Archive for June, 2011

A Birthday Blog: The Great Adventure Continues

June 17, 2011

On my 69th birthday, I offer this blog as I recognize that “The Great Adventure” continues.

Today on my 69th birthday, I recall a blog posted by a friend, Dan Haas, “my main man, the music man,” who invited readers to join him and his family on their “Great Adventure.” On birthdays and similar occasions, I often wax reflective as I reflect with deepest gratitude to God for another year of life. I am especially grateful for the victories achieved over the past year, as I recognize that I am still embarked upon this “Great Adventure.” Steven Curtis Chapman’s video with the same title is the perfect musical backdrop for this birthday commentary.

Recently I have been thinking about John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secrets of a Man’s Soul, one of my favorite books, one of those “life-changing” works that ministered to the core of who I am and who I aspire to be. In the book, Eldredge indicates three motivations that express the essence of what it means to be a man: a man is seeking to find “a battle to fight”, “an adventure to live” and “a beauty to rescue.” A number of years ago I had started a file on “Qualities of Manhood” which form the core of this blog.

Wild at Heart discusses some of the essential qualities of a man in a most engaging manner.

The question of what it means to be a man I raised in the first “occasional” poem I ever wrote. At the time I really didn’t think of myself as a poet, but I decided that I would commemorate my 21st birthday, supposedly a milestone of manhood, with a special poem. This is my first attempt at composing:

Upon Turning Twenty-one

The day came and went,
but felt no different—
a day like any other,
yet why so much significance.
This special date:
June 17, 1963
Should mean so much to me,
But I felt as I did at seventeen.
Was I then a man or am I yet to be?

In the midst of these most turbulent times of crisis and seemingly overwhelming circumstances, I anchor myself in the truth of God’s Word, as I continue to strive to understand more fully the meaning of manhood. In the last stanza of the poem “Be Still and Know” I make reference to “the man I thought I could be.”

  Be Still and Know

 Be still, and know that I am God;

 I will be exalted among the nations,

 I will be exalted in the earth!

  Psalms 46:10

 

 Be still and know that I am God, that I am the eternal one.

 Though your cherished dreams have faded and long since gone

 The way of all flesh, my divine plans you shall see,

 As I weave the tapestry of eternity.

 Though you seem forsaken, you are never alone,

 Even when the burden of dark sin cannot atone,

 And the hearts of men have hardened and turned to stone:

 Be still and know that I am God.

 Though storms may overwhelm and friends may abandon

 When diseases surface to assault flesh and bone.

 These scenes will reveal the man I thought I could be,

 As words of the Psalmist comfort and remind me,

 When this life is over and all is said and done:

 Be still and know that I am God.

Both the poem and another accompanying video by Stephen Curtis Chapman are inspired by Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”

Here is a brief discussion of those three primary drives within men that Eldredge writes about:

• A battle to fight

“Life is a battlefield, and the battlefield is the mind.” I have been aware of the truths of that statement most of my adult life, but I really came to grips with the intensity of “a battle to fight” when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000. In 2005 I published my testimony of my approach in combating the dreaded disease in Watch, Fight and Pray: My Personal Strategy to Combat Prostate Cancer. The book opens with a blues poem originally written after my father was diagnosed with cancer, and it has become even more meaningful during my own ongoing battle with “Old Man Crab”, the name I give to the potentially deadly disease which takes its name from the constellation Cancer which is designated as “the crab.”

Final Victory

I Corinthians 15:53-57 & Romans 8:37-39

Old Man Crab is mighty sneaky,
always creepin and up to no good,
Old Man Crab, is mighty sneaky,
always creepin and up to no good,
That low-down dirty rascal,
Messin with folk all round the neighborhood.

One dark day Old Man Crab came callin,
Crawlin in like some uninvited mouse,
One dark day Old Man Crab came callin,
Crawlin in like some uninvited mouse,
That nasty dirty devil,
Sneakin in the back door of my sister’s house.

First you first attacked my mama, Old Man Crab,
You tried to pinch her with your greatest fears,
First you first attacked my mama, Old Man Crab,
You tried to pinch her with your greatest fears,
But she didn’t want no she-crab soup,
You tried to served with pain and bitter tears.

You may have come to our house, Old Man Crab,
But I’m sorry, you can’t stay.
You may have come to our house, Old Man Crab,
But I’m sorry, you can’t stay.
Whatsonever in the world you may do,
Everyday we still gonna watch, fight, and pray.

Nothin’ low down on earth, Old Man Crab,
Or nothin high up in heaven above,
Nothin’ low down on earth, Old Man Crab,
Or nothin high up in heaven above,
Not even death, your creepin pardner,
Can ever separate us from God’s love.

So git out my face, Old Man Crab,
I got your number, don’t you see.
So git out my face, Old Man Crab,
I got your number, don’t you see.
You may win this li’l biddy battle,
But we show-nuff got the final victory.

Some say our Savior’s comin in the mornin;
Some say in the midnight hour or high noon
Some say our Savior’s comin in the mornin;
Some say in the midnight hour or high noon
I got a feelin He’s comin back
To gather us together soon . . . and very soon.

I comment more extensively regarding my diagnosis with prostate cancer and how it impacted my view of death in the blog “Thanatopsis—a New View of Death.

Since childhood I have thought of life as one “Great Adventure.” In reflecting upon my life over the past 69 years, I see that I’m still on “The Great Adventure.”

