, my money, there was nothing left and I was ready to give up, I was defeated.

No matter how hard I tried or how creative I was nothing worked out according to my plan and my expectations.  And now I found myself alone sitting on that rock crying under a canopy of a cloud-filled sky thinking that this was the end of my life and there was nowhere to turn, nothing more that could be done.  I was defeated.

The grief that was pouring out felt limitless and uncontrolable and all I could do was to bring myself to my feet and stand on that rock with arms reaching to the sky and from the deepest darkest resevoire of loss yell, “God why me, please take me. I beg you to end this suffering! I have no more to give, I’m finished. Oh God please!”

This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced this level of loss in fact this was only the most recent in a long line of experiences where I felt defeated and lost despite my best efforts to achieve my goals, to capture the brass ring,  to reap the rewards of a successful life.  What felt different this time was I was intensly aware of the pain and I was completely worn out from repeatedly picking myself up and making another attempt.

That day, on that mountain, I felt alone, empty and devoid of any hope.  I had nothing left in the tank and I felt defeated.  I was a failure and I no longer was tuff enough to keep on going through the tuff stuff.

Even though I’d been here before the difference this time was that I had spent the last three years exploring what it meant to be a man, to be me.  I had come face-to-face with  the reality of my life and how I had been unconsciously allowing my actions to hide who I was and how that in turn hurt the people in my life.  With the help of some powerful men I was learning to understand and embrace my emotions.  These men were my “mirrors” to how unaccountable  I was and how I lacked integrity.  I was learning to be authentic!  I was becoming in Native American terms a “hollow bone,” fully alive, stripped of all pretense, and rid of the armour of self doubt.  I was vulnerable and open making this mountaintop experience  almost unbearable.  Yet there was still apart of me, an ancient belife that it was all up to me and if I couldn’t become “successful” then I must be a failure and that I was just taking up space on this planet.

So, I stood on that rock sobbing, shouting to the overcast sky when all of a sudden the clouds parted and I found myself bathed in bright sunlight and I instantly felt the warm yet unfamilar sense of hope flow through my body.  Being so open and aware of my emotions resulted in me feeling an intense rush of energy as I stood there on that rock. My heart and mind were filled with the awareness that the answer to my life challenges was not about trying harder.  The truth was, and is that I’m a broken man and I need something greater than myself to live fully, I need God!  I must surrender to Him and His plan.

The tears subsided and I became quite,  standing still on that rock arms outstreched to the sky.  It was at that moment that I finally understood that I wasn’t alone and that there was a God.  God would provide me with opportunity and friends to help me but it was up to me to take advantage of these opprtunities to ask for the help and at the same time know that I must have faith in God to become the man He always intended me to be.  The great masculine paradox, I must be resourceful and responsible while surrendering to God, and in so doing understand that, “I am not defeated!”

Post 25: “With Him I Am Well Pleased”

The warrior strode confidently into the Throne Room of the Castle. His chain-male and tunic tattered and soiled from the recent battle. Each rip in the tunic, each smudge of blood and dirt a badge of honor for the heroic and valiant efforts made by this man to win the battle. This was a man who had stared into the eyes of death and was able to summon the strength of will to overpower and defeat evil so that the Kingdom would be safe, would survive. Now that the battle had been won he had been summoned by the King, to present himself before the King, the Queen and the Royal Court.

Upon reaching the throne the warrior bowed before the King. The King stood and asked the warrior to kneel and taking his sword from his scabbard the King touched the warrior on each shoulder and proclaimed that the man was now Sir Henry, a Knight in the service of the King and his kingdom.

This royal act of blessing should be familiar to anyone who has seen a movie about the Middle Ages and the era of Knights, Kings, Queens and Robin Hood. In fact it may be the iconic image of a blessing. When I was growing up my favorite book was “King Arthur and his Knights,” by Maude L. Radford and I read and re-read this book to the point that it was torn and falling apart. My mother, God bless her, understood how important the little book was to me and one year she had the book repaired and rebound and I still have the volume in my library today. I can’t wait to share the stories of valor, courage and sacrifice that are contained in this wonderful book with my grandsons.

So, what was it about this book? Well, the adventures, the gallantry, the armor, the battles, right overpowering evil, and the colorful characters all contributed to my interest but I think what most attracted me was the blessing of men for who they were and what they accomplished. The King, the father figure in the stories would acknowledge the men for their courage and character…something that was lacking in my own life.

As I mentioned in my previous posting on Fatherhood (Blog Post 23: Fatherhood, Part 2) it is vitally important that men, especially fathers, bless their children. Without a sincere blessing it is difficult for our children to develop a positive self image and they more than likely will struggle with life in general, and responsibility specifically. It seems to me that our culture, our society has forgotten how to bless our youth and we’re not even aware that blessings are needed. We substitute trophies, gold stars or judgments for heartfelt acknowledgement of the child.

