Rubicon

The Rubicon was the name of a little stream with huge significance.   It marked the border between the will the General Julius Caesar and that of the Roman Empire.   Rome had recalled Caesar from his military conquest to come back to Rome without his army.   It didn’t take much for the power hungry general to convince his adoring army to come with him back to Rome to defend his honour.  With the crossing of the Rubicon Caesar joined the notorious group of generals who turned the Roman army against Rome.  Therefore, the Rubicon has become a historical boundary that signified “the point of no return.”   Once Caesar and his army went past that little stream, his imperialistic intentions were crystal clear.

There are times when we all approach our Rubicons and we are forced to make a decision whether or not to cross…   But what happens when the Rubicon comes to you when you’re standing still?   The death of my sister from cancer (earlier this year) was my own personal Rubicon.  It came to me, and I was forced to cross.

A lot of my life systems came “off line”, and to a grinding stop.   Family routine, work life and ministry function all became collateral damage of this personally unprecedented event.   When time started moving again family routine commenced – my kid’s lives needed to get back to normal.   I returned back to work after some time off – I needed my income.   However, ministry function seemed to fizzle like sails without a whisper of wind.

However in reality, although things seemed to be slowly getting “back to normal”, there was nothing normal about it.   I felt impatient with my family, unmotivated at work, and still ministry appeared shell shocked.

So, what is a man to do when he faces life shaking events?  I thought that perhaps I needed someone to talk with…

Before deciding to see a professional counselor, I was surprised at how my own cultural, male and spiritual biases pushed back at me.  As someone from a Caribbean background, how could I talk “my business” to a complete stranger and further more pay a decent amount of money to do it!?  (When the counselor asked, “What brought me here?”  I felt like saying, “Not my health coverage!”) 

Spiritually, I wrestled with the (mistaken) notion; Aren’t you suppose to “pray it through”?  Isn’t it just supposed to be between you and God?   As a man, how could I possibly be so vulnerable and “share my feelings”?  Isn’t that so… weak?  Shouldn’t I already have it figured out?  Regardless, I ignored those questions because, well…mental health is…health.  Besides, how could I be the man God wants me to be if I wasn’t firing on all cylinders?

So, a man has got to do what a man has got to do…

Amidst the push back from my own cultural, spiritual, and male biases…  I did see a counselor a few times.  Do you know what?  I’ve not regretted it.  Proverbs 11:14 says, “in a multitude of counselors there is safety”, and that reality has never been more true to me as it is now.

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Joseph… A Mid-wife?

I was reflecting and thinking about Joseph from the New Testament.  By the way he was a wonderful step-father and a committed man of God who was filled with integrity.

So the story goes that Mary and Joseph couldn’t even get a room, and they ended up camping out in a stable or cave, or something like that.

Now the Bible doesn’t specifically say this, but I have to believe that Joseph helped in the delivery of his step-son Jesus.  Joseph was perhaps the New Testament’s first male mid-wife!  (That kind of involvement in family life for a man in that culture and that time period would have been unheard of.)

I know that the Bible doesn’t say it specifically, but it also didn’t say that some other midwife, or female help in this delivery.  Could Mary have done it all by herself?  That is unlikely.  I was present at the birth of all 4 of my children, and even though my wife is amazing she (like any other woman) needed an extra hand in delivering our children.  (A hand…and maybe some oxytocin…)

 

When you think about it, if Joseph was a participant in this delivery, it speaks to something incredible in regards to the role of men in their families that goes beyond provider and protector.   It reflects on men being present for any aspect of family life.  (No matter if it’s perceived as “feminine” or “women’s work”.)  I think we can accept the importance of men taking on more responsibility in the home.

 

I was considering how Joseph could embody our identity as modern men in this generation.  Men of this generation (from what I’ve seen) partner with our spouses in taking care of the home and the children.  We do so in a way that has been in stark contrast with our predecessors from the 1950’s and even the 1960’s.  (So ladies, cut us some slack…sometimes!)

