One For The Ladies: Advice on Dudes!

FIRST: Don’t call them “dudes.” They hate…wait, no they don’t. “Dude” is totally cool. So is “Man.” And “chucklehead.” Guys really don’t care all that much. We call each other really creative, disgusting, and generally quite endearing terms like, “Spud,” “Buttface,” and “Goober” all the time. So call us whatever you want.

Oorrrrr…maybe not. So, hold up. Let’s back things up a bit. I maayyy be a little off base on this one. And here’s why.

Ladies, what you think, and what you say…(hold on…write this one down)…really does matter to him.  How you see him, what he sees reflected in your eyes when you look at him has a powerful impact.  You have a level of power and influence over the heart of your big, strong man that defies all reason.  If a man has given his heart to you, he has shown a level of vulnerability and trust to you that he has very likely shown no other human being on this planet. And that’s something you reaaaally need to think about.

It’s a lot of responsibility. Wait…what?! That’s right. Your husband, your father, even your son has made a choice, taken a step to entrust to you his most valuable and guarded possession: his heart.

And For The Record: men do not do this easily. They do not do it lightly. They do not do it for just anyone. Why?  Because it is dangerous for us. That’s right.  Dangerous.  And it’s a scary thing.

Ladies, you are emotional creatures. By God’s wonderful design you see things and feel things and intuit things that leave a man scratching his head in wonder.  You’ve done it your whole life.  You’ve dealt with the highs and the lows and the aches and the joys of life with an openness and readiness and simple awareness that in most cases just isn’t part of the experience of the average dude out there. Not to say that he can’t see these things, can’t experience them the way you do, but it doesn’t have the same sense of something-come-naturally that it does to you. So, here’s the thing…

Guys don’t operate in the realm of the emotional on a day-to-day basis like you do.  This does not make them broken, this does not make them defective…it makes them “men.”

This does NOT, however, mean that men don’t actually feel these things. But if you hear nothing else, if you retain nothing else I say here, hear this: Men simply do not allow themselves to reveal that aspect of who and what they are to the world because…IT  IS  NOT SAFE for them to do so!

We live in a world that will chew you up and spit you out sometimes. Men are shown how to achieve, how to build. It is our nature. We are drawn to it.  We want to climb it, to build it, to shape it and mold it and exert dominion over it. It’s how we are wired.

And it comes with a cost. Most men are not cruel. Most men are not evil. But most men live in a world that requires a kind of strength and drive and self-possession that has little room for softness, for indecision, for anything that doesn’t involve moving on to the next task to complete, the next obstacle to overcome. And, sometimes, it just really sucks.

But here’s the caveat: we are men…but we are also still God’s creations. We are still emotional beings with every aspect of who and what God is written into our very DNA.  We still need to feel it. We still need to experience it, to share it, and to confide in someone those struggles that we face every. single. day, but can’t allow ourselves to show to anyone else.

To anyone else, except…for you.

You are our refuge. You are the place to which we retreat from a world that demands so much of us that it takes every ounce of what we have to face it all. And when we run out of gas, when we’ve given it all and have nothing left…we come home to you.

So..the question then becomes….what do we come home…to?

Is it a safe place? Is it a place that says, lay down your armor, lay down your sword, for a while the battle is over, and you have come home to a place of comfort and of refuge?

Or…is it something else?

Ladies, I tell you this with the utmost confidence, and with the utmost sincerity, and with all the fervent prayer I can muster, that your man, your husband, your father, your brother, whoever he is, he will move heaven and earth for you…if you give him a safe place to come home to afterwards.

Men are simple creatures. We really aren’t that complex. We want such simple things.

We want your respect. We want your admiration. We want your trust. And more than anything else…we want to know that what we do for you matters.  Even if we do it wrong.

Whaaaaat?!Wait..WHAAAAT?!?! Yes. You heard me. Even if we did it wrong.  You sent us to the store for milk. And we got whole milk instead of skim. Should we have listened better to the instructions? Sure. (see previous post, guys). But we got you MILK!! Ha HAAA! VIC-TO-RY! (this is the part where you swoon and toss us your handkerchief).

And so now you face…The Decision®.  Your girlfriend would have known what you wanted, right? Heck, she can all but read your mind.  She would just know, and she would get it right AND remember the two other things you forgot to ask her to get as well!  Hmmph!

