My Son, the Air Force, and God

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Last weekend was quite amazing! My wonderful awesome new wife (Kelly!) and I traveled to San Antonio to attend my son’s graduation from Air Force basis training. What we were really celebrating  is my son’s commitment to ‘defend the constitution’ with life and limb.

Though Davis (my son) will most likely spend his years in the Air Force quite safe, the parade and ceremony were  reminders of what it means to be ‘all in.’ At one point the recruits parade across a blue line on the road. When they physically cross that line they have mentally crossed the line to total commitment to the Air Force and the defense of our country. The proudly become ‘Airmen.’

Though I am not sure Davis would articulate it is this way, the reasons he was willing to go all in is that (1) he believes the Air Force will care for and equip him for his task (which will be working on F-16’s, how cool is that?!) and (2) he is giving himself to a cause bigger than himself and worthy of his best efforts (defending our country).

May we be as willing to do the same for our God who gave himself for us!

Below is an excerpt from Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men. The passage from my book below is about being accepted by God. If we are going to go ‘all in’ for God we have to believe about God what my son believes about the Air Force… that God will care for and equip us for the task he has for us. Being accepted by God is all about this. But the way we have been taught about acceptance from the world’s perspective is quite different from God’s radical acceptance of us.

Day 35: Accepted by God (2)

The Word

We have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins.— Romans 5.16 (NLT)

Thought for the Day:

I renounce the lie that I am too worthless to ever be accepted by God or people. I acknowledge that my value before God is so great He sent Jesus to die for me, and it is the value in His eyes which truly counts. ~ Keturah Martin

I was often told I was loved and accepted without condition, but it seemed to me that love and acceptance came with a lot of conditions. When I came home with A’s on my report card, I got showered with praise and affection. When I came home with a C in algebra, all hell broke loose. All those A’s didn’t seem to cover over a single C. The question I was always asking (and still ask in my weaker moments) is,Am I good enough?”And often the answer was,Almost.”

When I worked hard to be good enough for the AUTHORITIES in my life, I got AFFIRMATION.

Affirmation is the second step in being accepted by the world. First, authorities lay out their expectations. If you meet these expectations, you get affirmed.

This is the way the world works whether you working on a Ph.D. or trying to get into a gang. The group says, “Do this, and we will accept you.” You jump through the hoops, and if you succeed, they affirm you. If you keep it up, affirmation turns into ACCEPTANCE. You’re in!

The downside of this is that if you fail to keep jumping through the hoops, you can be pushed back out. You can go from being acceptable to unacceptable.

This is the way of the world. Authorities give us expectations. We work hard to meet those expectations. If we do, we are affirmed, and if consistently affirmed, we are accepted.

Here’s the thing: The motivation behind this dynamic at work in our world is control. Parents, teachers, employers—they all have to control us. The way they control us is to give or take away their acceptance of us. The emotion that accompanies and drives this process is fear. We fear not being accepted, and that fear motivates us to follow the rules.

Now think about it: Do you think God accepts or rejects you based on your obedience to his authority?

If you do, please explain these words from the Bible:

[We] know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love…. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment….(1 John 4.16–18)

Hopefully you are beginning to realize that being accepted by God means something significantly different than how the world accepts us.

Think About It…

  • What is the most ridiculous thing you ever did in order to be accepted by a group?
  • What are some ridiculous things people do to earn God’s acceptance?
  • Was there a time you felt like God accepted you?
  • Was there a time when you believed God rejected you?

Life Commitment:

I believe God’s way of accepting me must be different than the world’s way of acceptance.

You can order my book in print or Kindle HERE.

Next week we will look at how God accepts us!

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Anthony Bourdain, Divorce and Suicide

I was stunned when I found out that Anthony Bourdain had taken his life in a quaint hotel in France. I thoroughly enjoyed his television shows which combined food, culture and history with edgy political commentary and deep reflection on his own life.

Thought it is not known what led Bourdain to decide to hang himself  with the belt from a bathrobe, something pushed him to take that final, fatal step.