Recently a prison inmate in my Saturday morning men’s support group inside the local state prison related the story of how his aunt sent packages containing various items (toiletries, etc.) to a group of inmates who had written letters to at risk kids in the aunt’s community. The packages were her way of thanking the men for the blessings they bestowed on the kids. The packages and the notes that accompanied them were her way of blessing the inmates. The men were thankful for the acknowledgment and continued to write.

Other inmates who hadn’t been interested in the writing project when first approached were now very interested to join. They wanted to receive the packages from the one inmate’s aunt. They weren’t motivated by selfless service like the original group. They wanted the goodies, pointing out that you can’t seek a blessing, it has to be bestowed on you unconditionally.

This experience got me thinking about blessings in general so I asked the men in that Saturday morning circle if they could remember a time when they had been blessed, and sadly no one could remember a time! None could think of any time when they had been blessed, just for being themselves. I can’t say for certain but maybe the lack of positive acknowledgment contributed to these men ending up in a maximum security prison.

So what about you? When have you been blessed for being who you are?

In John Eldredge’s book, “Wild at Heart” he tells the story of one heartfelt blessing he received from his wife. If you’ve read the book you remember that Mr. Eldredge uses warrior metaphors to support his thesis and that he lived his life accordingly. He is very much a “Peaceful Warrior” to barrow a phrase from Dan Millman. John’s wife recognized this quality in her husband and one Christmas she wanted to let John know that she truly saw the man he is. After all the other presents had been opened she brought out a long narrow box for John. Inside was a large English broad sword, the Braveheart type, and John was deeply touched and honored by this true blessing. His wife honored him for being the man God intended and it meant more to John than almost anything.

As parents, as spouses, as friends we need to be conscious of the gift in each person in our lives and acknowledge and bless that gift. We need to Challenge ourselves to take a risk and bless someone in our lives today and as often as possible. Recognize that the resistance might be related to your own lack of having been blessed. We only have to look to the Word of God for guidance:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew, Chapter 3 Verses 16 through 17 (NIV)

Post 24: Fatherhood Part 2

The young man, a talented amateur golfer, was melting down in the biggest tournament of his young career.  This was his big chance and he was in control of his own destiny on the 18th tee – close out this hole, win the tournament and he would be playing in his first professional event in a couple of weeks.  Instead he makes bad decision after bad decision and finished the tournament well down the leader board after just one tumultuous hole of golf, his dream destroyed and his father, his caddy, walking away in disgust!

This scene is from the movie “Seven Days in Utopia” currently in theaters around the country and I highly recommend that you go see this film (http://www.sevendaysinutopia.com).  There’s no sex and no violence, instead what you’ll experience is an excellent study in contrasts about fathering.

The father of the young golfer had merged his own unachieved desires to play golf with his role as father to shape his son, starting at a very young age into a champion golfer.  He pushed the young boy, forced him to practice, honed the kid’s skills to the point where the young man was ready to take the next step, to turn pro.  However, was the young man ready for the pressure?  Apparently not.

The movie chronicles the next seven days of the young man’s life after losing the tournament and how he ends up finding, unintentionally, a man who becomes his unorthodox mentor.  The movie illustrates the power of a father figure, a mentor that considers the whole person, the physical, the emotional and spiritual components of this young man.  The story demonstrates how essential it is for fathers to address the complete child not just his special skill.  As the seven days unfold the young man is challenged to become a complete person and it ends with him…well, you’ll just have to see the movie to find out the rest of the story.

This movie effectively illustrates the essential elements of fatherhood:  Time, challenges, blessing and faith.

Time

I don’t doubt that the young man’s father loved him and wanted the best for him, the father didn’t know any better.  Especially about nurturing the whole child.  He should be commended for dedicating his time to the growth of his son, he should be acknowledged for identifying his son’s athletic gift.  As I pointed out in my previous post on Fatherhood so many boys don’t have a father like this who dedicates large chunks of his time to their sons.

The father in the movie recognized that his son had a gift and dedicated his life to nurturing that gift and this is something all parents need to be aware of.  What’s the gift in your child? In the book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman presents the acorn theory, the idea that each of us is blessed with a gift that needs to be identified and nurtured by our parents.  The father of the young golfer found that gift in his son and he worked hard to make sure that the boy grew to achieve success with that gift, regardless of the consequences.  The father didn’t know any better, he was broken and didn’t know his gift, he didn’t know who he really was.  So how could he truly understand that his greatest gift to his son was the time spent together?

