A Journaling Journey

HipstamaticPhoto-567972561.655930I received my first journal from my mom, back in 1997, when I was about to head off for Bible college.  I wrote a couple of days in it then skipped a few, then I started skipping weeks, months, and years.  That journal is still about half full and still unfinished.  

Back in 2014 the Art of Manliness published a guided journal called, Jumpstart Journaling.  It was a good way for me to get back into it.  And what I discovered is that I needed some sort of structure to follow.  I just assumed that journaling was the same as a diary.  

In a diary, you just write about what happened that day, but a journal can take many forms.  In this case, AoM had specific tasks for each day, such as; Make a list of things that distract you and how to manage them, and identify yourself in the Hero’s Journey (for that one you have to read a short primer on the Hero’s Journey), there are reflections on your career, marriage/family/relationships, and many others things.  

The first year I completed their 31 days of guided journaling… just barely. I think I missed the last 2 days—which I may have gone back later to finish.  The next year I decided to give it another try and I completed the whole 31 days. I felt I wanted to continue with it so I made my own sort of guided journaling based upon the book of Proverbs in the Bible. That lasted about 3 weeks.

Then I quit until the next year. This time the Art of Manliness started selling a print edition, which had blank journaling pages in it. I completed the 31 days, and then proceeded to do some scripture journaling for about 5 months following. But by the time summer rolled around I had run out of steam.  

The next year, I did the 31 days again. And since that time I’ve been pretty steady—going on about 3-4 years.  I’ve used several devotional books, but mostly I just read scripture and then write a page of personal commentary and application.  Without some sort of guide or plan it just falls apart and becomes meaningless, another rote routine devoid of life and spirit.  

This practice has really helped me work out some problems in my life in a healthy way. As I reflect, I get a vent a little, and having a scripture based structure gives me a target to shoot for.  Scripture has a way of correcting your path if you let it—when you focus on correcting yourself and not others.  (Sure, you can read it focusing on why others aren’t acting right and causing you pain, but to do so is counter-productive and actually hurts you in the long run—because you don’t change—but thats another story for another day)

Journaling had led me into some other disciplines. And like most of you, for me discipline does not come easy. We usually try too much too fast, we do something all the way for a short period of time then get burned out. But by taking baby steps, ones that you can maintain over a period of time is the key to developing any sort of discipline, talent, or skill.

I’m about to go through my yearly 31 Day Jumpstart Journaling again. I’d like to invite you to come along with me. It’s where I started, and where I’ll return to each year that I can. It takes 5-10 min a day, preferably in the morning when your mind is fresh—but I usually do it in the evening because I stay up too late to wake up early (something I’m currently working on). Or sometimes I’ll do it at lunch during work.  If you look for time you can find it. 

So if you’d like to join me send me a message or just do it. You can purchase the 31 day journal or do the free 21 day one at The Art of Manliness blog.

I’ll be starting on January 1st!

PS: Although I prefer the print version of AoM Jumpstart Journaling but the hyperlinks embedded in the online version are helpful as well.  So either works fine.  But I have one extra of the printed journal for anyone who needs it.

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The Strenuous Life

I am not a self-driven man.  I do not have it in me to keep going with something just because it is good or good for me.  I must see some results or some reward.  If there is nothing in it for me I have a hard time staying committed to anything for any length of time.  This is a shortcoming for sure, a measure of my falleness.  But over time I’ve learned to sidestep this shortcoming to gain advantage for my own benefit as well as for those people around me.

This week marks 1 year from the time I started The Strenuous Life https://strenuouslife.co   For years I had longed to be apart of a brotherhood/fraternity of sorts.  I had previously been a part of at least 4 local, cultural, and spiritual movements that impacted my life in significant ways which helped form my worldview.  As cultural and religious institutions steadily slide into over-civilization—seeking acclaim via gentrification—the result has left many men disenfranchised, empty, and wandering without any purpose except live to work, work to live for a mechanized and darwinistic lifestyle whose highest aim is to achieve comfort and ease, i.e. to get out of work.  And in so doing, the great joke on mankind is that after-hours the gyms are full of people straining and sweating because they realize the physicality is lacking in their life

My first hint that there was a different approach was when I read one of Theodore Roosevelt’s speeches.

I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.