It seems, however, plausible that it had to something with his relationship with his girlfriend. Again, this is said with caution as we don’t know the details.

What we do know is that Bourdain fell apart after his divorce from his wife of 20 years (Nancy, 1985 to 2005). In his book, Medium Raw, Bourdain describes that period of life with these words:

“I was holed up in the Caribbean about midway through a really bad time. My first marriage had just ended and I was, to say the least, at loose ends.
By “loose ends” I mean aimless and regularly suicidal. I mean that my daily routine began with me waking up around ten, smoking a joint, and going to the beach—where I’d drink myself stupid on beer, smoke a few more joints, and pass out until mid-afternoon. This to be followed by an early-evening rise, another joint, and then off to the bars, followed by the brothels. By then, usually very late at night, I’d invariably find myself staggeringly drunk—the kind of drunk where you’ve got to put a hand over one eye to see straight. On the way back from one whorehouse or another,…” (Medium Raw, pp. 45-4)

In a way it sounds like Bourdain was trying to commit ‘slow suicide’ through reckless behavior (driving drunk) and self-medicating/poisoning himself.

One of the mantras of Men’s Divorce Recovery is to not make things worse! Make decisions that are clear, solid and life-giving. This is tough because in the pain of divorce you may not care about yourself or others.

We may never know why Bourdain took his life, but we can be sure that he left behind many hurting loved ones and fans. May we who suffer divorce and broken relationships choose to stay.

If you know of a divorced man, give them my new book, Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men, found here.

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Your Soul is Like a Tire

Your soul is like a tire. No, I didn’t say your soul is tired, though your soul may feel very tired!

Let me suggest a different way to view your soul. Your soul is not tired, it is flat.

Ever since I can remember I have lived on my bike. Back in the day, we rode our bikes without helmets and common sense. There was nothing like flying my banana seat bike off a homemade plywood ramp and onto that ever-so-unforgiving asphalt! Now I ride 25 miles dodging cars, rocks and the heat.

If you are a cyclist you know that your tires leak. In fact, every time I get ready for a ride I pump a little air in my tires. Low tires translate into a slow and sluggish bike. Slow and sluggish is not me. I want to ride high and clean, fast and efficient.

Your soul is like a bike tire. It leaks. All kinds of things steal the air out of your soul—people poking at you, financial worries, expectations of others that go unmet. Most of our ‘leakage’ comes from within—what we tell ourselves about ourselves.

From the beginning we as boys are asking ourselves, Am I good enough? And if truth be told, our constant answer to ourselves is, Not even close. If you keep telling that to yourself long enough, you will have a flat soul. As in an all-the-way-to-the-ground flat soul.

 

Every time I ride my bike I must put a little air in the tires. Every day you and I must put a little air back into our souls. If you don’t, you will be flat. Tired, flat souls need air. Whether your soul is flat all the way to the ground or just a little low, what do you use to put the air back in?

In ‘Christian speak,’ the ‘pumps’ by which we put air back into our souls are called Spiritual Disciplines. There are many spiritual disciplines but I want to recommend the following:

  • Solitude—Spending time alone to be with God.
  • Prayer—Honest conversation with your True Father.
  • Fellowship—Being with other Christians who nourish your soul through understanding, challenge and encouragement.[2]
  • Guidance—Positioning yourself to follow God’s best path for his glory, your good and the good of those around you.[3]
  • Study—Reading and really thinking about what God is saying to you through his Word, the Bible.
  • Worship—Giving back to God the worth he is due.
  • Confession—Talking openly and honestly about your life with a trusted circle of friends.
  • Submission—Humbling yourself before God, trusting that in God’s economy, the way up is down.
  • Service—Learning to live with an open hand.

I’ve ridden my bike hundreds of miles without a flat. But in one ride I had two! Life is like that. Whether cruising fast and efficient or stuck by the side of the road, you need air. Let God pump your soul back up through the methods listed above. You may not be doing all of the things listed above. That’s OK. Pick one or two that will be most helpful to you now.