 

So whatever, and however God desires us to participate in, and partner with our spouses in our home and families, as men we need to do it as the will of God.  It may be delivering a child (hopefully not) or making their lunches.  We are a new kind of men in today’s society, today’s generation.

(If you’re not married, take notes.)

One more thing, Joseph was a man of sexual integrity, and I deeply admire that about him.   He never touched Mary (sexually – till after the birth of Jesus), and it was not because he was commanded not to, but he put his own desires behind the well being of his wife and God’s plan.  (Men, we won’t die if we don’t have sex.)

Speaking of sexual integrity, next time I want to talk about what the Bible says about sexual integrity through scriptures you have never heard read on Sunday morning…  Trust me, I’m telling you the truth.  (Try Genesis 38 for size…)

Would all the good men please stand up…

I was speaking to a single mom not too long ago, and she spoke rather candidly about the frustration she was experiencing with the father of her son.  (And rightly so, since he was failing on many fronts…)

She was also somewhat deflated by short fallings of the numerous (it seems) poor fathering examples (of men) found in the Bible.

David, Noah, Lot, Jacob, and Abraham (who also made some poor choices), and the list goes on…    From favouritism to infidelity and in some cases incest (yuck),  I agree some of the examples are quite hard to read.  (Should I even begin to mention others biblical characters who were less than stellar husbands?)   However, interestingly enough, still God had some positive things to say about some of those very same men.

I can understand how this could leave some women scratching their heads… (even when trying to make sense of these behaviours in the light of cultural and social historical norms)

So here’s the sacrilegious question, was God being sexist?  Does God care about proper fathering?

 

Here are my thoughts, and they are just my thoughts…

First of all, because God chose to highlight these men, (with bad rap sheets – from our vantage point) it doesn’t mean that other good fathers and husbands didn’t exist.   It doesn’t mean that they were a representational cross-section of all males from those time periods.   The Bible is not a survey.  These men don’t necessarily represent a cultural “riding” or some kind of social ratio.

So why did God chose some of these men (for example David -a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery; Noah “walked with God” yet was guilty of alcohol induced incest)?

Why?  That’s a good question.

Here’s a consideration, perhaps the overwhelming currency in the Bible is that of redemption and restoration,  and with in the best of all of us (male or female) is the very worst of us…  but God makes the difference.

 

In any case, men, you may have made a spectacular train wreck of your lives, leaving the carnage of damaged people and emotions (really, that’s not good), but God is good.

I’m always optimistic that whatever has happened in our lives, (yes, consequences will be faced) God can redeem and restore us,  and will say positive things about us.

One comedian said; It’s unfair that women call all men dogs… After all, dogs are so loyal…

 

God can help us aspire to live out and live in the qualities of true masculinity, and true manhood found in the Genesis Man.

 

One more thing men…November is “Movember”!  Be proud, grow out those mustaches and let’s bring awareness to the issue of Prostrate Cancer.

“How to be a Man” the “What not to wear of Pro-masculine movies”

The premise for the movie “How to be a Man” is intriguing…  The main character (Mark McCarthy)was dying, therefore he decided to make a series of home movies for his unborn son, in order that his boy would learn (especially during critical times of development) what it would mean to be a man.

Through out the process Mark befriends an impressionable, and somewhat lost, fatherless, early 20 something year old (named Bryan) who participates as his sidekick and videographer of his antics -and I do mean antics!

Well, you can’t deny that the “How to Be a Man” movie is a “guy movie”… the main character is just not a “Genesis Man”.

 

If we were to compare Mark  to the Genesis 2 definition of manhood and masculinity (which uses Adam as our example), there would be a few things to say.

First of all the main character displays no sense of moral responsibility.  He was unfaithful to his wife, (as I recall, he asked the question, “If you don’t remember being unfaithful, is it still cheating?)   He used heroin and cocaine; he swore constantly and was overall fairly crass.

