Thursday, August 14, 2008

Where is the virtuous man?

Unless you’re a member of the SCA, I doubt the word “chivalry” or its derivatives is part of your vocabulary.  In our modern society, we generally don’t speak of men as being virtuous, gallant or noble.  Pop culture certainly doesn’t celebrate these attributes.   In fact, sitcoms take great delight in creating chuckles over homosexuality and casual sex  while branding the straight principled guy as an odd duck in need of expanding his moral horizons.

Recent headlines have reminded me of how weak mankind is.  Governor Spitzer, the fallen Eliot Ness combating corporate corruption now must face the demons of his own heart.  I read about powerful men such as Spitzer, Clinton, Edwards and wonder what their most passionate supporters thought when they learned the news of their public humiliation.  Were heads shaking?  Another man down?   Were they truly distraught, feeling a deep sense of betrayal?  Maybe it’s a fad to ‘fess up’ to extramarital affairs just as “coming out of the closet” became vogue in the last few decades.  Maybe the news left us with a shrug over coffee as we next sought the sports section.  My own thought is usually: Are they truly sorry for their actions or are they just sorry they got caught?

Our culture praises men who are “successful” (read bulky bank account here), “handsome” (translation, fit, sculpted physique whether earned or surgically enhanced, it matters not) and “powerful” (able to wield position or assets to achieve their goals) to the point of brushing their “menial , everybodydoesit sins” under the rug.   It is true that as Christians we are to forgive our brother, or those who represent us as the case may be,......but what of our task to raise noble men?  Where is the training to withstand the temptations and trials that life brings?   Where are the honorable men?

Strong men have self-control and act with integrity in all facets of their lives and above all, they are not self-seeking but are humble before  All Mighty God.  These are the men who accomplish much for the Kingdom of Heaven, who earn respect from others and define leadership on earth.  I know they exist...mostly outside of our media IV.

Much like St. Paul’s epistles to the church at Corinth which encouraged men to strive for excellence and uphold the commandments of God, the code of chivalry which evolved out of the eleventh century entreats men to act honorably in all things.  In many of St. Paul’s letters, we are encouraged to prepare for battle, to stand ready for the world’s snares by girding ourselves with Truth, putting on the breastplate of righteousness, enfolding our feet with the gospel of peace and above all, he says, taking the shield of faith in order to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (from Ephesians 6:14-16)  

The code of chivarly that developed out of the Middle Ages should not be left to Middle English authorities, Renaissance Faires and storybooks; our society is in dire need of their resurrection, for weak spirits are such easy prey.    Qualities such as fearing God, faith, charity, justice, sagacity, prudence, TRUTH, hope, diligence, respecting the honour of women, temperance and obedience are among those found in the code that build true resilience in men;  a strength of spirit which is the core of the man, enabling him to combat the snares found upon the journey.  Enabling him to go forward with a purposeful goal rather than an arbitrary wandering.

Christians in America very often seem to be in a perpetual defensive mode; reacting to injuries, towing the line of forgiveness for trespasses without much regard for equipping ourselves and our children to avoid these quagmires at the outset.  If we instruct our sons & daughters on what it is to be honorable, to “run with endurance the race that is set before us...” (Hebrews 12: 1-2), we teach an offensive mode that develops virtuous men and advances the Kingdom of Heaven.

Praise God for those in whom the branch of glory dwells-

Praise God for the honorable man filled with humility;

May God enable us to teach our sons & daughters

what it means to be noble.

*Image is from the official site of Lord of the Rings

Praise God for the heart of J.R.R. Tolkien who celebrated the virtuous man in his epic novels.

Friday, August 8, 2008


“Filosofer”.  It was a username I came to know well over the past 7 years from the time I spent on Christian message boards, first at Philosophia Christi, followed by Christian Corner Community and then at my own board, Sparrow’s Hearth.  Filosofer always provided a voice of reason and genuine concern, especially during the time of the heated Arminian vs. Calvinism “debates” that occurred periodically in these online communities.     

In a virtual world where anonymity can create distorted perceptions and facades, I found a consistent, humble servant of Christ in everything filosofer wrote.  I also discovered a gifted counselor, teacher and who offers wisdom without condemnation.   

It came as no surprise that filosofer, aka, Rich, was in fact a Lutheran minister.   What did surprise me was that he expanded his local ministry to take on the hat of President of the American Lutheran Theological Seminary.  Fortunately for me, this meant that Rich would be traveling to many areas across the nation, including North Carolina.  And so, only a few weeks ago, as Rich was making his way from NC toward Indiana, I had the pleasure of meeting him in person.

We had a delightful visit over lunch and he was gracious enough to preview my “Real Beauty” program and share constructive comments.  I enjoyed hearing about his pastoral work and admire the enthusiasm  he radiates when speaking about various projects in the church.

Another friend of mine once remarked, ‘I no longer measure success by my much I’m bringing in, but rather in relationships, ...the friendships I share with other people..’   


I am blessed by your friendship, Rich.  May God continue to shine His face upon your journey.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Real Beauty

For two years I’ve had an outline of a program in my head titled, “Real Beauty”, which gives insight to inner beauty and worth as granted by God.  It’s a burden to me that so many young girls have such a poor self image and are daily inundated by the media on how they “should look”.  

On Friday, I realized a goal and presented my program to young women at the Juvenile Center in Mt. Hope, WV.  It is thanks to God and to the women at Fayetteville Baptist Church, in giving me the opportunity to speak that helped me to achieve this goal.  Having a deadline transformed my mental outline into a workable keynote presentation.

I was really nervous about I am NOT a professional speaker.  I’m not even a good speaker.  I stumble, I stray on tangents, forgetting my points...I say “um” way too much.  But when God lays something on your heart, you’d best do it.  I prayed that God would  put the words in my mouth, that He would make my path straight...and He did.  The words flowed on Friday when I stood in front of those beautiful girls and I am thankful.  I pray their hearts & minds were touched by Christ.

The purpose of this program was to educate young girls on their worth in God’s sight.  Also I stressed how the media exploits the body to sell products and that what you see is not what you get when it comes to cover girls.   It’s a message I think every girl needs to hear.  

I really don’t know how well the girls received the message as they were very quiet, but then I remember that God only wants us to plant seeds.  He asks us to spread the Gospel of Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest.  I am learning to be content with that...I tend to want to dig up the seed to see how it’s doing.

Praise God for His love and mercy.  Thanks to all my dear friends who helped me to pray about this presentation; I could not have done it apart from the strength of Jesus Christ.  Now I hope to have more opportunities to share this message.

The painting above is one from my program  illustrating the Greek word, Kalos, which is interpreted as “good" or  "beauty”.  Jesus Christ himself gives us the definition of “beauty” when he uses this word to describe the actions of the woman who anointed Him with fragrant oil in St. Matthew 26:10, “She has done a beautiful [kalos] thing to me.”   Her actions were praiseworthy and pleasing to God.  What more do we strive for?

I think it’s fascinating too that this same word is used in the Genesis account of creation when God saw what he had created and deemed it “good”.    God is the source of our life and beauty and also our goal.   My prayer is that more and more young girls will become aware of their worth in God’s sight so that they may live for Him.

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