Think About It…

  • Are you taking time to let God put air back in your soul?
  • Of the spiritual disciplines listed, which do you think would be most helpful to engage in first?
  • Which is the least appealing?

Life Commitment:

My soul needs air. God can pump me back up, but only if I let his air in. I commit to these tools God has given me to get me back on the road again.

[1]Spiritual Disciplines, (Peabody, MA: Rose Publishing, July 7, 2014).

[2]Bill Donahue, Leading Life-Changing Small Groups: Groups that Grow, (Zondervan, 2012), Kindle Locations 782-783.

[3]Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline(Harper Collins, 2009), 175.

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Occupation or Vocation?

Below is an excerpt from my new book, Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men: Surviving & Thriving Beyond Your Divorce, available on Amazon, ebook or print.

Paul David Tripp (one of my favorite thinkers!), writes: Grace not only forgives you, but enables you to live for something hugely bigger than yourself. Why go back to your little kingdom of one?

God has something much bigger for you than just punching a clock until you can hit a little white ball around a nicely manicured lawn. He calls us to a life of risk and adventure, not for our own sakes, but for the sake of the world.
Divorce may be tearing you down so God can rebuild you into the man he called you to be—a strong, confident man, given over to God and to the world he created, using your male energy for others instead of yourself. I’m not saying God caused your divorce! Human choices wreak havoc on our world. But God is able to take our poor choices (or the destructive choices of others) and turn them around for his glory, our good and for the good of the world.
As you wrestle through your divorce, ask yourself:  Do I merely have an occupation? Or has God called me into his vocation?
The root meaning of the word vocation means voice. You hear it in other words like vocal. To fulfill God’s mission in your life means hearing his voice in your life and following the thing into which he calls you.
How do you live in the power and energy of your vocation rather than merely live in the drudgery of an occupation?

1. Till the Soil.

If the farmer wants a crop in the fall he tears up the soil in the spring. God can’t plant a vision, a dream, a mission into a hard, bitter, crusty heart. Take God’s plow to your heart.
We do that by practicing the Spiritual Disciplines, the habits of the heart that make room for God to speak to us (see Days 113-138 of my book). If you plow the soil of your heart God will honor your movement toward him by speaking to you. Be patient. The farmer doesn’t plow and plant on Monday and get the harvest on Friday!

2. Listen for God’s Call.

The call of God upon our lives is God’s call. He initiates and invites. We don’t come up with a good idea and then ask God to bless it. That would be us inviting God to join us in our mission. No, this is about God, not us. Let God speak. Expect him to speak! He has a huge mission in this world! Why would he not call you to your place in that mission?
Henry Blackaby writes:
The most dramatic changes in your life will come from God’s initiative, not yours. The people God used mightily in Scripture were all ordinary people to whom He gave divine assignments that they never could have initiated. The Lord often took them by surprise, for they were not seeking significant mandates from God. Even so, He saw their hearts, and He knew they were trustworthy.
The Lord may be initiating some new things in your life. When He tells you what His plans are, trust Him and walk closely with Him. Don’t let the busyness of your present activity keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you. You will see Him accomplish things through your life that you never dreamed were possible (Eph. 3:20).[1]

3. Trust.

Trust that the call is from God. God wants you to do his will. He is for you! He wants you to succeed for his Glory, for your good, and for the good of the world! Trust that he will accomplish his will through you.
I heard the testimony of a man named Jimmy Heald. By all accounts, Jimmy should be dead. Growing up with drug abusing parents, his dad was murdered when Jimmy was a boy, his mom hooking. But God reached Jimmy, rescued him, and set him on a path to becoming a staff member of a large, growing new church, all in the course of a few years! Jimmy could testify from his own amazing experience: If God is calling me to it he will see me through it.[2]

4. Obey

C.S. Lewis throws down the challenge before us: [God] is calling us. It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.[3]
Divorce brings winter, but if we wait patiently, winter turns to spring. This is always true on the earth, but only true in our lives if we plow the soil, let God plant the seed, and then obey him through the summer to the harvest. If God calls, obey. Don’t hesitate.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. — 1 Timothy 6.12-16, emphasis mine

Think About It…

  • Have you heard God speak to you?
  • Have you heard God call you to a ministry inside the church or beyond its walls?
  • Consider this statement by Rick Warren: God never wastes anything. He would not give you abilities, interests, talents, gifts, personality, and life experiences unless he intended to use them for his glory.[4] What abilities, interests, talents, gifts, and life experiences do you have that God is calling you to use for others?