There was no apparent sense of family responsibility, positive relationsips and wisdom.  Even with the understanding that his wife was pregnant, he follows his absurd impulses and quits his job.   (Would you believe me if I told you that he quit over a disagreement regarding flatus?)

 

To be fair, he did, however, displayed a sense of mentorship by taking another young man under his wing to help him understand manhood… but Mark’s lessons were questionable at best.

 

There was no authentic declaration.  He didn’t speak words of life into his wife.   He cultivated a poor relationship with her.  He spoke his own weakness and he spoke his own selfishness.  Did he speak into the life of the young man he was mentoring?  Kind of.  Maybe.  (We’ll explore that later.)

 

So, the million dollar question is, ‘What did he teach about being a man?’  He taught that a man stands on his word and follows his heart.  Sounds good but, the whole lesson about his “word” was played out in the most ridiculous of circumstances.    In order to prove to Bryan that he wasn’t lying about taking heroin in his youth, he seeks help from an old friend (a recovering drugatic -and incidentally manages to derail his sobriety) to help him get some heroin, and Mark not only uses drugs, but gets Bryan to as well.

 

He had no job and no purpose (as I could see).  Granted, he was a good comedian…

Yes he followed his heart, and dreams but to what extent?  Reckless irresponsibility?  (Comedy doesn’t pay the bills.  Would you quit your job with a child on the way to follow your dream?)

Seriously, the movie was a really bad example of everything, but nevertheless …it was an example of something.  He can’t be charged with lethargy.

 

Upon further reflection, the movie’s portrayal of women were quite unsettling.

The women in the movie were unconnected to the needs of men.  They were overbearing and uncaring.  (Mark’s wife was the poster child of these qualities.)

Bryan’s mother was also overbearing, and failed at producing a young man with drive and life…he was a “still born man”.

The other female character was rather incidental, and portrayed as nothing more than a sexual experience that used the main character for drugs, and was a target for Mark’s words, lines, and masculine manipulations.

 

This definitely is the “What not to wear” of pro-masculine movies.  It may be about “How to be a man,” but it’s not about how to be a “Genesis Man”.  I know, I know, I’ve spent more time being critical about a movie not many people saw, and probably won’t see, and maybe it was intended to be nothing more than a silly film… but at the very least it shines as a commentary of our modern times and an educational experience that must not be ignored.

This movie gets a “C” for trying and an “F” for showing “How to be a man.”  I suppose that averages to something like a “D”.

If you want to see a good movie about being a man, watch the James J. Braddock story called “Cinderella Man” starring Russel Crowe.  (Who knows, maybe we’ll explore that at another time.)

A Teenage Boy’s Rant, A Gender-Free Baby, and How Not to be a Man (The “What not to wear” of Pro- masculine movies)

I think I have broken some kind of rule for good writing by creating a title that is longer than my first sentence.  (But…wait for it.  It does all connect.)

 

I’m convinced that young men find it a challenge to safely traverse the journey of manhood.  I’m also convinced that there must be a lot of confusion out there.    I have in my possession an actual piece of writing a male grade 10 student (unsolicitly) submitted… (The teacher instructed the class to “write a poem or draw a picture related to World War 1 on the front of their tests” for a bonus mark…)

 

On the front of his test he expressed something quite surprising.

In summary, he (the male student) wrote “a rant” and openly spoke of the mixed societal messages regarding manhood.   He spoke of his personal ridicule at choosing to practice abstinence.  He spoke of an overall confusion of what it meant to be a man and what it meant to be masculine.

Putting aside some of the more omitted inflammatory comments… the main idea I’ve gathered from this situation was about a young man confused about what it meant to be “a man”.  While it probably isn’t the norm for a young man to speak so transparently and honestly,   I believe that many young men walk silently through these very same dilemmas.

 

Society does not make it any easier for our young males to reach their destination of manhood.  Men and Women are equal, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t different.

Is it only me, or does it appear that to express, define or make masculine and feminine distinctions is a social sin.   Gender neutrality rules the day!