• An adventure to live

As mentioned earlier, I thought of this particular attribute of a man after viewing Dan Haas’ video entitled “The Great Adventure.” In fact, initially I started to dash off a brief comment related to my thinking of Eldredge’s second point when I decided to expand my comments into this blog on “Qualities of Manhood.” I connected Dan’s video to my poem “Man-child: Giddy-up Goin’ on the Great Adventure.” As it turned out, the piece reveals my continual striving to be the man of God that I’m called to be. I use the oxymoronic term “man-child”, the significance of which was confirmed to me when I read the insert in a fortune cookie when I dined at a Thai restaurant not long ago: “A great man never ignores the simplicity of a child.”

Manchild. . . Giddy-up, going on the great adventure

“Here they beheld the man
to someday reign as king. . . .”
The Wise Men

I leaped out of bed just after the sun came up;
I could not stay cause I had to be on my way.
Life overflowed like a fountain and filled my cup.
“Be back in a minute” was all I had to say. . . .
Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, going on the great adventure.
I was laughing and loving every good news day,
Running with abandon into the blazing sun,
With my heart wide-open and tender, pure for sure,
All that really mattered to me was having fun.
Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, going on the great adventure.

One day a white-haired man spoke as he looked at me.
“Say, little man, when you grow up to be a man,
Tell me, little fella, what do you want to be?”
His question made me think, just for a little while
Then I nodded my head, and I began to smile,
“That’s a real long time away, far as I can see,
But when I grow up to be a real grown up man,
“A man-child, man-child, is what I still want to be,
Man-child, a man-child, is what I still want to be.”
Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, going on the great adventure.

In the Adventure of Life, a man aspires to be a “Rescue Hero” and escape with “a beauty to rescue.”

• A beauty to rescue

Long before I met my wife, I would from time to time think about “the girl of my dreams.” Often I wondered if she thought about me, as I thought about her and tried to imagine what she might be like. I met my “beauty to rescue” after we each simultaneously prayed fervently that we might met the love of our lives. We were married 37 years ago, and I shared this special poem with my wife on one of our anniversary celebrations.

Before I Knew You
for my beloved Brenda

I thought of you long before I ever knew you.
When through the mist I beheld your lovely face.
Before our two lives touched, my heart reached out to you.

I could not speak your name, yet somehow I knew you
Would be all I could desire in style and grace.
I thought of you long before I ever knew you.

Alone, I saw the sunset, told myself you too
Needed a dearest friend to share this special place.
Before our two lives touched, my heart reached out to you.

Alone, I passed the time and asked myself who you
Were dreaming of, yet still longing to embrace
I thought of you long before I ever knew you.

I yearned to give my life, to share my soul with you
Who would make me feel whole and fill my empty space.
Before our two lives touched, my heart reached out to you.

God stretched out his hand, and then He gently drew you
To me with a true love that time cannot erase.
I thought of you long before I ever knew you.
Before our two lives touched, my heart reached out to you.

• A “real” man

For about 10 years I taught a series of composition and literature courses at Otterbein College on relationships of men and women in the context of love and marriage. Among the topics we discussed and wrote about was “What is a real man?” and “What is a real woman?” One of the authors who offered his definition of manhood was Ernest Hemingway, who spoke of “a real man,” using the term “code hero,” as one who must exemplify “grace under pressure.” Beyond Hemingway’s definition and those of others, is this designation of the measure of the man of God who follows after Christ. To the degree that we model the qualities of Jesus Christ and stand in his stead, is the degree to which we show the world what it means to be “a real man” of God or “a “real woman” of God. I am ever striving to mature to the point of arriving at the place of becoming the “perfect man,” so described in Ephesians 4:13:

[That it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the [full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ’s own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him. [Amplified Bible]

 I continue to press on toward that mark of true manhood. In discussing “qualities of manhood,” I thought of a poem, not one of my own, but one of my favorite works that captures the essence of this subject—“If” by Rudyard Kipling:

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

The Seven Spirits of God provide yet another template whereby I am able to measure myself as a man of God.

The Seven Spirits of God: A New Template


In light of having a greater understanding of the recently published book by Apostle Eric L. Warren,  The Seven Spirits of God: Learning to Walk in the Dominion and of Christ, I have come to recognize a new template that can be used as a self-assessment tool. Not only can I can evaluate myself, but I can also examine any situation in terms of how it measures up to the stature of the fullness of Christ, the ultimate measure of a man.  I express my personal application of the principles taken from Isaiah 11:2 and other passages and expounded upon in the book by Apostle Warren in this poem:

The Seven Spirits of God: This Seven-fold Template

As my teacher, clearly show me how I relate

To the Seven Spirits of God revealed in Your Word,

As I place my life against this seven-fold template:

From dark chaos I call forth the Spirit of the Lord;

With creative insight from the Spirit of Wisdom

 And the Spirit of Knowledge I am eager to learn

 Of the unfolding fullness of the coming Kingdom;

 Impart understanding that I might also discern,

As You enlighten my eyes and teach my hands to fight,

To win in spiritual warfare of the highest degree,

To be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might,

To walk in dominion, knowing Christ’s authority,

As the Spirit of Counsel offers advice, gives consent;

To know the fear of the Lord is ever to revere

And finish my course, my God-given assignment:

To abide in God’s awesome presence in meekness and fear.   

I look into the Word of God, as a man looks into the mirror through new eyes, the eyes of the Lord, and recognize that on June 17, 2011: “Now is the yet to be.”

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