So do you let him have it with both barrels because he FORGOT! And how hard could it BE?! He NEVER listens and you ALWAYS have to……

See where this is going?  Now instead of lacy hankies and batted eyelashes he gets…the business end of the dragon.

So here’s the newsflash, ladies: MEN.  CAN.  NOT.  READ.  YOUR.  MIND.  No, I mean it. Stop laughing. I’m being serious here. No, this is not a joke. Guys will get you exactly what you asked for. Usually. Mostly. And that’s it. We are task oriented. We fulfill requirements. That intuition thing? Wroooong set of chromosomes.

You have to actually tell us things. Sometimes more than once. Especially if the TV is on. It’s just the way things are.  This is not a defect, though it may seem that way.  And you need to plan accordingly.

And that’s where the safety part comes in, where you make the choice to make it safe, and KEEP it safe. He has to be allowed to fail. He has to be allowed to be human. And vulnerable. And imperfect. Because if he can’t do it with you, it’s entirely possible that there’s nowhere else in the world that he can.  And that’s a tough situation for anyone to face.

Here’s another newsflash: it’s hard for men to feel vulnerable. I know, shocking, right?! It runs counter to everything we see and hear and face, every day. So we want to know that we can trust you with our heart, and that you will love us enough to let us be less than perfect.

I know it’s hard. I know that it can take everything you have to step back, take that deep breath….aaaand another deep breath, aaaand maybe even another one…and then make the choice to love him enough to let his heart be more important than your agenda. Your plan.

So you smile, you kiss him, you say thank you, and you put whole milk in the recipe and pick up the skim milk on the way home from dropping the kids off at daycare tomorrow.

Why? Because — and listen closely here — he didn’t do it on purpose. Yes, he could have done it better.  Yes, he could have listened more closely, and maybe it feels to you like he just didn’t care. But ladies, I am here to tell you, it just isn’t true.

His failure to perform the task you wanted in the manner you expected has no bearing on his love for you.

Let me say that again: His failure to perform the task you wanted in the manner you expected has no bearing on his love for you.

And so….it should have no bearing on your love for him.  Men make mistakes. Women make mistakes. But we can make a choice, every day, minute by minute, situation by situation, victory by victory, mistake by mistake…to love the person anyway.

To realize that that may very well be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. And then to do it anyway. Again. And again. And again. Because folks, ladies, gents, when it really comes down to it, that’s what love is.

A choice.

One For The Guys: Advice on Chicks!

First: Don’t call them chicks. They hate that. (Unless you’re in Australia, in which case I guess it’s cool).

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, how can a guy who lives alone, with a divorce under his belt be qualified to lecture ME about how to deal with ch…er, women?!”

Who better to talk about the dangers of drinking than a recovering alcoholic, right?

(Hmmm…miiiight not be the best comparison.)

Actually, the thing is, the best way I can think of to give you advice on how to deal with women…is to give you advice on how to deal with yourself.

We live in a time of crisis. An identity crisis. Women are bombarded with messages about how they should act, who they should be, what they should look like, what values they should hold. Radical feminists set one standard, old-school fundamentalists set another. It can be confusing, frustrating, and downright demoralizing. Women are criticized by the Frothing Fems for staying at home with the kids because it denies them their right to spend 60 hours a week fighting their way up the corporate ladder only to suffer a heart attack at age 53 like us dudes. Or they are criticized by The Traditionalists if they forego starting a family in favor getting that PHD because, I dunno, reasons.

So, guys, I ask…do they really need to be getting the same thing from you?

God made women as women, and men as men. Guys..,women are not a mistake. Ladies…men are not a mistake. They are not this crazy broken thing that you have to fix.  We are two parts of a whole. Two pieces of a mechanism designed to work together. And — IMPORTANT NOTE (write this one down):

WE  ARE   DIFFERENT.  Let me let that sink in a bit.  Kind of ground-breaking stuff here, I know.

We are both engineered to perform exactly the way we do. The man piece and the woman piece fit together because we are designed to.  Not just sexually, but emotionally. Spiritually.  So here’s where I get into the “advice to guys” part.

