What Defines You?

If you are at any kind of social event where you will meet new people, one of the first things to be asked always seems to be, “So, what do you do?” I understand it is a conversation starter and usually I spend a few minutes trying to explain what it is I actually do for the company I work for, which usually leads into the person moving on to someone else, or I get the glazed stare of indifference. There is a scene in a little known movie called Undercover Blues which always makes me laugh. In it Dennis Quaid plays a retired spy and new dad. Every time he meets someone and they ask what he does, he makes up some new line of work; anything from a brain surgeon to an Electrolux vacuum salesman. I may start doing this myself.

It seems whenever the question of what a person does for a living comes up, really what is being asked is what defines you as a person? I mean think about it, we love to hear about how exciting a person’s job is, or how much money they acquire through doing it, don’t we? If a person tells us they work at the local Walmart or sewage plant, we won’t hang around nearly as long as if they tell us about how their job sends them all over the world to work with the rich and powerful now will we?

Being defined by what you do has been one of the most soul crushing experiences of my life. I owned and operated a retail shoe store for over twenty years; even calling myself Dave the Shoe-Guy for a long time. I let my shoe store define who I was in more ways than one. I couldn’t get away from it either. When I was introduced to people in a social setting, it was always, this is Dave, he owns a shoe store. Never, this is Dave, he loves Jesus and Star Wars.

What defines who you are? Are you a hunter or fisherman? Do you play golf or basketball on the weekends? Are you letting these things define who you are? Perhaps you’re a husband and father; both noble things but are these the definition of who you are? I think there is more than what you do to define you. The problem is society has a way of trying to label us. It’s like you do this, so you go over here in this group. Being defined by what you do is almost the same as being segregated, and we all know how much people love to be segregated.

I realized one day there was more to who I am than just what I did. You see, I am a man who loves his family, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, an old school Star Wars fan, a writer and someone who loves to spend time drinking coffee with his friends. The job I go to every day is what pays the bills, but it is not what defines me, at least not anymore. I won’t let it be the scorecard on what my worth is in this world.

What are you letting define who you are? Is it developing you into a better man, or is it crushing your soul just like it did for me many years ago? Stop being defined by what the world says you should be and go be who you were meant to be. You’ll be glad you did.

It Takes Ordinary Men To Make Heroes

“When you talk about combat leadership under fire on the beach at Normandy, I don’t see how the credit can go to anyone other than the company-grade officers and senior NCOs who led the way.  It is good to be reminded that there are such men, that there always have been, and always will be.  We sometimes forget, I think, that you can manufacture weapons, and you can purchase ammunition, but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.”

Sgt. John Ellery, 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Division

Valor.  Heroes.  Men.  Three words which described perfectly those who took the battle directly to Adolf Hitler and his troops on June 6, 1944.  These men from my grandfather’s generation are some of my greatest heroes; because when they were called upon, they laid everything aside to defend our nation and its allies from the tyranny and oppression which was trying to take over the world.

Most of these men however did not consider themselves heroes but just ordinary men doing what men do; protecting their loved ones at whatever the cost.  Many gave their lives in order to win this war and we are forever in their debt because of the sacrifices they made.

It has been seventy some years since the end of World War II and a lot of these men have now gone on to their graves.  We are three generations away from this conflict which involved the entire world and look at the men of today.  Now I know a lot of younger men may call me an old coot (I am 52 now) but what passes for men these days doesn’t even compare to men of my grandfather’s generation.

And before you vilify me or say I’m out of touch; I was considered a rebel at one time with my long hair, thoughts and ideas.  My grandfather and I butted heads on more than one occasion about my ideas and hairstyle.  But I’m not really talking about those things even though I think skinny jeans and man buns are ridiculous.  What concerns me the most is what men used to be has slowly drifted away to be replaced with selfishness and men more concerned with getting their own needs satisfied.

I read somewhere that during World War II, many of the soldiers facing death were barely  old enough to buy beer. Yet they joined the military because it was the right thing to do.  Today’s males of the same age cry to social media when their feelings get hurt, and run looking for a safe place to hide.  What has happened to men today?

Okay I realize I just made a general statement about the men of today, I do know some young men who are what men should be.  Yet, if you were to take a casual glance at what passes for men these days, you would agree there are many more guys concerned with their social status, looks and getting what they want out of life than there are men willing to lay down their lives for their families and society at large.

