Friday, 23 September 2016

Decent Men Come Last

All those who know me, friends, not so much my family as there isn’t so much of us left, and even acquaintances, know that I have issues with women. They are not so serious anymore, and I pray regularly about it. It is mixed up with a lot regrets, sadness and what might-have-beens.

It has been said many times, that decent men, genuine men, even shy men and men who wear their hearts on their sleeves, come last. All the ladies say they want a decent man to care about them and treat them right, get married and have children with and be loved and cherished and cared for. But that’s all baloney, right??!  Women, and it seems there are multitudes of them, go for bad boys, what I like to call, possibly slightly nastily, the ‘beaters, cheaters and down the streeters’, men who beat women, cheat on them and disappear down the street and turn up again when they feel like it.

I used to feel jealous of such guys, they way they didn’t care one way or the other about the women who would seem to throw themselves at them and cling on to those men, when I couldn’t even get a woman to look at me no matter what I did. Now, I tend to think that such relationships as they are, are really two self destructive people coming into each other’s orbit, with mutually assured destruction as the result. This is not self righteous judgement, and it is not just blaming the woman for being stupid or the bloke for being a predatory a**ehole, either. But, being that decent men are usually a little more sensitive, a little more shy, a little more genuine, not in every case obviously, but generally, the decent men are either pushed aside by women, ignored one too many times or simply switch off from the whole overplayed dating game/cattle market scene and stop looking. So, the decent men disappear leaving the field wide open for the bad boys. The women, who say in one breath they ‘really really would like to find a decent caring man’ but perversely choose a nasty one get what they want, the bad boys who treat women dreadfully get what they want, and the decent men and decent women for that matter leave the field like dejected heroes and heroines, the knight without a fair maiden, and the fair maiden without a knight.

Dramatic? Well, love is dramatic, and being hurt in this sphere of life can leave deep emotional pain and cast long shadows over our lives. It certainly has over mine. God has allowed me to suffer. ‘11 O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, I am about to set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. 12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of jewels, and all your wall of precious stones. 13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your children. 14 In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.’ (Isaiah 54:11-15) Even when God allows you and me to suffer, even suffer grievously and for a very long time, there is a purpose and there will be a good outcome to it all. It may not feel like it at the time, but as long as we have faith in God, and keep the channels of communication open, He will deliver us. His promises are not empty promises, believe me. Better still, believe Him.

I want to talk about something that has made me think for a while. It involves unrequited love, a well known English bank, me and a little lady. This is not meant to be funny, and nor is it upsetting really. But this is often the kind of ‘romantic dalliance’ I have had throughout my life. In the past, this did upset me greatly. Now, I tend to reflect on the whole matter a bit more. I have had a few nice girlfriends, I dillied and dallied a little on the singles scene, which in the UK is often not much more than going out with your mates (this is pretty much the same for groups of men or women), getting drunk, sometimes gloriously so, and hoping to meet someone of the opposite sex for laughs, tickles and maybe more, after the bacchanalian orgy that has just commenced. It’s understandable that by the time many of us hit our late 20s or early 30s, we get somewhat fed up with the whole British dating scene as it is. I certainly did, and many years ago.