Okay guys, so…..wait…turn off the game. (You. Over there. Yes you. The boss fight will wait. Yes, yes, I know, you were in the queue for this dungeon for, like, 20 minutes. Trust me. This is more important. Besides, the drop-rate is terrible on that guy. Just buy it on the auction house instead).

Anyway. Now, for the “Advice on Chicks Women.”

They love you. They really do. But there’s one problem. You don’t think like a chick. And that just blows their mind. And you reeeeally need to understand that. Women expect you to think like they do, and when you don’t, when you don’t act or react the way you are “supposed to,” it sets off ALL sorts of alarm bells. Why? Because if one of her girlfriends responded like you just did, Something Would Be Wrong©.

See, here’s the deal. And I know this can hurt like hitting your thumb with a hammer, but…(wait for it)…you have to really listen. I don’t mean listen like guys do. Guys, we talk, we communicate to transmit information and accomplish goals. And then we’re done.  We deal in goals and deliverables. We deal in quantifiables. Tangibles. The ladies…they deal in perceptions, and connections, and shared emotions. Intangibles. The squishy stuff. And it takes a loooong time to communicate that way compared to what guys are really prepared to deal with.

And that’s where we get into trouble.  Guys, seriously, let’s be honest. We don’t multi-task. We really don’t. They do. They can have the TV on in the background, be on the phone with one friend while IM’ing another, keeping track of two kids while planning dinner…and scrapbooking all at the same time. You and me? If the TV is on? Forget it. We’re done communicating with the outside world.

This can, to put it mildly, cause some problems in the area of communication. So here’s the deal. When your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your mom, any woman of any significance in your life wants to talk to you, to really communicate with you…STOP. WHAT. YOU. ARE. DOING. Just…stop.

And listen.

When I say listen, I mean it. Not, endure it. Not, huff and squirm and ostentatiously check your watch. Why? Because that is communication to a woman! When you do that kind of stuff, you are communicating to her that just about anything else in the world is more important to you at that moment than listening to what she has to say.

And, damn, but that has to hurt. She wants for you to want to connect with her…like her girlfriends would.  She wants for you to listen, and empathize, and not try to fix, but just nod, and touch her hand, and just plain BE INTERESTED. And when you don’t, when you are impatient, or imperious, or dismissive, YOU ARE REJECTING HER. And it will hurt her. And she will react and respond out of that hurt.

And you will be left wondering what the heck just happened?!? And why am I suddenly sleeping on the couch?

Because you weren’t really paying attention.  It’s as simple as that, guys. The women in your life want to know that they are important to you. And you communicate that importance and that value to them when you choose them over everything else.  When they see you turn off the TV, put away the book, step back from the computer and really listen, THAT’S where the connection happens. The one they really want from you more than anyone else.

It’s not hard….but it’s not easy. Not for us. But guys, man, it is so worth it. So they next time she starts to talk, to tell you about her day, when she confides in you her struggles and doubts and starts pouring out that technicolor description of everything that made up her day…just stop….and just listen.  And talk. And nod, and smile and laugh and frown.

But mostly…just listen.

 

 

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Embrace The Foolishness!

If you spend enough time on the Internet — not to say that I do of course — but if you do, you’ll find that there are a lot of really polarizing issues out there. Me, I tend to gravitate towards political and religious discussions, and those can get pretty heated pretty quick.

I’ve seen comments about Christians (and about people of faith in general) that run the gamut from enlightened commentators who state with utter certainty that Christians are mislead, ignorant, close-minded and/or foolish, to those who will insist with all sincerity and concern that teaching your children about God is “child abuse,” or that people with a strong faith in God are mentally ill and need to be rescued from their delusions. I could send you links. Really.

It’s sad, but…it’s also understandable. What Christians think and believe can seem kind of out-there sometimes…even to Christians! A God so mighty that He created the universe, and yet somehow notices something as small as me? Not only notices, but cares? Miracles and healing and a Savior who rose from the dead?! Folly! Foolishness! Bah!

It’s not easy to hold onto your faith sometimes in the face of such doubt and derision. And yet, it is essential that we do it.  Our struggle daily is, and should always be, to be more fully conformed to the image of Christ. To worry less about how we are perceived according to worldly standards, and more about how we measure up on the scale of being Christ-like.