My definition of a real man is one who is willing to lay down his life and who will put other’s needs before his own. It’s not glamorous and most of the time you won’t be in the spotlight but it’s what we as men were created to do. If we will rise to the occasion and put other’s needs before our own, we can make the world a better place, just like the men who fought in WWII did. We still need ordinary men taking their place and making a difference in lives, these are the guys who are the real heroes.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Give Them Power Over You

My junior year of high school was spent avoiding one of my fellow classmates. And when I say avoid, I mean literally staying away from him. If I saw him walking down the hallway towards me, I moved to the other side and if at all possible by a teacher until he was far enough away for me to get to my next class. I was a nervous wreck and it was an awful experience; one I hope to never repeat, and something I think no one should ever have to experience.

The funny thing about that year, was had I just faced him instead of running away every time I saw him, my life would have been so much better. It seemed all he wanted to do was put the fear of God in me for something I’d done the year before and then it would have been over. He just wanted to scare me, nothing more, which happened as I stopped by a friend’s house one day after school.

His truck rolled up in front of my car and since my transmission had an issue (I couldn’t put my car into reverse) I had no choice but to face him. After he yelled and cussed and waved his hands around a lot, we ended up playing pool together at my friend’s house and our senior year we became friends and did a lot of activities together. He and two of my buddies even took our dates to prom together.

What I learned from this was a couple of things; one, the longer you run from someone, the worse your life gets and two, facing up to a bully does something to you on the inside; it makes you feel better about yourself. In standing up, you may take a punch to the face, but bruises will disappear, the fear which drives you to run will not leave unless you turn and face the person fear is using to keep you down.

And here is the bottom line about bullies; they are instruments used by fear to keep us in place and stop us from reaching our potential. In the first Captain America movie, Steve Rogers fights a guy much bigger than himself in an alley. He is getting the crap beat out of him, but he continues to stand up and take it saying, “I can do this all day.” When asked later by Doctor Erskine why he wants to fight the Nazis, Steve replies, “I don’t like bullies.” I think this is one of the reason I resonate with the heroes more than the villains in the stories I love, I don’t like bullies either.

We don’t have to deal with bullies just while we’re in school either. They are everywhere and if we let them they will do their best to break us; keeping us from reaching our fullest potential as adults too. Remember, the only power a bully can truly have over you is if you believe what he says. Once you begin to believe what the bully says about you, it’s game over.

Step one in defeating the bullies in your life, don’t listen to what they say. Oh I know you’ll hear the words, but hearing them and believing them are two totally separate things. Know who you are and when their words fly at you, let them bounce off of you like ping pong balls on a concrete floor. It’s always a power thing with bullies, they want you to cower in fear when they are around and if you don’t know who you are, their words can be devastating.

Step two; stand up to them. Like I said earlier, you may take a punch or two, but bruises will heal, a broken spirit takes much more time and effort to be fixed. When you stand up to a bully you will realize something deep on the inside of you which will make you feel triumphant. Usually bullies lose interest in people who stand up to them and will look for another victim. Take a stand and watch them tuck tail and run.

The thing to know about bullies is they are small minded individuals who don’t like their place or station in life. In order to feel better about themselves they have this need to make others feel bad. When you can see bullies for what they are; scared little children on the inside, you will actually feel pity for them. This is the main reason they lash out; to keep people from finding out the truth about them.

If you’re dealing with a bully in your life right now, I sympathize. But at some point or other you have to deal with them, or you will spend your life living in the shadows instead of shining out in the world like the star you are. You can do this, I believe in you!

Is This Really Your Fight?

There was this man I was trying to help with some of his relationships once who called me one day a short time after my youngest son had died, urgently asking me to pray for a man he worked with. 

I was a little aggravated with his request at the time because it had only been a few days since Noah’s funeral and at this point he hadn’t even acknowledged the fact my son was gone. 

He kept persisting that I pray, so I asked him the man’s name and he said, “I don’t know, I just overheard some people talking about him in the break room.”

I was livid and told him to pray himself and not to bother me with this again. A few days later I talked to him in person and explained how offended I was and worked things out with him.

This got me thinking though, how many times do we take up a fight that isn’t ours? There’s a lot of things noble to fight for; helping impoverished children, saving women from sex trafficking, making sure your elderly neighbor is okay and the list goes on and on. But you can’t fight them all; heck you can’t even be passionate about them all…and this is okay.

How can you say not helping with something is okay Dave? Simple, it’s not. I say this because we don’t need to try and fight every battle because it’ll cause you to get burned out. 

