Guard your heart

John Eldredge’s monthly newsletter in February contained some great commentary about guarding your heart. This has been our focus at ManSchool over the past few weeks. Read these and see if they help you…

“One of the spirits of our age is a spirit of surrender. You see it in the world as “a soft acceptance of all things.” For the Christian it brings a kind of weariness of heart that causes us to drop our guard. Prayer seems like a hassle; going to small group (ManSchool at 6am!) seems irritating; holding onto the truth seems unnecessary. It is, in fact, a spirit of Defeat, and its subtle approach is to get folks to surrender. Bit by bit, month by month, it wears away at our spiritual strength, the strength of our hearts. That is why we need to be strengthened.”

So here are some ideas that will help strengthen your heart…

  • Turn down the noise.  We are bombarded every day – commercials in taxis, at gas pumps, in elevators, on our computers, our phones.  Wherever you can, turn down the noise in your life.  Use your drive time for quiet, for something that enriches you.
  • Turn off the news.  Really – I mean it.  The news is a product sold every day; evil sells.  “Three children were told today they are loved” doesn’t make headlines; “Three children found dead” does.  The evil one uses the news to celebrate darkness.  Turn it off.
  • Forgive.  Bitterness and resentment eat away at the heart like cancer.  It is time to let it go.
  • Name your fears.  Turn them over to Christ.  Fear is also a cancer usually felt as worry.  Name it.  Lay it at the feet of Jesus.  Every day if you have to.
  • Play worship music.  In the background of your home, your car.  For one thing, the demons hate it and don’t like to be around it.  But more so, it enriches your spirit, mind and heart.
  • Stay with one truth at a time.  Distraction doesn’t nourish.  Pick one truth God brings you and spend a week with it before you rush on to the next thing.  Marinate.
  • Sabbath.  I don’t mean an hour at church and then grocery shopping, paying bills and homework.  I mean, where is the rest in your life?  Weekly, what do you do for Sabbath?
  • One night a week.  Most of you are running hard; the pace of life is in itself an assault.  Give one night a week to quiet, to God, to joy, to whatever strengthens your heart.  It won’t be TV; television does not strengthen the heart.
  • Recover what once brought you joy.  What was it?  Running?  Playing an instrument?  Reading?  Taking walks?  Go take it back; joy strengthens the heart.
  • Distance your self from draining people.  I don’t mean stop loving; I mean set some boundaries for heaven’s sake.  This may be hard but the relief is worth it.
  • Beauty.  You need beauty in your life – nature, music, visual beauty.  It is life.
  • Pray Ephesians 3:14-19.  For yourself, often.  This is God’s will for you – that you be strengthened by his power deep within.  My goodness – ask for it!!
  • Tell Jesus you love him.  Several times a day.  As we make a practice of loving Jesus, it strengthens our hearts because this above all else is what your heart is made for.

Please understand we live in soul-draining times.  The enemy very much wants to break the power of God’s people.  And remember – an affair doesn’t happen in a day, nor does an addiction, or a suicide.  All the woes of the human heart happen over time, subtly at first, as we yield to surrender, to the spirit of Defeat.

You do not want to surrender your heart, not in these times, not when you need every bit of strength you can possibly find.  Strengthen your heart.  Seek those things out that Jesus is using to strengthen your heart.

Ephesians 3:14-19

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.  I pray that He may grant you, according the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith.  I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.




ManSchool week 4 – the restored heart

First, here is the 3+ minute clip from Les Mis – powerful. Words have a hard time capturing what you will see in this clip. An incredible picture of salvation, restoration and a ransomed heart…

There is so much I want to write about today. I think the key takeaway was this notion of “agreements” we make about our lives and that we can re-take long-lost territory from the enemy. Jean Val Jean made agreements, i.e. “I will always be a criminal” or “No one cares”. But these agreements can be broken. God can restore your heart and break the bondage of our own making. Our God is mighty and he can reclaim territory that we long since surrendered. Freedom…He came, died and rose to give us freedom.

I will make another post with the 10 or so things John gave for strengthening your heart.

Footnote – someone asked me if men can make commentary on the blog. Absolutely! Please feel free to leave commentary where indicated below and if it is something you want me to post for everyone, just let me know. Also know this, anything you comment on comes to me first. I then approve the comment and then anyone can see it. If you want to just communicate something to me, just tell me your comment is private and I won’t add it.