It’s like there is something fundamentally wrong about having masculine expectations and associations.  In today’s current thinking, boys should be encouraged to wear pink, and girls should be able to dress up as Spiderman.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is anything particularly wrong with guys wearing pink or girls playing with trucks… But, there are those who promote this idea that gender boarders must be pushed, or at the very least dissolved.  I wonder why.

 

Take for example the Toronto couple who made the news.  They decided not to reveal the sex of their baby to their family and friends.  In doing so, the child will be free to explore whatever gender they feel so inclined and not be shackled by social expectations and gender restraints.  (Check out the you tube link “Toronto couple raising gender-free child”  and the Toronto Star article Parents Keep Child’s Gender a Secret.)  I couldn’t make this stuff up.

“Boys will be boys.” ??  I’m not so sure of that axiom anymore, at least if some people have their way.  Focus on the Family has a very interesting article about helping parents sort through gender confusion.  Gender Confusion in Children.   (By the way, please let me know if the links do not work.)

 

Why do I blog about these things?

As men, one of our key functions is to help lead our boys to where we are.   We are tasked with the opportunity and privilege to help steer our young men in this journey of manhood.  Yes, a lot of us (admittedly) got here on our own.  My fathers instructions on male and female relationships were simply and comprehensively put…”Son, in a relationship…one must be the fire and one must be the water.”   (End of story.)

Now to be fair, my father was (and is) a man of God, and was (and is) a good provider and role model.  But culturally (I suspect), a lot of intimate knowledge just was not shared.

We need to realize that God never intended isolation on a road fraught with dangers.  We need men to help make men.  Quite frankly, with some of our modern challenges (such as finger tip pornography, and shifting gender identities and ambiguity) I’m not so certain it’s wise to go it alone.

 

So, what about this “How Not to be a Man” the “What Not to Wear” of pro-masculine movies?  I stumbled a few weeks across this movie called “How to be a man.”  It was about a guy (Mark McCarthy- the main character) who was dying and therefore decided to make a series of home movies for his unborn son, so that he would learn what it means to be a man -in his absence, especially when faced with critical junctions of masculine development.   Through out the process he befriends an impressionable, and somewhat lost, fatherless, early 20 something year old (Bryan) who participates as his sidekick and videographer of his antics.

Before you rush to see this movie, here are a few disclaimers…  If you struggle with lust or pornography – there are some sexually explicit scenes.  If you struggle with drug abuse – there are scenes that depict drug usage.  If you struggle with, or are offended by course language – well… the language is colourfully consistently inappropriate most of the way through.

 

By now you are probably wondering, did this movie give any meaningful counsel about “How to be a man?”

 

Stay Tuned for the next blog.

The ordinary, “No Ordinary” Joe “

Joseph: “The Ordinary – No Ordinary Joe”  Questions and Answers with Joseph the Step-Father of Jesus

Hey everyone.  What if we could speak  to the most famous step-father of all time?  What do you think Joseph would say?  What do you think he would say to us?  The following Q/A was inspired from Matthew 1:19-21.

Q: Hello Joseph, it’s pretty amazing to have a living legend on the Genesis Man “Question and Answer” Blog.  The first thing I’de like to ask you about is this;  The Bible calls you a “just man”. What do you have to say about that?

J: Well that seems like pretty high praise that I don’t feel I deserve… I just try to do the best I can. I try to be fair. I try to live the way that God wants me to live. I try to do the right things.  That’s all.

Q: Don’t sell your self short. You could have publicly humiliated Mary, because after all you thought she got herself pregnant when engage to you!

J: I guess so. If by not “getting even with her” makes me a just man…well, I don’t know. But, the “acceptable” thing to do is not always the “right thing” to do. Just because you are allowed to do something, doesn’t mean you should.   Besides, somewhere deep inside of me,  beside my anger and disbelief, I still loved Mary. Despite what I thought was her mistake at the time, I still wanted her to have a chance at life, even if that life would be with out me. If that’s grace, well, I know that’s what God would do for me.

