Be ‘The One’

In 1999, Warner Brothers released The Matrix, an American science fiction classic. The story tackles philosophy, sociology, technology, and spirituality; but for today’s drawing we’ll focus in on one aspect; “The One”. In the movie, Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo (Keanu Reeves), is a human living in the Matrix and working as a hacker. He is totally unaware that what he perceives as reality is nothing more than a computer projection created by artificial intelligent machines that took over the planet. A band of rebel humans who escaped the Matrix break Neo back into reality to join their rebellion. The leader of this band believes Neo to be “The One”, the human prophesied as coming to defeat the computers. In the climactic image above, Neo reaches a point of self-realization. He embraces his place in reality and finally grasps the ability to control and manipulate the Matrix to battle the machines. The attitude of embracing one’s place and stepping up to fill your position is at the heart of today’s installment of Man School.

The Matrix is unquestionably a guy flick; technological warfare, big machines, and guns galore. In the climactic scene, Neo stops a flurry of bullets racing toward him by raising his hand. He then defeats the lead villain by diving into his chest and shattering the simulated body into a cloud of computer code. Why guy doesn’t want to cheer and chest-bump his friends when the computer-generated walls start flexing in correlation with Neo’s breathing?! Neo became “The One” by conquering his fears and embracing his position, out of willingness to sacrifice as much as physical ability. Men, we need to step up and be “The One” for our families.

God, our father, provides us guys with an example to follow in fatherhood; a position to embrace. When it comes to fathering us, God is patient (1 Timothy 1:16), He is forgiving when we screw up (Ephesians 1:7, Isaiah 43:25), and his relationship to us is intimate (Luke 15:20, 1 John 3:1, Psalm 68:4). At the core of all these attitudes is love. Men who step up an embrace the role of fatherhood by reflecting God to his children become their hero. Embrace these characteristics with your wife also and you will be “The One” to your family.

1 Corinthians 16:13

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong

Be ‘The One’

Where Are You?

We’re in the second week of our new series at North Ridge, “Man School”. We started out rather poetically, introducing the study of what manhood really entails on Father’s Day. I missed the first message with my own ironic twist, my wife and I welcomed home our third child, a boy, the day before. “Man School” started on Father’s Day with my becoming a father for the third time, making me ‘Dad’ to three boys. To add icing on the cake, before leaving for the Ridge this morning, I helped my oldest construct a light saber out of a 1″ dowel rod and a conduit coupler! (insert a hearty Tim Allen man grunt here) Upon meeting his new brother, Noah (5) promoted our two-year old, Jacob to a “Padawan”, day old Micah took Jacob’s place as the “Youngling”, meaning Noah is now a “Jedi Knight”. (For those of you whose children are not Star Wars fanatics, those are the introductory ranks to become a Jedi Master) Like any good Jedi, Noah had to build his own lightsaber. The local Army/Navy Surplus store does not carry lightsaber parts (to Noah’s disappointment), so I convinced him a wooden dowel with some electrical components would be sufficient. Noah earned the 10″ dowel rod with the coupler, because it looks most like Luke Skywalker’s, Jacob saber is just another 10″ dowel segment, because “he’s just in training”. I love my boys!

Now back to the point…or, as Noah would quote from episode IV, “Stay on target”, Man School. Dean, the lead pastor at North Ridge, posted a status update on his facebook page last week: “The essence of masculinity is responsibility.” The podcast for the Father’s Day message had not posted yet, so I went out on a limb and ran with this quote for the first drawing the series, a depiction of taking responsiblity (emphasis on ‘taking’)

I realized during the sermon this morning, Dean’s quote led directly into week two’s message. The focus of today’s message was a man’s responsibility in his family, some men embrace their place in the home well, others not so much. The atmosphere within the home depends on the man’s involvement, and the level at which he is involved is clear in the mannerism of the family. Absentee fathers and husbands is a plague eating away at the cornerstone of our nation, the only remedy is men deciding to once again be men. Absenteeism is not only a physical problem, a man may be physically present in the home, but mentally, emotionally, or influentially absent.