Here are today’s slides…
Waking the Dead 4

Great things are happening at this ManSchool. The small groups are proving to be rich times to build community. A new man joined us today. If you haven’t been coming, you are welcome to join us Wednesday mornings at 6am. Next week, read Chapter 5 of Waking the Dead by John Eldredge.


The mark of a man – Dell McGee

Dell McGee

We kind of knew this day would come.  Coach McGee is leaving Carver for a position with Auburn University’s football program.  It is a great opportunity for him and he has earned and deserves it.

He over took a program that had not had one winning season in nine years.  In his eight years, they won 88 games with 19 losses (an amazing 82% of their games), were six-time Region champions and won one State Championship.

But there is so much more to Dell McGee.  I only know a fraction.  I doubt anyone will ever know all this man has done for the kids at Carver.  And that is his heart – a quiet heart, the heart of a true servant.  He served, they advanced.

I know of kids that he personally took into his home.  I know of one kid who had no way to get his clothes cleaned and so Dell would meet the kid before school, get his clothes, wash and dry them at his own house and then return the clean clothes to the young man in a quiet way so as to not embarrass him.  I know of young men with both parents in jail where Dell McGee became their parent.  One young man that had to move in with him just to be sure he could safely get through the rest of his Senior year and on to college.  I know he helped young men learn how to interview, how to look a man in the eye, how to shake hands and how to even order a steak.  Because Dell knew these young men, as they tried to get college scholarships, would be thrust into situations they were not prepared for and had no one else fighting for them.  I knew of “star” college players who fell into deep trouble and were still texting Dell for support.

This is the mark of a Godly man.  He gave so that others might live.  And no, he isn’t flawless.  He got frustrated, he got angry, he didn’t always win.  But he is a good man.  A truly good man and the ripple effect of the impact he has had on hundreds of young men cannot be measured.  Imagine how many lives he has touched.  Imagine how many wrong paths he has pulled young men off and set them on a better path – and then the impact through the years through these young men on others.

He has blessed so many and we will deeply miss him in our community.  I, for one, have been truly blessed to know Dell and I have come to love and respect him as a brother in Christ and a friend.  He can call me any day, at any time and I will do whatever I can to help him.  That is the mark of a man.

And so….what next?  What on earth will we do with our ministry to Carver?  What will change?  Nothing.  We will proceed along with a passion and heart that would serve Dell proud.  Our ministry wasn’t about Dell – it was and always will be about these young men and now, perhaps more than ever, we have a great opportunity to come alongside them as mentors, role models and friends.

The banquet for Carver is on March 23 and we need about 75 men to work it.  Now is a great time to StepUP and show these young men how much we care for them.

thanks Dell.  you truly do LiveUP!



ManSchool Week 3 – The Heart is Central

We had another good session this morning and two more men joined us.  If you have not had a chance to come, we want you to give it a try next week.  If you have signed up and not yet attended and now think “It is too late”, you are wrong.  Come join us.  This is really good material and the men are engaging in the process.  Rich community is being formed.  We want you to plug in.

I read this today from John Eldredge’s daily emails – “At some point, we all face the same decision – what will we do with the arrows we’ve known?  Maybe a better way to say it is, what have they tempted us to do?  However they come to us, whether through a loss we experience as abandonment or some deep violation we fell as abuse, their message is always the same: Kill your heart.  Divorce it.  Neglect it.  Run from it or indulge it with some anesthetic (our various addictions).  Think of how you’ve handled the affliction that has pierced your own heart.  How did the arrows come to you?  Where did they land?  Are they still there?  What have you done as a result?”

All of us have our wounds and arrows.  Most men have walled off their hearts usually from some long lost hurt we’ve suffered.  Do you remember your first love?  Do you remember the sting of her breaking up with you?  How about your Dad?  Is there a deep hurt there that you’ve walled off?  Has a good friend betrayed your trust?

All of these things pierce our hearts and we move to protect the heart even if that means we have to become cold, rational, mathematical creatures proceeding along without any emotions or feelings.

Christ came to liberate you and your heart.  He came that you might regain your heart and He wants to restore you.  He did not come so that you would spend the rest of your life condemned as just a “sinner saved by grace” despising your wicked, wicked heart.  No. He came to give you life and abundant life…now, in this life…today.