It’s no secret that the older you get the harder it is to make new friends, and even keep in touch with old ones, especially if you are a guy.  It seems that women are light years ahead of men when it comes to community and friendship. In an effort to help they encourage us to have heart to heart talks, share how we feel about things, go to social events, be a nice guy, and say nice encouraging things to people (it’s interesting to note that the word nice is evolved from the french word for idiot).  They mean well, but its not really how most guys connect.  And the few that do connect that way flock to the many of those social institutions that operate that way.  But what about the rest of us?  

There is no church that emphasizes health/fitness as much as prayer, or work as much as worship, or recognizing hunters as the ones leading the wilderness conservation movement in creation care.  And yet work, health, and caring for creation are essential for the Christian.  The few times I viewed demographic questionnaires, not one question had to do with male attendance, but plenty about minorities.  

When I joined TSL I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had tried to start a Brotherhood of Manliness at least twice, but to no avail.  But here I found a group of likeminded guys wanting to connect with other men striving together to find and fulfill their masculinity in everyday modern life.  

It’s mostly and online platform, but we have a Louisiana chapter and I’ve gathered with several guys on three occasions.  Being like-minded we immediately had lots to discuss as we rucked around parks carrying loaded backpacks.  We made plans to work on the Fighters badge, the Sharpshooter, the Orator, the Microadventure, Gentleman Scholar, and Roughrider.

On my own, I worked on the Lumberjack, where I had to restore an heirloom felling axe.  I also tried to work on Pater Familias, but I got bogged down trying to arrange 8 consecutive weekly family meetings—its like pulling teeth to do that.  I learned how to tell time using the Big Dipper and the North Star, break out of zip-ties, and pick a deadbolt lock using paperclips.

More significantly, this has enabled me to establish a morning and evening routine.  For years I’ve been plagued with staying up too late, and getting up only 5 min before I have to leave the house for work.  Now, I rise about 90 min before I have to leave, then I have scriptural journaling, and prayer.  And I tail-end my day with an activity/gratefulness journal.  I can’t tell you how mush this has impacted my life.  When you begin and end your day on point it makes all the difference in the world.  

Along with that, I’ve started getting regular physical exercise.  Currently I’m on a 160+ day streak.  This has become even more motivation since discovering Bang Muay Thai at Performance Evolution.  I found that focusing my energies on a daily regimen of physical exercise has had other unintended positive attributes.  I find that I struggle a lot less with my thought life and finding overall motivation.  I find that after exercising my mind feels fresh and clear.  This is increasingly important in an age of increasingly hostile business partners who only look out for their own interest, and don’t seem to be happy unless you get the short end of the stick.  

The overarching theme of The Strenuous Life is choosing action over abstraction, embracing the idea that hard things are a necessary and beneficial part of life, not to be shunned, and in some cases to be desired and sought out.  The fulfillment of work is to be found in the act of work itself.

The greater joy is that it’s not just for you, but for those around you–as you become more involved and active you’ll find the black dog of depression absent a lot more.  You’ll find laziness a lot less often.  You’ll strive to be proactive rather than reactive as you make plans and go for them.  You’ll find that you have more time than you need when you cut out the soul sapping distractions and pointless/mindless pursuits of media and entertainment, vegging out, Netflix binging, the endless scroll of Facebook and Twitter.

You’ll become a better father, husband, friend, neighbor, son, or uncle with being more involved and proactive in the world.  If you’re like me, you need some inspiration, some reward, some consequence, a kick in the pants to encourage you, to get you moving.  Some structure or plan to follow, even if you adapt it to your own style.  That’s the only way I know how to get it done

My goals are to keep living the strenuous life and to find and encourage other likeminded men.  Any gospel that doesn’t embrace this idea is a different gospel than that of the New Testament as taught by Jesus and the Disciples—and that may be why Church membership is less only 30% male on national average.  TSL offers one way for men to seek this out.  It’s not intended to supplant any other relationship or institution, but to supplement them.  If you find yourself struggling in any of the areas I’ve mentioned or something related then this may be for you.  

Book Review – The City on the Edge of Forever

City on the Edge of Forever represents outstanding writing and some of the most magnificent art, far exceeding the expectations of a graphic novel.  Originally this was reported to have been heavily edited for the original TV series by Gene Roddenberry.  Now IDW Publishing has taken the original script and reworked it into a graphic novel with an effort to retain the Harlan Ellison’s initial vision.  Illustrator JK Woodward sets the tone perfectly, its warm when it needs to be, and cold and unforgiving at other parts, while representing the characters in lifelike illustrations.  I’m not sure if he didn’t reference select film cells in the process.  In any case it was masterfully done.  And even if you’re not into Star Trek this is still a beautiful masterpiece of art

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Although I’d have to re-watch the original episode to note the differences, I can pick out a few things that Roddenberry would have wanted to take out or edit for the sake of what was acceptable back then, and for sake of his overall vision of the show (for better or worse… you be the judge).

