Thursday, April 20, 2006

Watching the Moon's Phases

A remarkable thing about the Bible is its gritty reality. When people screw up it shows: Abraham let his wife go off with Pharaoh because he was afraid... David commited adultery and murder... Peter denied he knew who Jesus was.

The Bible isn’t filled with simple commands, aphorisms, and cleaned up stories. Sometimes the tales move past PG-13 into an “R” rating.

The characters are not archetypes of perfection. They are three dimensional people, characters we recognize, personalities which we know, we have met in our own lives.

I particularly like Peter. He didn’t do things in half measures. He saw Jesus walking beneath the stars on the Sea of Galilee and ran out to meet Him. He promises to stay with Jesus to his death. He jumps in, all the way. When they went to crucify this passionate follower of the Messiah he told them he didn’t deserve a death like our Lord’s. So they crucified him upside down.

I picture this big guy with the huge heart doing everything in his life in a big way. When he denied he knew Jesus, his shame, his fear and anguish is almost tangible.

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept. --Mark 14:71-72

Picture this big fisherman, this rough fisherman, face in his hands, shoulders shaking in deep sobs.

Peter had passion.

Once a month I get together with some guys. We pass peanuts and cookies around a campfire and talk. We share our lives, our concerns, our growth and challenges and we hold each other up in prayer. Sometimes we show our dedication to each other by loaning a pickup truck or lending a hand on some project. We meet once a week to pray, and we meet once a month to talk around a campfire.

I call it our Moon Howlin’ Night. Once a month we look at the stars, watch the moon glide slowly overhead... and we talk. We joke, we question, we wonder...

A year ago one of us asked a question:

“Do you guys find, as you get older, that you haven’t as much passion about things as you used to?”

We offered different answers, but the matter didn’t seem fully answered. So last night I asked it again (it is great to have a group of buddies which meets so regularly we can pick up a topic a year later).

The answers to the question still wandered around a bit. I guess the guys are chewing it over. It’s a tricky question. I don’t think our passions wax and wan like the moon that passes overhead each month. Quite the reverse. I think our passions are more focussed than ever before. They don’t jump quickly from one thing of great important to another.

One of us put it this way: “I think I am more selective about what I get passionate about.”

When one is twenty or twenty-five it is easy to be passionate about everything. Everything is important, everything is critical.

So what is the passion like for men at age 50 (give or take a few)?

We are passionate about our families, that is certain. We love our kids (and grand kids for one of us). We love our wives, and protect them with our prayers and our lives.

We are passionate about particular interests (music, work, our craft...).

We are passionate about our Lord.

Every one of us. We don’t go to church and leave our faith behind at the end of the service. I know these guys. We don’t just do church. We are church.

We place our shoulders to the work of our church and push, daily, weekly,monthly, yearly.


This is starting to sound a little self-aggrandizing. Let me set aside my writerly voice for a moment and lay something out clearly:

We are screw ups. All of us. After all we are human beings. We know we are imperfect. We know we cannot be the icons of perfection that people think church goers should be, need to be. But we want to be obedient to our Lord

That is one reason we get together.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
--Proverbs 27:17

We get together so there is a place where there isn’t any posturing (maybe a little, but it’s all in good fun). We get together so we can be honest with each other. We get together to hold each other accountable to our vows, our promises, our aspirations.

And we do more than kick the burning logs tighter into the dying fire. We fan each other’s flames, build up each others’ passions.

We ask each other tough questions (and dumb ones). We laugh together, and wonder together, and wander from topic to topic together, even when the topics span a dozen moons. We watch the moon go through its phases, just as we watch our lives go through their phases.

It is true we get tired sometimes, jobs, families, hobbies, and, of course, church, requires a lot of us.

But there I can talk about my passions. I can talk of how the burning of our church by my son makes me feel... I can describe the last moments of my first child’s life... I can talk about how it feels to me to mix prayer and painting, and what goes on in my heart when I worship.

We don’t do these things because we think we are doing good deeds which make us worthy in some way. For we aren’t worthy. We are all much less than the men God planned us to be had there not been that fall from grace... a grace He gives us once again.

But we try. Not in the spirit of earning anything, of deserving anything, but in the simple recognition that we are grateful for what He has done and we want to please Him.

And it is simply easier to please Him when we link arms and move forward together.