Understanding that as Christians we will have a perspective on the world that will seem strange, confusing, even foolish to those who do not know Him, who do not see with His eyes. But maybe, just maybe, that perspective, that lifestyle that I emulate and communicate will somehow become so compelling, so troublesome, so curious that people who don’t understand it…will want to. My faith and compassion and forgiveness in the face of everything the world has to throw at me will frustrate and confuse and bewilder.

But maybe, just maybe, it will also become something so different from what they know that it will begin to take on the form of a mystery that they must solve.

The mystery of Christ.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…for since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong..  1 Cor. 18-27 (NASB)

Challenge:  Am I communicating a compelling vision of who and what Christ is, by how I live my life, by the choices I make, and by the way I love those around me?

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Victorious Is A Verb

How often do we, as Christians, truly live as if we are victorious? Or do we too often still live in defeat? As though our decision to follow Christ were merely an event experienced along the way, something of little consequence, rather than a fundamental alternation of the very fabric of who and what we are?  To the point that it even alters the way we interact with universe itself?

We. Are. Changed.  But do we live as ones who have been been changed, and are being changed?

Do we live as though we share in the victory of Christ over sin and death? As though we are an intimate part of that victory?  Are we dancing and singing and clanging our symbols as we follow along behind our Victorious One? Or do we live more as mere observers, those who witnessed the action and cheered, but now see ourselves as separate, standing quietly off to the side as they march by? Maybe as not worthy? Maybe not like those “real” Christians over there?

Are we part of a triumphal procession…or are we content to watch and cheer from the sidelines?  Are we truly transformed…or merely affected?

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”  (1 Cor. 15:54)

Challenge: Am I daily living in the victory secured for me by Christ, and is it daily transforming my life?

 

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Trinkets vs. Treasure

Here’s a thought. It might fly in the face of a great deal of theology and conventional wisdom, but I think it tracks. So here goes.

Don’t seek the kingdom. Don’t seek the blessings. Don’t seek the gifts.

Seek the person.

Strive to know only Christ until everything else falls away. Your desire should be for Him, not for what He can give you, not for what he can do for you. But for who He is to you.

The strange truth is that even if God never answered a single prayer, never performed a single miracle in your life, you should still be striving to know Him more fully and completely in every moment.

Not to ask, “where is God?!” when things go sideways on you, but instead, “who is God in this moment? And who am I in Him?”

It is not about rewards, or circumstances, or plans for the future. It is about merely abiding in His presence and that being more than enough.

That said, there are abundant gifts and blessings in store for those who give their life to Him, for those who abide in Him; but they are trinkets compared to the treasure of the simple, consuming love we can and will share. The pearl of great price.

Our hope is not in the promise of blessings in this life, but being more fully in His presence in the next. And so our abiding is manifest in our prayer, and in our seeking to know the person of God…not just clamoring for His stuff!

Challenge: Today, am I going to hunger for more of God’s love, for more knowledge of him? Or will I let myself become too focused on what I do or don’t have, what did or didn’t happen to me? Lord, help me seek you and find you in every situation today!

Thoughts from my quiet time: Being conformed to His will

Everyday, resolve to confess that you still know so little. That the mysteries of God are far from solved, and that truly, the only way to know God is to spend time in His presence. To be more fully conformed to His will.

Wait…what? What does that even mean?!

Conformed to His will. Taking on His likeness, His countenance, so completely that someone looking at you recognizes Him. Not like a doppelganger, but as someone who has spent so much time with another that they begin to share gestures, mannerisms, turns of phrase. The way a couple can finish sentences for each other, or pass the sugar bowl without being asked just because they know the other so well. An intimate familiarity. Something that only come from time spent together.

It is beyond apprenticeship. It is as a servant who never leaves his master’s side, to the point where the servant knows every quirk, every desire, every mannerism and habit of his master. To the point where it becomes a service not born out of obligation, but of love. But then, even more. For the Master loves the servant so much that he adopts him as a son or her as a daughter, because he wants more than just a servant. He wants an heir.

This puts a different feel on “obedience” doesn’t it? It gets to the point where it stops being obedience, and it starts being love. Where the two natures become so intertwined that you do what is right by the other because you don’t know anything different. You truly become conformed to the other. To look at one, is to see the other. His will is the same as your own. Absolute intimacy and spiritual union.

 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Rom. 8:15-17

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
John 14:6-9