Aug 21, 2019

New Blog Page

Jim's Blog Page has moved into the Men in the Arena website. There you will find his blog, Newsletter sign-up, online forum for men, podcast links, gear page and much more. 

Aug 6, 2019

The River Guide

Deschutes River in Maupin, Oregon

Recently a group of men from our church YCC, spent the day rafting on the the scenic Deschutes River.  The journey to Maupin was full of questions and unspoken anxiety surrounding rapid names like Box Car, Upper Elevator, and Oak Springs. 
Is it safe? What if I can’t swim? Has anyone died there? Do they have life jackets?
The day was epic and fully met our expectations. We were shot like a gun through a water chute, soloed the rapids with nothing but a life jacket, had raft against raft water fights, got plenty of sunburns, talked a lot of smack, and survived the ten-foot drop challenge at Oak Springs. Next year’s date is already on the calendar.

Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

Years ago I had to memorize several passages of scripture during my ordination process, one of them being Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
         I’d always viewed God as within me (immanent), above me (transcendent) and besides be—but behind me?
         God sees our big picture before we do. He doesn’t pull us like paddling upriver but guides, directs and nudges us from behind like a good shepherd directing a prodigal sheep.

Lead from the Back?

I noticed this on our white water trip. The only reason we were able to take the risks we took and experience the adrenaline rush of fun instead of tragedy of defeat was because of knowledgeable river guide.
Our guide’s twenty years of experience on that river taught us how to survive getting knocked out of the raft, float downriver safely, and when it was safe to jump in the river. He knew the river’s flow, levels, and how the raft would run the rapids based on the boat’s weight, strength of rowers, and obedience to his direction. 
Every day is different. Every raft crew is different. And every day on the river is different. He calculated all this information as he steered from the back using his longer guide oar for a paddle or rudder when needed. A myriad of things went threw his mind before barking orders, “Left side forward two strokes, right side backward one!”

Tip of the Spear 

Does this bother you? Are you a tip-of-the-spear kind of guy? It bothered me too until reality hit. Admittedly, there is value in being the tip of the spear but what would the tip be without the arrow fletching to guide the broadhead on target?  Where do we see this real-life leadership?

See the Big Picture

Are generals on the front lines leading the charge like William Wallace in the movie Braveheart (who was captured, tortured, and ultimately martyred)? 
Is Dabo Swinney playing quarterback for Clemson University? No, he observes from the sidelines, receives directions from his coaches in the press box; assesses the down, distance, field position, and time on the game clock, then (hopefully) calls the best play from all the information gathered—all in under a minute.
            As the spiritual leader, it’s an awesome privilege to guide the river of life for our family. Get in the back and observe your family’s flow. Are there pending obstacles up ahead? What dangers lie in wait under the shallow surface? Who needs a lifeline? Who needs to be disciplined? Who needs to be praised?
            Where do you need to stop and have some fun! Who needs a little extra encouragement? Most of all, where will this river take your family if you continue down it. What will your marriage, children, and grandchildren be like tomorrow based on the river you navigate today?
            God has handed you the guide oar. Take it! Grab ahold! Be the man God has ordained. It’s time to start leading from the back.

Jul 31, 2019

An Untimely Death

Mac’s Tragic Death

It happened early in the morning on a Friday. It came as a shock. No one was expecting it. I didn’t wake up that Friday knowing what was about to happen. But it happened anyway.
On the way to a special recording of the Men in the Arena Podcast I stopped by the coffee shop and grabbed two coffees. I was excited about interviewing the genius behind our new online forum for men. This is an amazing forum for men who DO NOT use social media. All that is needed to join is an mail address and user name!
While setting up, producer of the show Dale Collver, jokingly asked if I could handle putting the cable into the microphone. 
“Of course I can do that!” But the cable (I had nothing to do with it) inadvertently hit the top of my coffee knocking the entire contents onto the table. The rest is a blur, it happened so fast. The entire sixteen ounces drown Dale’s laptop. 
 It was a quick kill.  
          Rescue breathing didn’t work. CPR was rendered ineffective. Even if we had an automated external defibrillator (AED), it would’ve only made matters worse. We held onto hope until 1:00 that afternoon when the Genius Lab tech gave us the tragic news—Mac as we knew it—was dead.
         Twenty minutes and $1200 later we mourned Mac’s loss and headed home with an even better version of the Mac we knew.

Romans 8:12-13 

         So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 

Something to Consider

          The death of Mac got me thinking about my stuff. You know, material things of value that can be gone with something as simple as a coffee spill or fumbled phone drop. The tangible things of our life are so fragile. In one month we’ve seen the destruction of our cars (yes, in one month), one laptop, and have a phone that is terminal. Why do we value things of so little actual value? Why do we spend so much time on things that offer nothing on the other side of eternity? 

The Best Version of You

           The great apostle said it best when he spoke of the most important death—mine. I must die, not physically but actually. My intangible self must die to my natural desires. My soul must surrender to its Creator (Galatians 2:20) and in so doing find the fullest of lives (John 12:24-26)I must mourn the death (Matthew 5:4) of my desires so that I can celebrate my best of lives in Jesus.
            The problem with the Christian men I know—myself included—is that we suffer when we hold on to our loves, instead of surrendering to the Master. It’s one thing to be a “Christian”, but it’s another to actually follow Christ; to take up your cross, and carry it. 
 Did you wake up this morning and die to every desire that is not from God? Death is the most difficult thing to finding life.

Jul 24, 2019

A Personal Con-"Stress"-ion

Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Confession Time

I’ve been a little stressed out lately. Maybe that’s an understatement. You know how we are. My wife is worried about me. I’m on four different blood pressure medications, but it has nothing to do with the job. I think.    
       Last summer at this time I was alone at a friend’s house in Hawaii hunting Axis Deer, enjoying the Beach, and reading through the New Testament. 
       I believe this summer is a hinge-point for our ministry. In the fall we’re releasing book one in a new small group series called Men in the Arena. On July 4 we launched our 180 Campaign, a fundraising campaign to increase our staff team and update our physical resources by raising $180,000 in 180 days. We are weeks away from a new website launch with an amazing online forum for men who’ve rejected social media. In the fall we are launching ten Virtual Teams so men can be discipled all around the country even if they are not connected to any local resources. We’re working hard to promote the only Iron Sharpens Iron Conference (April 4, 2020) in the Northwest. Not to mention the daily operations of an already growing ministry to men. 

A Full Life

Life is full. Life is good. I’m not complaining—just sharing the facts. 
       We love to brag about how busy we are as if it were a badge of honor among men. It is not. It’s a sin that pulls us away from Jesus who said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). 
        The goal is a full, not busy life.
        Lately, my life has been busy; thus, my confession—rather my con-stress-ion.
        We walk a very fine line between the full and busy life. This difference is where our life is centered during the storms. In the past months, I’ve focused on the task at hand, which has led me to where I am, stressed.

Made for This

During a recent Men in the Arena Podcast, Founder and President of Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conferences Brian Doyle said something I’ll never forget. In his matter-of-fact way, he plainly stated, “Men are made for pressure.”
I believe this is true. But why is it true? And, what is the point of pressure if it only leads to a stressed-out life?

Pressure Point

Pressure points us back to Jesus. Pressure in the juncture where we can choose to either trust in self as a secular humanist would, or trust in Jesus as we passionately pursue Him. Pressure, is that fork in the road that compels a choice to be made.
I know what I’ve chosen. How about you?
I’m “Fixing (my) eyes on Jesus, the “author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2a). I’m choosing life over death. I’m choosing a full life over a stressed one. I’m choosing Jesus over myself.