Anonymous said...

this reminded me of my cell group. each of us have different cross to carry but we meet up to encourage and pray for each other. the men even goes to market together on sundays. even if sometimes life's pressing us down hard, we can count on each other to be there for help.

much like our blogger friends. we may not know each other personally but we all love God and we willingly pray for anyone in need. feels more like family.

Joe said...

"We don’t just do church. We are church."

That is one of the most important lessons a "church member" can learn.


jel said...

Morning CS,

you have a great day!

David said...

Don't have time to sit and read and study what you wrote as my time is extremely limited until next weekend. But thanks for your kind words and prayers.

jollybeggar said...

john eldredge has so much to say on this 'man's man' passion thing that i'm just gonna say:

read Eldredge's 'WILD AT HEART'
ISBN 0-7852-6694-1

it's an amazing read for any man or any women who wants to understand men in a spiritual way.

you know, i just typed the above sentence and caught myself wondering how many women would actually read the book?

please don't put me in a box yet... let me explain: if someone were to say 'hey men, if you want to truly understand women in a spiritual way then read this book' and then recommended some book with flowers on the cover (i know it's a stereotype, but 'wild at heart' has stereotypical adventure-boy art on the cover, so i think the example is okay) i wonder how many men would blast over to and order their own $27 copy?

the sad reality is that, as a species, we often settle for less-than-deep relationships with members of either gender, being satisfied with knowing the mere surface of another.

even more tragic is that we also settle for a surface-level relationship with God... recognizing without relating, acknowledging without accepting, keeping him at an armslength rather than entering into an embrace.

can't say that about peter. he appeared to be up to his knees in things for better or for worse, and definately for keeps. although he was regularly put in his place by the Lord, it was in loving preparation for all that God intended to do through him later.

interesting how we always picture peter as this big guy. i mean, his character is huge and his actions and words are those of a man with great physical confidence, but isn't it just like us to equate size with power?

hey whatever- it's just been a long time and i wanted to say hello. thanks for your prayers and your words of encouragement over the last month. still living- still loving as best i can by the grace of God for his glory, yeah?


men of adventure- peter, judas, bobby clarke...

Mark D said...

There is a wealth of wisdom and maturity in your post. Having peers who we regularly meet with and to whom we are accountable is sooooo valuable...and so necessary. I want people in my life (and have them) who love me but also challenge me to continue to grow. Those who don't hesitate to tell me if they think I am erroring in attitude, words, deeds, or direction.

I wholeheartedly agree with Joe (and you) about "We don't just do church. We are church." So many of us - me included - need to move over into an active, participatory mode instead of the passive spectator type.

I have been thinking much about Peter lately and will probably post on him in the near future.

Great post!

jel said...

CS, I'm glad that you can do that,
that would be wonderful, to have some friends like that, to talk!

Lillee said...

I'm a passionate person, but sometimes life wears me down and I lose all passion. It's almost like a cycle. It's important not to become stale.

An Ordinary Christian said...

Some things I am less passionate about - like skiing down too difficult runs, like wanting to hang glide, like thinking that maybe I should buy a gun. But otherways I am more passionate. I think that I am more sold out to Jesus Christ than I was in the past. More patient to see Him in in the shapes of the clouds, the trees, the weather. More joy is inside of me because He has hid Himself deep into the crevasses of my life.

Becky said...

What is church curious servant?

Ame said...

Jollybegger - Waking the Dead is also a great book by Eldridge . . . and Captivating by John and Stasi (his wife) Eldridge is written just for women.

CS - WOW . . . there really are men out there who hold each other accountable???!!! Never loose sight of the need for each other . . . drop every other committment in your life before you let even one man slip out of your group. You can live without all the other extra committments apart from family, but you cannot live fully for God without this group holding you up because they hold you accountable.

At the beginning of a very difficult journey quite a few years ago, I was wisely advised to gather a group of godly women around me to pray for me, to hold me up, and to hold me accountable . . . I did . . . and they did . . . and I would never have made it to where I am without them.

Of all the many different sides of your integrity and character you have revealed in your writing, that you have this group of men with whom you meet regularly and pray, are honest, and hold each other accountable - this gains the most respect from me.

jollybeggar said...

thanks ame
i did read 'waking...' and found it to be powerfully enlightening- especially since it didn't carry with it the same 'boys club' tone that appears here and there in the 'wild' book.

i will search out the collaborative piece 'captivating'... sounds interesting!

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