My father was fanatical about baseball, especially professional baseball.  His favorite bar in San Diego was the Baseball Inn, an establishment where other fans and some marginal pro ball players would hang out.  My father became friends with many of the ball players and managers of the local minor league team (This was before the Padres became a major league team).  He was always giving me the best equipment, bats, gloves, shoes and balls, that he would get from his good friend at the Padres.  I’m certain that one of his greatest disappointments in life and in me was that I never became even a moderately good baseball player even when I had the very best equipment.

I was a very good football player, an above average basketball player and decent at track, but baseball just wasn’t my strong suite and I never made any teams that I tried out for.  You see my father had the desire, he had the connections, he just didn’t have the time.  The time to teach me how to play the game, how to use all that marvelous equipment.  I felt sadness as I watched “Seven Days in Utopia,” because I still feel the pain of not having a father to teach me how to play baseball, how to be a man!

Challenge

When the young golfer melts down on the last hole of the tournament and his father walks out on him I’m sure the young man judged himself a failure.  Was he? Or was this what was needed for him to find himself?  This is the stuff of fables, the golden boy being brought to his knees before he connects with his truth and climbs his way back to wholeness.  Iron John and the Fisher King come to mind.

Can we truly know and appreciate the good days, the triumphs, if we never have to wade through the ashes of our lives and struggle to find ourselves?  This movie holds an important message for our culture of “fairness” and “everyone” is a victor.  We teach our children, whether in school or on the play field that everyone’s a winner and everyone gets a gold star or a trophy.  That performance doesn’t matter, it only matters that you feel good about yourself.

We have a primal need to achieve victory, born our of our need to survive.  Certainly most of us don’t have the primitive need to conquer our rivals but does it advance the species or the culture to say that everyone is a winner?  How do we find the limits of our potential if we don’t risk failure?  “Seven Days in Utopia” paints a challenging portrait of the effort needed to hit bottom and then find the path back to yourself, your full self.  The journey was painful and difficult but the result was a better person.

Blessing

This is a concept I judge is greatly misunderstood in our culture.  It isn’t the medals and trophies one gets that blesses us.  A blessing is given freely from the heart of the “teacher” to the “student;” from the mentor to the seeker.  It’s an acknowledgment from an “elder,” not necessarily someone older but wiser, that you have been seen, you are loved and you have a place in the tribe, in the family, in the culture.

Check out another movie, “Nobody’s Fool,” starring the late Paul Newman.  This is a story of redemption between a father, played by Paul Newman, his son and his grandson.  The son comes home in his own time of despair to make a connection with his father.  And as the father and son struggle, the character played by Paul Newman starts a relationship with his grandson, a boy of about eight.

In a scene near the end of the film Paul wins the prosthetic leg from the town lawyer in a game of strip poker (Warning there is some nudity during this part of the film).  After the game is over you see Paul sitting at the bar with the prosthesis next to him on the bar and the one-legged attorney is at the other end of the bar.  The boy is standing next to Paul mesmerized by the fake leg, actually he seems a little afraid.  Paul picks up the prosthesis and asks his grandson to takes it to the attorney at the end of the bar.  At first the young boy refuses but finally the wonder overcomes the fear and he takes hold of it in both hands.  Paul gently turns the boy to face the attorney and asks him to return it to the old man.  It takes a couple of prompts from grandpa before the boy slowly moves down the bar to the one-legged old man.  When he gets their the old man takes the prosthesis with one hand and places his other hand on the boy’s shoulder.  He bends down and softly thanks the boys and tells him that he is a very good boy, he’s proud of him!  When the boys turns around, back towards his grandfather, the look of joy and accomplishment on his young face is priceless.  He faced his fear and was blessed!

Faith

In “Seven Days in Utopia,” Johnny, the unorthodox instructor doesn’t focus his attention just on the golf skills of the young golfer, Luke.  Instead Johnny challenges Luke to take a look at who he is, why he’s here on Earth and his relationship with God, or in this case his lack of a relationship.  The issue of faith become a pivotal point in the maturation of Luke as he realizes that there was more to life than just a low score on the card.

Like Luke I had to learn this the hard way but when I did my life changed in a powerful way.  Once I accepted God, as my Abba Father, I was able to release the residual longing for my earthly father and surrender my life to the One who would never forsake me, the most freeing experience in my life.  I discovered that surrender didn’t mean defeat  and in the case of God it means I’m no longer alone and I’m always loved.

Through faith we can integrate the mind, body and soul to complete the package, to become, as Dallas Willard says, “the person God had always intended us to become.”

I encourage you to go see this movie and while you watch and after ask yourself what’s working and what’s not working in your life?  Who are you and what is your impact on the world, especially the people closest to you? If  you’re a parent, if you’re a father what are you doing to spend more time with your children; what are you doing to challenge them to be all they can be; are you blessing your children, showing them how deeply they are loved; and are you creating opportunities for them to experience and come to know God?