In this version there seems to be more room for depth of character and interaction between Kirk and Spock.  Its difficult to compare the graphic novel to the TV show because the mediums themselves evoke a different set of emotions.  You can read more into a single frame painted on a piece of paper than can be shown  in a TV scene.  The more closely entertainment mimics real life the less believable it becomes.  Perhaps our brains need to work to bring things to life, and in this working it develops the imagination.  And it seems that our imaginations make a huge difference in perceived depth and emotion of a story.

In this story James Kirk is faced with the dilemma of saving the woman he loves at the expense of the Nazi winning WW2.  If he chooses to save Edith Keeler he would be directly responsible for destroying the world, via the sin of omission.  Should the one die for the sake of the many?  If you could go back to the past and interrupt the natural flow of events to save the one you love, knowing that the future of the world you know would be in jeopardy, millions would die. Or do you sacrifice the one to save the many?  Isn’t that what Spock would one day say in Star Trek 2, the Wrath of Khan?  “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, as he sacrificed himself for his friends and ship.

Its fine and dandy to sacrifice yourself, but how about when you sacrifice someone else?  When you boil it down this question is as old as civilization itself.  Whether it was a ritual sacrifice to appease some god, or sending the men out to war, it was all done with the intent, however misguided, of the overall good of society… that the one would die for the many.

Although I’m somewhat sure this was not Ellison’s intent, he echoes the statement by the high priest of Israel in the New Testament in John 11:50, when he said, Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

So theres a bit of a Christological element here,reflecting Yahweh allowing the son, Jesus, to die for us (ref. Isaiah Chapter 53).  That a good and holy God would make a sacrifice in himself to make salvation available for all would be the ultimate sacrifice.  Although that was probably not where Ellison wanted to go with this he paints a very good picture for philosophical and theological discussion, that is both relevant and exciting to think about on so many levels.

Book Review, The Lost World of Genesis One by John H Walton

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It was 7th grade when Mrs Mayo, my public school science teacher, taught evolution.  She prefaced that day stating evolution does not disprove creation but merely explains it (this was in southwest Louisiana, 1982). As I read the bible throughout the years I never really considered that the 6 day account in Genesis was contradictory to an old earth because of the way everything is worded… until I watched a series of videos by a 6 Day Creationist sometime around 1998 who was supremely adamant that evolution was the most formidable weapon of deceit and doubt facing Christians today.  And until exposed to many of the complexities around the issue I considered it for approximately 2 years before dismissing it.  I’m no scientist, but I eventually settled back on the old earth model, thats just what makes the most sense to me.  And like science I remain open to change my views upon further knowledge.

I was faced with the dilemma that I wasn’t comfortable with the 6 Day = 6 Eons theory either, it just didn’t pan out in light of the sequence of days in Genesis 1. For instance Day one begins with the Earth already created, and the stars aren’t there until day 4. So that didn’t add up, how could I be faithful to scripture and not ignore science.