Q: As a man, you did something that most of us should do more of… thinking! While you were struggling with your decision, something extraordinary happened. What was it?

J: I fell asleep, I don’t remember if it was the evening or the night -I had been exhausted lately. An angel appeared to me in a dream, and challenged something that we all have deep inside us as men: fear. The angel commanded me not to be afraid to do the thing that I didn’t want to do. The angel told me not to be afraid to take Mary as my wife…

Q: Why do you think we as men are afraid to do the things we know deep down inside we really should do?

J: That’s a great question. All I can say was that I was afraid of the ridicule. I was afraid of turning my life upside down. I don’t know what your society is like, but family and community is all I have! Food, clothing, acceptance…there is no life apart from family and community.  It’s all we have in first century Palestine! We can’t move. How could we move?   Where could we go to get away from the controversy?  Family and community is life, and to put that in jeopardy…well, I was afraid of loosing that!

Q: Yeah. Sometimes as men we are afraid to commit, we’re afraid to act the way we should. We’re afraid to follow through with the actions that God wants us to do. But we can’t all have our buts kicked by an angel…

J: True. But the angel helped me to believe something incredible…Mary was made pregnant by the Holy Spirit! I’m sorry but no matter how “just” you are, well that’s going to need some verification…but on some level I was willing to believe that even before the angel. I mean, I know my scripture and prophecy, it just seemed incredible that my life could somehow be part of a greater will and plan of God.

Q: Isn’t that something that all of us as men should realize that God has a plan for us. We are part of the greater will of God.  We are not free agents!

J:  Free agents?

Q: Think about representing your self and not a country in the Olympic Games.

J: Oh, Okay.  Well, God has a plan for us! Imagine the angel telling me that Mary’s son is to be called Jesus, and He would save people from their sins!  And how about flying further in the face of tradition.  “Name him  Jesus”?  No one in my family is named Jesus!  However, I guess that if I was “on board” with the whole pregnancy thing, one more abnormal thing wouldn’t really matter!  Would it?

Q: I guess not.We’ll continue this interview shortly, and I want to ask you next time about your decision to keep your hands off Mary until after Jesus’ birth.

“All men watch porn and it is not bad for them”

“All men watch porn, and it is not bad for them”

This is the name of the article written by a Montreal university professor based on his two year research study.

I’m not even sure where to begin…  The only remotely positive thing I can see this article doing is perhaps attempting to reduce authentic guilt some men may have with this addiction, and that’s hardly positive at all.

Assuming that he interviewed mostly university students, the short article paints many “matter- of- fact” arguments as facts… (and I quote)

“…his research had refuted views that pornography enthusiasts seek out in life what they see in X-rated videos, leading to sexual abuse or denigration of women.

“It would be like saying that vodka ads lead to alcoholism,” the sociologist said.

The author further “…dismissed suggestions that avid pornography enthusiasts seek to imitate in life what they see on screens, or that they watch X-rated videos in an attempt to purge vile sexual impulses.

“Both arguments are worthless,” he said.   Men make a distinction between their real lives and sexual fantasies…”

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/all-men-watch-porn-and-it-is-not-bad-for-them-1833949.html

This is what passes as a internet “hit” on Men’s Health.

There is a “Focus on the Family” article that takes another view on this topic and points out the dangers of this addiction.

“Not everyone who sees porn will become addicted to it. Some will just come away with toxic ideas about women, sex, marriage and children. That kind of damage is bad enough. And porn isn’t the only ingredient in addiction. Usually, those who become addicted have some kind of emotional opening that allows the addiction to really take root.”

Also interesting, as this short article continues, is the “Five Stages of Addiction” – early exposure, addiction, escalation, desensitization and acting out sexually.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/love_and_sex/pornography.aspx

Read both the articles.  Read what the Bible says.

 

We shirk our moral responsibility and family responsibility when we start an affair with pornography.  I told my son that pornography is like a handcuff.  I believe this.

All men don’t watch porn, and it’s not good for them.