Focus is important; you can get much more done if you are deliberate in your actions instead of chasing many things at once. Many people however feel the pressure to help with anything and everything instead of finding the one thing they should be focusing on.

If we would find the main thing which really makes our hearts burn within us and then begin doing what we can, we’d all be much happier. 

And if we’d not get butt hurt when other people don’t share our enthusiasm for the thing we’re fighting for, this too would make us happy. 

This is one of the biggest problems I see; you share your heart with people and they don’t get excited, then you get mad, thinking they just don’t get it. 

There are 7.5 billion people on this planet, it stands to reason out of this number there should be at least a few who share your passion for this fight, right? It just may not be the “person” you thought it might be.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t share what you’re about with others, but don’t get upset if they don’t accept  it and get excited with you. We all have things we’re fervent about, we’ve just got to find those who are like minded with us and work together. Doing this can and will change the world.

Bite your Tongue Boy

As I’ve progressed along this journey called life, I’ve come to realize there are times when I have to bite my tongue and not say what I’m thinking. Funny thing is, this is something I have to do in every area of my life; family, work, church and socially. It seems there is always someone doing or saying something for which I have an opinion. What I’ve found however is very few people actually want to know what I think.

It seems whenever there is a new idea or some change needs to take place, even if the person making the changes asks, they don’t really want to know what my opinion is, they really are just telling me to get on board with the plan. I made a statement on social media a few weeks back about how I don’t honor a man just because he holds an office, but I honor the man when he has earned the right for me to do so. Honor is never given, it is earned; more men need to learn this.

At almost fifty-three I can finally say I have learned how to keep my mouth shut; well most of the time. It’s hard to do too. When I sit back and watch younger men and women making mistakes in their marriages it is very hard for me not to say something. I just celebrated twenty-eight years of wedded bliss with my bride last weekend and not to brag, but I have learned a thing or two in all those years. Not to say I’ve got it all figured out; each year we’re married brings new challenges with it. But as I watch young men make mistake after mistake with their brides, it is very hard for me not to say anything.

At work and at church I find myself more and more needing to bite my tongue as well. It’s not as if I’m opposed to things I see there, but having been in business for many years, I have knowledge about some things others don’t and when I see some of the rules or laws of marketing and customer service being stepped on or over I feel an overwhelming need to say something, even though no one wants to hear what I have to say.

I find myself in a very interesting time of life; no longer the young gun building a kingdom nor am I a doddering old fool at the end of his life. I’m in the purgatory of  manhood; still qualified but looking for where I fit in. This is the time in men’s lives where they purchase fast cars, hair plugs and new outfits; all in an effort to show the world they are still virile and worth something. Not me, I’m content with my old pickup, love of things artsy, my bride and family. I know where my worth comes from and I rest in this fact, waiting to help others and biting my tongue a lot.

In his book Fathered by God; John Eldredge talks about the various stages men go through in the course of their lives. Today I find myself in the Sage portion of life. A sage is a man who shares the knowledge of the things he’s learned in life with men younger who haven’t made it as far down the path of manhood. Being thought of as a sage is cool, but there are still times I wish I was the warrior or king.  Oh there are still elements of these areas in my life, but tend to be fewer and fewer the older I get.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in these years on planet Earth, it is to hold my tongue and give advice or counsel only when it’s asked for. The Bible says in the book of Proverbs;

Even a fool when he holds his tongue is considered wise.”

If you can learn this one thing, you will be considered wise in the eyes of the majority of those around you and that is not a bad thing at all. I won’t say it’s easy, because it’s not, but it is achievable if you’re willing to work at it.

Now you know what I think, why don’t you tell me what you think?

 

Wandering Alone

The ground is moist and has started seeping into my boots as I make my way through the dense under brush looking for some semblance of a path.  I’m hot and sweating profusely as I duck under another low hanging oak tree branch which has probably been here since long before my great-grandfather was born.

There is an eerie stillness in the air, and my thoughts turn to a favorite book of mine, “The Hobbit”, specifically the part where Bilbo Baggins and thirteen dwarves are trapped in Mirkwood Forest.  “I hope I don’t run into any giant spiders,” I think to myself, pushing aside yet another branch hindering my progress.