Post 22: Iconic America

Outrageous tail fins, chrome, sensuous chrome bumpers (made from steel!), elaborate hub caps, massive horsepower, and did I mention chrome?

Elvis, Marilyn, Chuck Berry, and James Dean!

Drive-In theaters, drive-in restaurants and car hops on roller-skates.

Big movie classics like The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur, in theaters where you still had to reserve your seats and you bought full color movie brochures.

That’s right the 50’s, a truly iconic period in American history. When you hear the music, see the movies or watch the cars go by you know the era and you know that they are American! The fashion, music and automobiles of the fifties and early sixties were distinctively American, more so than at any time in our history.

I thought about this this past week after I heard (Hat tip to Mark Belling sitting in for Rush Limbaugh for making this point) that a giant in the world of American music Jerry Leiber died this past week.  This man and his partner authored some of the most iconic anthems of the 50s and early 60s, songs such as,

“Hound Dog”

“Poison Ivy”

“Yakety Yak”

“Stand By Me”

When I hear these songs there’s no question in my mind that they are American and that they defined a specific period of time in this country – the fifties and early sixties.

Then you have the cars!  Wow! The Big Three automakers were locked in a knock down drag out battle to design the most aggressive and flamboyant tail fins, bumpers and chrome trim that have ever graced an automobile.  And they combined the flash with ever larger and more powerful engines.  Chrome and horsepower, a match made in heaven.

Additionally, the cars of this era were the perfect blank canvas for hot rodders, customizers and tuners.  Car crazy Americans would  invest time, money and creativity to produce what seemed to be an endless montage of fast and beautiful cars.  Cars that always turned heads (For those of you too young to appreciate the fifties culture rent George Lucas’ “American Graffiti”).  Again,  uniquely American.

Now I don’t make this point about the 50’s because I think America was a better place back then.  We know full well that the 50’s and early 60’s were also defined by some extremely challenging, ugly and dark elements.  Racism, the Cold War, the fear of nuclear annihilation, the Korean War and the seeds of Vietnam.

My question is about the cultural style of the fifties versus what we see and experience today.  Looking back through the prism of history there was something unique and striking about the 50’s and early 60’.  Something about the culture at that time that was pronounced and memorable.  Something that was truly American.

Can we say that today?  Is there an American style?  Do we want one?

What’s the defining style of music, fashion or cars today?  In fifty years would someone hear a song or see a car and immediately think, “That’s American,” let alone what year they were created.  I don’t think so.

So what’s the difference and does it matter?

With no training as a cultural anthropologist I can’t make any statement about what caused the 50’s culture, I can only reflect on what it appears to be.  For me this period in our history represented an innocent exuberance, a celebration of individuality and creativity.  Maybe the distinctive and unique 50’s style was in reaction to the end of World War II and the prosperity that was in deep contrast to the difficult economic times before and during the War, I don’t know.  All I know is that the period was memorable and distinctive.

So who cares?  Is it really any more than a passing “brain burp” that the idea be considered at all?  Is there a lesson for us today?  After all the cars of today are safer, better built and have better overall performance than the Pontiac’s, Chevys, Fords and Dodges of the fifties.  There’s no question that the current Shelby GT350 is technically a “better” car than the ’65 version, but does it have the same visceral appeal of the original? There are great cars out there today, they just don’t stand out as distinctive or defining of an era.  The cars from Japan, Korea, Germany or America all seem to have more similarities as opposed to distinctive features, at least visually.

The music of the Fifties was simple, basic and unsophisticated.  The music today is complex, full and produced with greater skill and quality.  Is the music of today better?  Technically yes but can you tell a British performance from an American? Even the difference between POP and country music has become less pronounced.

Are there legends being developed today that we’ll look back twenty years from now and say that was America in the second decade of the new millennium?  There’s a polished sameness to our culture that appears to blur the boundaries of cultural identities.  Some would say

this is a good thing, part of the creation of a “one world order,” the result of the multicultural initiatives that are such the rage of the intellectual elites.  Again, I don’t know.

I’m reminded of an old movie, I think it was called, “Getting Straight,” staring Elliot Gould.  I don’t remember anything about the movie other than one concept, education was focused on the creation of “Grey Dots.” I don’t even know this is what they were trying to say, it’s what I remember after 4 decades of other useless knowledge flooding my meager brain cells.  Yet that’s the way I see society today, “grey dots” no distinctiveness, no personal responsibility, nothing memorable culturally and that concerns me – I don’t know why.

All I know is that when I see a restored car from the fifties or early sixties something happens inside me.  A jolt of excitement combined with recognition of something familiar and cherished – I’m reminded of my youth and the blessing of growing up as an American!  How about you?