Here are the slides from today

Waking the Dead 3

ManSchool Waking the Dead week 2

We had another good session of ManSchool today with 40+ men (slides from this morning are below).  If you are not coming to ManSchool, it is not too late to join us.  Something special is happening among the men of our Church and we think you will be blessed to engage in this process with us.

In the middle of these notes, I reference my daughters.  Let me tell you what I shared with the men this morning.  I can give you some facts in a 1+1=2 formula and you take that in and move on.  Or, I can tell you the story around those facts and draw you deeply into the reality.

Many operate oblivious to the big story going on around them – life is just tough and then you die.  But they miss why its tough, they miss the battle and just let life beat them down through heartaches and disappointments until they reach the conclusion that they are pretty much a disappointment to God or else God is holding out on them.

This whole book is about the “bigger story” going on around us.  So in that context, I can give you facts and you’ll probably just move on – or – if your heart grasps hold of what is really going on, it can change your life.

So back to my daughters – 1+1=2 – these are my daughters, here they are.  That’s a fact, that’s nice, now move on.

But if I share with you the “bigger story”, I can take you deeply into what God was really doing.  I grew up in a great home, very blessed with financially well-off parents and two older brothers.  I attended Brookstone and lived in Green Island.  Being at Brookstone, sports was a huge part of our lives.  Both my brothers were good athletes and the coaches had high hopes for me.  The only question was “just how good an athlete is he is going to be?”  I had visions of playing a key role on the football, basketball and baseball teams (at Brookstone, the good athletes play all 3).  Funny how we just assume things will go in our lives.

At 14, through a series of vivid, powerful, scary dreams, I became aware of the “bigger picture”, aware of the battle and very aware that we have an enemy and a Lord who fights powerfully for us.  Through all this, I became a Christian.

At 14, something else radical happened with me, I stopped growing.  At 15, I looked like I was 12.  At 16, I had to disguise my voice at drive-ins and answering the phone out of fear they’d mistake me for a girl or my Mom.  I graduated being 5 feet 6 inches tall weighing 140-150 pounds.  I was chubby and very out of place.  I did not go into puberty.  You can imagine what life was like for me as an aspiring athlete.  I didn’t date.  I had friends but spent most of my weekends at home with my parents.  It kept me out of a lot of trouble and I helped start a Bible study for kids at Brookstone.  So God was moving and working.

You can also imagine how many times I cried out “Why me?” and “What are you doing God???”  He was doing something.

At college, I started testosterone treatments and quickly went into puberty and gradually became “normal”.  I met Shannon after college and we married.

Now, as a part of my syndrome, I could not father children.  We tried in-vitro but it didn’t work and so we proceeded with adoption.  In 1993 (almost to my 30th birthday), a precious 2-day old baby girl named Hannah was placed in my arms as my daughter.  3 years later, Lucy came home.  As it turned out due to some health issues of her own, Shannon probably couldn’t have carried a child either or if she could have, it would have been very rough.  We didn’t know that when we got married but we see that now.  God orchestrated that just as He orchestrates everything in this universe.  HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING.  We have to trust.

We were talking on Sunday and telling stories and remembering how when Lucy was a chubby cheeked 2 year-old, she would come up to us, put our face between her little hands and say “I found you!”  She asked the other day, “Why did I say that?” and we said it was her way of saying she loved us.

But what she was really saying is “I found you“.  This little soul out there wandering, looking for a Mama and a Daddy “found us”.

THAT is what God was doing and it took me 16-20 years from start to finish to finally figure out what was going on, to finally understand why He plucked me off a “certain” path to divert me onto a radically different path for my life.

Men, something grand and mysterious and powerful is going on all around us.  There is a big story.  There is a war.  You have a role to play and God is moving and orchestrating mighty things.  We can tune it out, remain in the fog, play the game and hope we can retire with a nice nest egg and a peaceful life – or – we can choose to radically seek Him and step into the Wardrobe and into Narnia.

Will you?  LiveUP!

Waking the Dead 2

in the world but not “of” the world…

Andy Stanley has a fantastic series on money on his website under the media tab

We’ll be addressing money and marriage at the marriage retreat and will pull a lot from this series.  Each segment is 30 minutes long and you can watch it online or download them to your iPod.  I highly encourage you, as men, to watch these.  Money is a HUGE issue in marriages and this is an area where men need to StepUP and lead.