Life Commitment…

Life is too short to spend it on myself. I give myself to God, asking him to plant the seed of his vision for my life in my heart. I will hear and respond to him in obedience.

Check out “Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men: Surviving & Thriving Beyond Your Divorce”

[1] Blackaby and Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-By-Day, Kindle Location 3510.
[2] Sermon by Jimmy Heald, Real Life Church, Austin, Texas, 2017
[3] C. S. Lewis and Walter Hooper, The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from the Writings of C.S. Lewis (London: Fount, 1999), Kindle Location 1828.
[4] Rick Warren in Erik Rees, S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 6.

Men’s Divorce Recovery exists to empower divorced men through support, encouragement and knowledge tosurvive and thrive beyond their divorceto become resilient, strong and wise assets to their world.
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New Book for Divorced Men

 

I’m excited to announce the publication of my book, Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men: Surviving & Thriving Beyond Your Divorce.

When I became divorced I couldn’t believe the lack of resources for divorced men. I was dying inside and the world had very little to offer. So God called me to being a ministry targeting divorced men, Men’s Divorce Recovery.

I got up at 4:30 every morning for over a year to write the main resource for the ministry, Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men.

It is now available for paperback and for pre-order on Kindle on Amazon: Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men.

My book is a 180-day devotional designed to take a guy in crisis through to thriving beyond his divorce.

This book is a great gift to give to someone enduring divorce. Don’t be shy! The help you give to a divorced man may save his life.

Got thoughts or questions? Fill in the blanks below and I will get back to you.

Or… go to my website, Men’s Divorce Recovery.

 

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How to Help Men in the Middle of a Divorce

Your Friend Tells You He is Getting Divorced. What do you say?


 

I joined a weekly men’s group with about 15 other guys. When we took time to pray for others, two of the men asked prayer for friends they knew were going through a divorce. Wow! Two out of 15 is a fairly high percentage of men who knew other men in the middle of divorce, much less having been divorced.

Divorce is so common in our culture we assume the pain is less now than it used to be. But any rejection hurts, and if you are on the receiving end of divorce, it feels like the ultimate rejection. 80% of divorces filed in America are filed by women. That means a lot of guys are getting the shock of their lives. Even guys who initiate divorce will probably feel anger, hurt and rejection.

What do you tell a friend who is going through a divorce? How do you help a guy who is suffering?

1. INITIATE

If you hear that one of your friends is going through a divorce, don’t wait for him to come to you, you go to him. Say something like, “I heard that you are thinking about/going through/in the middle of a divorce.”  Then wait for a response.

Divorce is so shameful in our culture that your friend may hesitate to acknowledge the reality. Or… if he initiated the divorce, he may be ready, willing and proud to share. Or he may be in so much pain he busts out crying. Or he may deny it or tell you it is none of your business.

Be ready for anything. If he denies it or tells you to butt out, let it go. Even then, be assured that initiating the conversation was not a waste. By talking to your friend, you showed you cared and you have opened the door for him to come to you later when the time is right. If you get rejection, just say something like, “Hey man, no problem. I’m here if you need to talk.”

If he responds in a way that he is open to moving forward with the conversation, then…

2. LISTEN

Guys, we are fixers. We see a problem and our minds start spinning on how to fix it. There is a time for fixing, but there is a time to just listen.

A farmer named Joe decided to get a jump on the growing season so he started plowing his field when it was still wet. Sure enough, he got his tractor stuck in the mud in the middle of the field. So he went to his good neighbor, Tom, to see if Tom could use his tractor to pull him out. Tom came down to Joe’s field and carefully surveyed the situation. Finally Tom said, “Joe, I can’t get your tractor out, but I will sit in the mud and cry with ya.”