We began the day’s message by reading an excerpt of the creation story in Genesis 1, beginning in verse 26. Up to this verse, God has created the universe and added details of water, vegetation, and all species of animals; save one. The earth was created, now it required someone to tend to it, an able groundskeeper. With that, God created Adam and gave him authority over the rest of creation. Then came Eve, to help Adam “fill and subdue” the earth. We read on in chapter 2; after taking a day off to relax, God places Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, the oasis of all creation. Outside of this immaculate acreage, creation is chaotic and untamed. Eden is God’s example to Adam and Eve for what He wants them to do with the rest of the earth. Imagine God saying to them, “See how beautiful and lush this garden is? Take everything else I’ve created and make it like this.”

Men need a task to be happy, without something to build, something to grow, a competition to win, an apprentice to train men become bored and disconnect. God gave Adam the mission of cultivating the earth and maximizing its full potential, the epitome of manly-man tasks! Eve’s responsibility? Help Adam fulfill his responsibilities by procreation (be fruitful and multiply Gen. 1:28) and assisting Adam any other way possible to care for the planet. The only specific instruction God gave to both NOT to do is eat fruit from the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2:17). Consuming its fruit would ultimately result in death. Finally, at the end of chapter 2, God officiates the first marriage, presenting Adam and Eve to each other as one creation.

We read on in chapter 3 the account of what is known as “the fall”, the commission of the first sin. A talking serpent tickles Eve’s curiosity and convinces her to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge. Countless jokes have spawned from her decision. Eve’s choice sent the world into a tailspin we have yet to recover from; or did she? Yes, she blatantly disobeyed God’s requirement not to eat the fruit from that tree. Where was Adam when the serpent was seducing his wife? Right beside her. Genesis 3:6, Eve took of the tree’s fruit, ate it, and gave some to her husband. There is no pause between eating the fruit and Adam taking a piece, it is immediately consecutive, meaning Adam must has been right beside her. Adam committed the first sin of omission by keeping his mouth shut as his wife was fed the lies that led to her fall. This makes Adam the first absentee husband.

Men are leaders of their household, either by their presence or their absence. Some men cave to being the “cool dad” and their lack of disciplined leadership creates chaos. Others go to the opposite extreme and lead as iron fist dictators, making their family cower in submissive fear. Neither are the Biblical model. Men and women are created equal, but different. Dean made a statement today that I will take with me through this adventure called fatherhood, “Men dominate the lives of their families, for good or evil.”Equally important elements to the success of creation, different roles in creating that success.

Today’s Man School lesson, be involved, influence positively, lead boldly. Be there.

I have titled today’s drawing “Where Are You?”, a question the image poses to every father. The drawing is a universal family portrait. It is a family of three, the youngest child a baby, to reflect my family and remind myself of my place in the day’s lesson. The mother and children are shaded with details as if the drawing is the beginning of a commissioned family portrait. The father, however, is an empty space surrounded by dashed lines. One could read this like a cut-out template for a paper doll or the outlined space waiting for a sticker in a children’s puzzle magazine. Either way, the family is incomplete with the father figure being a gaping hole, desperate to be filled. With that haunting of emptiness, I pose the question to you father’s, where are you?

Me? I’m writing today’s post on a laptop in my La-Z-Boy recliner, typing with one hand, supporting a one-week old with the other, encouraging the older two to clean up their toys in the play room (it works sometimes), then on to the kitchen to prepare supper so Julie can relax on the couch and read a book before tonight’s cycle of feeding, diapers, baby rocking, and a day of caring for all three while I work tomorrow.

Whoops! I have a diaper to change. See you next week! Be there.

Noah, Jacob and Micah

The Ball and Chain

“The old ball and chain” is a phrase that originated in the twentieth century, slang terminology for a man’s wife who held him back from doing what he wanted to do. The phrase is referring to a shackling device used in Europe in the 19th century. Not exactly what comes to mind from the happily ever after, fairy-tale imagery served up by Disney! Either extreme is attainable, it all depends on where our focus lies.

In the first week of ‘How to Wreck Your Life’, we  asked the question, “What if the most dangerous things are the good things?” Week two draws our focus in a little tighter and poses the question, what happens when we make marriage an idol? People who idolize marriage base who they want on superficial attraction alone, neglecting to hash out some obviously important details (i.e. do you want kids?, where will we live?, what about God?) and ignoring rad flags before saying their vows. Or perhaps some issues do come up, instead of taking care of the problem (even if that means ending the relationship) people think “I can change them”. When you’re at this point, the idea of being married has been placed on such a high pedestal that it doesn’t matter who or what you’re married to, as long as there’s a ring on your finger. Then when reality hits home, you’re ‘happily ever after’ has turned into a life sentence!