I’m not sure what possessed me to go into the woods around my home and take this day hike, but now I’m beginning to regret my decision.  The hours pass by and I become painfully aware of my lack of provisions.  A penknife, small bottle of water in my back pocket and a cell phone getting no signal is all I carry with me.  I realize if I don’t find my way soon, I’ll end up like the guys on those survivor television shows, the only difference being they’re equipped with the skills needed to survive in the wild, and I’m not.

Since I was in my teens, I’ve often wondered if I have what it takes to be a “real” man.  I’m fifty-two now and the crazy thing is this thought still hounds me like a jackal chasing its prey.  Put me in a social setting where I’m expected to have conversations with other men, and I feel as lost as I do now in these woods.

Why do I have this feeling of inadequacy in the presence of other men?  Why is it I feel I don’t have what it takes to be a real man?  Where does this come from?  The answer is simple enough; I was never invited or initiated into manhood as a boy.

I read an interesting article a few years ago about a tribe in Africa.  At around the age of twelve, the men of the village come to the boy’s home and in an elaborate ceremony, literally pul him from the arms of his mother; taking him out into the wild.  There they instruct the boy about what it means to be a man and leave him to prove himself.  The boy must build a house, plant a garden and become a productive member of the tribe before he can ever return home to visit his mother.

This was not my experience.  I was pretty much left to myself to figure out what it meant to be a man.  And since most of my instruction came from the world of movies and television, the knowledge I gained is, shall we say in short supply.  It wasn’t until I realized I was going to have to teach my own boys what it meant to be men and show my daughter how her future husband should act that I really began to search for answers.

I found them in another one of my favorite books, “Wild at Heart” written by John Eldredge.  In it I found the knowledge I needed and like a compass it put me on the correct heading, bringing me to a point in my life where I could actually believe I do have what it takes to be a real and authentic man.

As dusk gathered around me, I pushed aside the last limb and stepped out of the woods.  There in the distance I could see my truck.  Relieved, I promised myself I would never again wander in the woods without a little more preparation.  Yet in my heart something stirred; it was faint, almost non-existent, but I knew it for what it was, the knowledge I do have what it takes and I am a man after all.

Now you know what I think, what do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Courage In The Face Of Fear

Today is my friend Dewayne’s birthday, so I decided to share this blog about his journey today. Happy birthday Dewayne.

It was a weekend in February 2011 when I along with fifteen other men spent three days together for a men’s weekend in the country.  This had been a long time dream of mine, and may have been one of the best times I’ve ever spent with a group of men, but I think the greatest thing about this weekend was the transformation I saw in my friend Dewayne Fain.

img_8385The camp where we were staying had a ropes course, and Dewayne found himself there looking at a rock climbing wall and wanting to give it a try.  He put on his safety harness, hooked up and grabbing the first handhold pulled himself up.  At about fifteen feet he began to panic saying he couldn’t do it, and climbed back down.

Disappointed in himself, Dewayne left the ropes course feeling pretty bad about not getting to the top, but told us the next day he was going to tackle the zip line.  The zip line platform is situated about forty-five feet in the air suspended on three giant telephone poles.

At breakfast the next morning Dewayne told me about a dream he had while sleeping, and wasn’t sure what it meant.  Encouraging him, I said it was God telling him to do the zip line today.

Right after lunch, he headed straight for the ropes course, like a man possessed.  Puttingimg_8386 on the rigging, he stepped into the line to wait his turn.  Since it was a two man zip line, one of the men who had come with us named Terry told Dewayne he would accompany him down the zip line.  When it was time, Dewayne grabbed the handholds and began his ascent towards the top.

Making it a little higher than the day before, he began shaking and said, “Guys I just can’t do it, I’m coming back down.”  Even though a lot of us were shouting encouragement to him, he climbed down.  It was a devastating blow to his ego, and I knew if he didn’t conquer this, there would be powerful ramifications in his life later because of it.

Terry spoke to the young man running the course and asked if he could talk to Dewayne before unhooking him from the safety rope.  Talking loud enough for Dewayne to hear, but not those of us nearby, Terry spoke to him for a few minutes.

I’m not sure what Terry said, but after he was finished, Dewayne mounted the pole and like a monkey scampered up to the very top in record time, men shouting encouraging words the whole time.  It really was a sight to see.

Zipping down with Terry at his side Dewayne hooped and hollered the entire way thanking Jesus.  It was awesome to see too, afterwards he was high-fiving everyone he saw, telling them what he’d done, even men he didn’t know.  

He faced down his fear and found out there was courage inside of him he didn’t even realize was there on this day.   He came to realize on this trip he did have what it takes.