In this series, Andy talks about how he was invited to speak at the prayer ceremony for the inauguration.  They told all the priests, pastors and clerics to come dressed as they’d dress in their realms.  Andy wears blue jeans every day and preaches in jeans.  OK, that won’t work.  So the next question was, “What will we wear”.  Andy went and bought a conservative suit and tie (I guess he didn’t own one).  Then his wife, Sandra, had to tackle what she would wear.  She does not own a dress – only owns 2 skirts and one of those she wears as she visits the tribes in Africa.  OK, that won’t do either.  So she set out shopping for an outfit to wear.

First observation – I love Andy’s transparency.  They just don’t have nice clothes.  They live pretty simply and they aren’t hung up about it.  They are very comfortable in their own street clothes.  They aren’t using clothing to impress.  I also love his almost child-like honesty about going in front of the President, Vice-President, members of Congress and the Supreme Court…plus, all those other religious leaders.  Once they were there, he was talking to one of the other religious leaders and asked her what her role was and she said, “I’m the Bishop” and Andy said, “Bishop of what?”  She replied, “I am the Bishop of the Episcopal Church of America” and he said all the other leaders looked at him like he was an idiot.  That high-church, who’s who hierarchy just isn’t the circle he travels in.  That’s refreshing.  He simply isn’t caught up in keeping up.

So Sandra goes shopping and can’t find anything.  The next day he calls her and she says she found the perfect suit – it looked great, fit great and she felt good in it.  “Where are you?” he asked.  “Neiman Marcus” she replied.  While he’d never shopped at Neiman Marcus (but he did walk through there one time because it was the quickest way into the mall), he knew enough to know “uh oh”.  And then Sandra said, “And I just that second looked at the price tag.  It’s $3,000”.

All kinds of things raced through Andy’s mind like maybe she can wear it and take it back – or – maybe we can sell it on eBay as a suit worn to the inaugural prayer ceremony – or – “I’ll be a good husband and if she really needs that…” and then Sandra said, “As soon as I saw that price tag, I knew.  I knew there is no way I could spend that money when I think about those kids in the orphanage in Africa and imagined what good that $3,000 could do in their lives.”

So here are two people surrounded by members of their church that are extremely well-off even by American standards and they just aren’t caught up in the “world”.  They are in the world – daily – living, working, ministering but they aren’t “of” the world.  They are not drowning in this need to “keep up”.  You see their hearts coming though.  You see almost an innocence to their lifestyle.  He’s never been in a Neiman Marcus.  She doesn’t even own a dress.  He wears blue jeans to work every day.  He doesn’t know the “must-knows” in the major demoninations.  And you see their heart for true need.  The true need isn’t “my” looking good, “my” flat panel TV, “my” new car, “my” luxury vacation, “my” new iPhone…

The true need is the great commission.  The true need is the 2 billion people on this planet living on $2 a day – that’s less than an order of Chick-Fil-A large fries.  The true need is the kids dying from a lack of clean drinking water.  And all of these needs open the door to share the Gospel with a lost world desperate in their need for a Savior.

I thought this story was refreshing, enlightening and encouraging.  LiveUP!

ManSchool week one – notes

We had 43 men at ManSchool on Wednesday.  About 10 other men signed up but were unable to join us.  So this is 50+ men and we are very excited about what God is going to do.

We covered the first chapter.  It’s an easy read and covers a lot of what we went through last fall.  Next week, we go into chapter 2.  The first chapter was easy but chapter 2 is work.  It is deep.  If you just blow through this chapter, you’ll have a hard time getting what John is trying to convey and the message is rich.  So take your time, underline, highlight, write in the margins…dig deep and see if God will speak to your heart through this chapter.

I read this quote when we started and it sums up chapter 1…

“As believers, we say we understand that there is a great battle between the kingdoms – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.  Be we actually live as if we were civilians and believe the battle to be an unthreatening distance away.  And so we have made our mission about the quality of our lives and the controlling of external factors.  We have made our lives about being on a vacation cruise liner, rather than about realizing we are on a battleship heading toward a great message.”  From It’s Your Call by Gary Barkalow

Here are the slides from chapter 1.  I love all you guys…

Waking the Dead 1