So what’s the right way to do it? One of my favorite quotes from the study we’re leading in our small group is this; “Marriage isn’t about finding the right person, it’s about doing the right things.” In other words, throw the ideas you have about a ‘soul mate’ or finding ‘the one’ out the window; they’re no more real than Cinderella’s carriage. Be the kind of person someone would want to marry! I’ll go a step further and give you the secret to doing this. Focus on God number one, be the kind of person the Bible teaches us to be:

Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Do you want a “ball and chain”? Make getting married your goal in life. Do you want an amazing marriage? Take a hint from the one who invented it; love God first, then let go of what you want and love people selflessly. Everything else will fall into place.

Words

Between the driving, the turkey, seeing family and old friends, I did not create a new sketch last weekend. I did, however, come across the image below via my Google+ feed, posted by extremely talented and incomparable photographer Jeremy Cowart. He captioned it with this; “I have no idea who created this image. But good grief, it’s powerful.”

In the first glimpse, this image exploded into my visual cortex and took hold of my psyche like a black ops team storming an enemy hideout. Many will sympathize with the young boy depicted here; few are brave enough to admit relating to the hand around his neck. The boy is being choked by a hand with hurtful, degrading language its flesh. Hate-filled words are the Botulinum toxin to the emotional health of a child. The consequences of poorly selected vocabulary and the tone in which we speak are indistinguishable. “I love you” served with a contemptuous disposition will emotionally disembowel a person as efficiently as “I hate you”. Imperative to nurturing our relationships is understanding the trauma caused by reckless words is not limited by one’s age. Even the elderly war veteran, with skin like a rhinoceros, can sustain mortal wounds from a verbal hand grenade. After the smoke has cleared, emotional lacerations left by a mouthful of jagged shrapnel do not heal quickly or easily.

Each of us has a monster living inside. Some have successfully executed the beast, cautiously watching for its resurrection. In some, it lives as a caged animal; controlled but alive, patiently waiting for an opportunity to escape. Still others allow it to roam free. This creature is a gluttonous carnivore with an unquenchable appetite for authority. The insatiable need to be right, the ravenous drive to be dominant, that is our predator. Voracious pride is a beast that thrives on inciting emotionally charged confrontations and cloaks itself in the skin of its virtuous doppelgänger, confidence. Confidence educates and inspires, pride dictates and intimidates. Confidence is the catalyst for progress, pride is an obstruction that fortifies itself against divergence. Failing to conquer the beast sows acres of contempt that metastasizes into harvests of regret.

Be well aware of the words you use, the way you convey them, and your objective for using them. Then confirm they were received as you intend, accepting responsibility and rectifying the situation if they were not. Communicate calmly and carefully because life doesn’t come with auto-correct.

Embrace

‘Embrace’ started out as a collage of ink studies of twisted and knotted paper completed as an assignment in course early in my college career.  I mounted my favorite examples of this work onto a 30×40 mounting board, beginning the journey of ‘Embrace’. At first, I was not sure what, if anything, else I would do with this piece. I simply called the piece ‘Knots’ and left it propped against our bedroom wall where I would see it every morning, hoping I’d awake with some revelation that would turn it into a masterpiece! The revelation ended up not coming from me, but from my wife Julie when she was looking at with a somewhat confused expression. She later admitted she was pondering “why did he draw all those people tangle up in their sheets?” Just the inspiration for this piece I was waiting for!

The images of twisted paper knots became two things becoming one, being tied or twisted together each one holding the other. Instead of paper knots, I saw two figures dancing together, two hands grasping each other in cooperation, the passionate embrace of two lovers, and yes, two people tangled in their sheets! Three pastel drawings over these knots represent those interpretations, the passionate kiss in the top left, a loving embrace from behind in the bottom left, and two feet caressing each other in the bottom right.

The image in the top right makes another twist on the idea of the knots. This drawing is taken from a picture in our wedding album, Julie’s hand over mine, showing off our new commitment newly traded rings. This is a reference to the concept of ‘tying the knot’, as marriage is sometimes referred to.

Each of the images drawn of to this page are actions that ‘tie the knot’ between two people a little tighter; a passionate kiss, a surprise embrace from behind, gentle, vulnerable pillow talk after a night of romance, as well as the public vow of faithfulness. Each make our “embrace” a little closer, a little stronger, and secure its lasting presence.