     Walton provides a satisfactory explanation along with a deeper appreciation for Genesis 1, as much more than just an account of creation. He refutes the Concordist model which states Genesis 1 was written to scientifically explain the material creation of life, the universe, and everything.  He shows that this view was beyond the ancient’s worldview and that their main concern was explaining functional origins, i.e. the Cosmic Temple Inauguration model.  And the preeminent thrust of was mainly a teleological account, the explanation of purpose and function.
     The teleological evidence of Genesis 1 is needed today as much if not more than ever. The modern world is so confused when it comes to purpose, we assume that God created us merely to be happy, whether his happiness our ours.  But the authors intention in Genesis is much more profound. The ideas expressed in Genesis 1 as interpreted here are implicitly related to environment, sexuality, family, and every other  aspect of human activity of life and civilization.
     The beauty is that his premise is compatible with both a literal 6 Day Creation model and Old Earth via evolution and/or big bang theory, as well as any other model. The central idea being that Genesis 1 is detailing a functional inauguration, and that since scripture gives no scientific model of the material creation of the universe but states emphatically that God is highly involved in the process no matter the method.
     Science provides no mechanism for the metaphysical question of purpose in regard to the origins of life, it cannot explore the “why” questions only the “how” questions. Science cannot and will not tell us the goal of the universe, why we are here, or even if we have a purpose or not… and it should not… It would not be empirical science if it did.   That is the aim of teleology and metaphysics, which should be taught in conjunction to science, but as a separate entity.
     Any model of the origin of the cosmos and life should be taught along with all its complexities and problems.  And philosophical ideas such as teleology and metaphysics should be taught as objective non-religious ideas, with the aim of teaching students ‘how to think’, not ‘what to think’.  Its is a shame and a waste that there is a conflict that is inherently politicized that prevents textbook publishers and educators to owning up to the problems deep-rooted in the evolution model.  But that is normal science, owning up to and discussing these things is part of the scientific process.
     Science is a great tool for exploring the universe, but it is not the end all of knowledge, nor does it claim to be.  History has taught us that as our knowledge increases the truths of science change.  Whats true and beyond doubt in one generation is not necessarily true in the next.  The process of doing science itself changes over time.  Quantum physics is a huge wrench in the contemporary process.  Again, I’m no scientist, but I’m not ignorant of some of the problems and ideas.
     Lastly, Walton does an outstanding job relating academic ideas in a down-to-earth style. He presents his propositions in a clear and logical manner that is easy to follow. He follows each chapter with a summary, summarizes everything at the halfway point of the book and again at the end so there is not much room for misunderstanding and plenty room for grasping the whole picture. He then answers a few common questions at the very end in a Q & A style. Its pretty concise and logical laid out. Which makes for a great and quick read for such a heavy topic.
 

Proverbs 12 – Words Matter

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
~ Proverbs 12:18

I have often been this guy.  I’m not sure if I’ve actually hurt other people with my words, but many times I know that I could have said things in a better way to “bring healing” instead of causing strife.

And of course it’s always those closest to me, like my wife, who catch the brunt of it.  And its’ something that I need to be constantly reminded of.

Words matter, they carry emotion, they carry what we believe about the world, they carry what we believe about God.  When we take stabs at people we betray the anger and hurt that is in our own heart.

What anger and hurt do I have in my heart?  I need to examine it until I am aware of what it causing it so that I can become whole and bring healing to others instead of more pain

Proverbs 11 –

A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
but a just weight is his delight.
~Proverbs 11:1

A while back my dad was buying shrimp from some shrimpers who were selling their catch roadside.  As they began to weigh his purchase he noticed that they poured an awful lot of  ice on the scales with it, thus weighing more and giving my dad less shrimp.  My dad commented on it so the guy took the ice off, and my dad happened to look down and the guy had his hand pushing down on the scale to make it weigh more.  Of course my dad got it all straight before he left, but it was a pretty crazy experience.

I have to remember this when I price jobs, I’m a contractor, because I want to give people a fair price no matter what.  When I am honest, especially when times are financially tough, I show that my faith and security is not solely in my own ability.  But I have a higher and stronger place to lean and rely on.

It seems that scripture is more concerned with how we live our lives, than with how well we live.  How well we live is relative and lends itself to comparing ourselves with others and competition.

When you treat people right and have honest dealings, you may not get rich financially, but you will have everything you need and you will have wealth in many other ways.

Proverbs 10 – Money as god

Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
but righteousness delivers from death.
The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
~Proverbs 10:2-5

This is a section of Proverbs meant to encourage a righteous work ethic.  It is important to remember that the Proverbs are not promises, but are everyday axioms, general truths to live by.  For the most part if you follow Proverbs you’ll live a long happy prosperous life, and if you don’t then you’ll have strife and poverty.

Of course we all know people, and see people on tv or read about them, that are crooked or immoral and seem to be prospering.  And the Bible answers this elsewhere, which I don’t feel inclined to get into here now, but suffice to say that prosperity and peace are not their final end

Although Proverbs are true for all people, regardless of their faith or non-faith, they are especially true for believers in the God of the Bible, and as believers we are called to do business in a way that reflects our faith in God.

What I mean is that once we realize that everything we have ultimately comes from God then we are free to make decisions more on a moral level, and not so much on a financial level.

When you sacrifice your beliefs for money, you are serving money as god of your life, and you are laying down your good deeds at its altar.  How can you serve two gods?  You can’t.

Make the right decision and trust in God that everything will still work out ok, even if things don’t work out the way you want or financially in your favor, you will still be blessed