As you listen to your friend download his situation and his emotions, you may be tempted to give answers to him. Your urge to give answers is, in part, your desire to see him out of pain. But it is also a result of our discomfort with being with people in pain. It may not seem that just listening is helping much, but it is! God has designed us so that talking is therapy. Talking is absolutely essential to healing. Letting your friend get it out is a huge help to him.

If you are on the receiving end of someone who has been severely wounded, leave the trite answers at home. Instead, absorb their pain, even if it is directed at you. Hurt people lash out. Let them. Then, when the time is right, God will use you to mitigate some of their pain.

3. AFFIRM 

I was talking about divorce in a men’s group and as I explained how there are so few resources for men, one man said, “I went through my divorce five years ago, and you are right, there is nothing for men. I was just told to man up. But I was dying inside.”  The guy who said this looked like a bear–he was big and hairy–a man’s man if there ever was one. But when his wife filed on him, he wilted inside.

The reality is that men actually DO feel! Mostly what we feel is anger and sadness. Expressing strong emotions is not unmanly. It’s just human. Let your friend be human. Let him know that being angry is normal. Tears are normal. Suicidal or homicidal thoughts are normal.

4 . POINT THEM TOWARD SOURCES OF HELP

When my wife walked out on me I crashed. I was balling like a baby dipped in an ice bath. I called my good friend, Ken, a therapist in Massachusetts. He knew how to assess my state of being and my risk to myself or others. He knew I needed someone there with me. Ken was a lifeline and he saved me. Thanks, Ken!

If your friend is experiencing severe anxiety or has extreme suicidal or homicidal thoughts, DIAL 911. We think this is such a drastic step but it’s not. First Responders deal with situations like this all the time and they know how to assess and take the next right steps. If your friend ends up in a hospital it’s OK. Don’t use 911 as a threat (“If you don’t calm down I’m calling the police”). Instead, offer to get help. Even if your friend refuses but is still in a severely anxious state, get help. Later down the road your friend will understand and be grateful.

Another option for the suicidal friend is the Suicide Prevention Hotline and website: 800-273-8255, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Determine your friend’s support network. If he has one, call his counselor/therapist, pastor, AA sponsor… anyone who has connections to your friend.

Then there Men’s Divorce Recovery! We are available to talk with your friend, give you advice, and help find a counselor in your area. My cell is 978.204.0480. Text first. I will call back at first availability.

And I have a brand-new book designed for newly divorced men: “Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men: Surviving & Thriving Beyond Your Divorce.”  

Purchase here!

5 . PROMISE TO STICK WITH HIM

In our dis-integrated and fragmented world, men long for connection. Your friend’s crisis is opportunity to connect. STAY CONNECTED. Don’t get your friend through this immediate crisis and then forget about him.

Someone said, “You can pretend to care but you can’t pretend to be there.”  God has put you in your friend’s mess. Don’t abandon your friend. Even if he gets help through a counselor or pastor, stay connected to your friend. Even if he rejects you, determined to stay connected. Text, call, use Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, or whatever communication vector your friend uses. If you fish, invite him to fish with you. Invite him to lunch. Invite him to your church. Just keep trying, gently, and if you get rejected, don’t give up. Just keep trying.

Men in the throes of divorce have a huge range of emotions. Your friend’s reactions to your attempts to stay connected will be driven by the emotional state his is at any given moment. No matter what he says, keep trying. If he tells you to butt out, then wait a few weeks and try again–just a connection such as, “Hey man, I’m headed to the Red Sox Thursday night. Want to come?”  

6. GIVE HIM A RESOURCE

My new book, “Daily Survival Guide for Divorced Men” is a 180 Devotional designed to take a guy from the initial heartbreak to surviving and thriving beyond his divorce. Giving him this resource is a great way to show you care and the truths in the book will propel him toward healing and recovery.

Remember this: Much is at stake. Things can go much better for your friend and the many people connected to your friend by the help you give to him.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.  ~ Proverbs 17.17

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.  ~ Arnold Glasow

 

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