Suffice to say, it isn’t really a great way to meet someone. It’s a great way to get drunk, sleep around (sometimes) and get drawn into an ever decreasing circle of diminishing returns. And, although on the surface it can all seem like one long party time, in the end it is emptiness. It is also often the pursuit of people who don’t really have values or a genuine purpose in life, and may end up in a person pursuing an addictive lifestyle, which I would say ultimately ends in self destruction of some kind and starts with a person pursuing an illusion, of which the more they seek the less real it becomes.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was in a branch of my local NatWest bank about a year ago or so, and needed help with a password for something involving the bank and a bonus scheme to collect points for elephant safaris or spending a romantic evening with Bill Clinton, or something, and I needed to ask one of the bank tellers, which I did. Now, both these bank workers (we don’t say bank tellers in the UK!) I know by face quite well, and they are both female and I have to say I found them, and still do, very attractive women, demure, obviously hard working, intelligent, the type of women most men really want to meet, be with, spend time with and fall in love with. Now, so far so good. I have to be perfectly honest, I liked both of them and wished somehow I could talk to either one of them and go on a date, but that seemed highly unlikely. I don’t know why, really. It’s not even so much shyness as how, when and why. I think most people know what I mean there. Anyway, there was also something else, too, which I found a little strange, and with this we get to the nub of the story. One of the women there that I liked is quite petite and has a very pretty face, the type of woman I have thought wouldn’t give me a second look most of the time. In this case, it seemed to be the same. Each time I came into the bank, not only wouldn’t this bank worker look at me, she actually seemed to make a point of never meeting my eyes at all and looked away from me every time I entered the bank. I figured quite naturally and understandably that she had no interest whatsoever in me and gave it little thought, other than I found her attractive and wanted to know her. This went on for a few months, until the aforementioned password incident, where I asked the other woman for help, and then Adele came out, told me her name and said she would help me if I came in again. It was only later that I suspected she might have been breaking the ice, but at the same time I was so used to being literally ignored by her that I didn’t give it a second thought.

What I am really curious about is, why if in the end she liked me, which I never once suspected, didn’t she at least look at me, even a little smile? I am truly confused about the way many women work when it comes to romance. It seems they can stand next to a guy, glance occasionally, even pretend to ignore someone, but it seems beyond so many women just to say hello. I will also say this too. I think many men these days when they see an attractive woman they like, are unsure whether to approach, not just through fear of being rejected or making a fool of themselves, but also the bigger fear of being accused of being a pest or stalker. I am being serious here. The accepted norm of romance is the man has to approach the woman and put himself in the firing line, so to speak. Many women can be hostile in this situation, for no apparent reason, or humiliate the man, or just be unpleasant. Obviously this can be exacerbated by alcohol which is why I don’t drink socially anymore and I don’t go to pubs or clubs anymore either. But women seem to think that it is easy for men to make the first move. Sometimes it isn’t.

So I believe truly decent men come last in love and often many other things, but I’m fine with that now. Not that I’m the most decent or perfect man, nor do I think it is any different for decent women, but as a Christian I accept the world the way it is, fallen and corrupt and we as human beings, whatever we do or believe and however we act, morally or immorally, are going to be or certainly have been victims of a fallen world. So, there has to be forgiveness for people and we all have to make allowances as others make allowances for us. We also have to forgive, as God forgives us.

So, very often decent men do come last. But sometimes, good things come to those who wait patiently. God will reward all those who put faith and hope in Him, and of course remain faithful to Him too.

30 ...many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’ (Matthew 19:30)


Update as of 17th September, 2018:

A year ago, or thereabouts, I started talking online to a very beautiful, sexy and intelligent Christian Filipina woman. This April, I visited her in the Philippines, because we both wanted to see how we felt about each other face to face. I fell head over heels in love with her, and thank God she did with me, once we met! I love her passionately, I think she is sexy, beautiful, young looking for her age, even though she is still young anyway(!), I love her funny family, and I love her friends, and I love the Philippines and I love Filipino food!!! Oh, I love her cat, Parker, too. He reminds me of me, but I can't really say why??!

God has brought me the perfect woman for me, and I won't lie, I prayed for a woman with beauty on the inside and beauty on the outside! But, so what? I love the bones of her, and I am going to marry her. So, there is a happy ending, and though often decent men, and decent women too, may come last and be pushed aside by the arrogant, self important status and money seeking types, patience has brought me my soulmate, lover, mother of our children and life partner, and there is a happy ending, after all.  

Friday, 9 September 2016

John Eldredge and Masculine Christianity

Political correctness in the last twenty years or so, and perhaps quite a lot longer in some forms, has seen the explosion of diversity and multiculturalism and the promotion of many ethnic minority rights and other what are seen as minority rights, too. Masculinity particularly has been attacked, diminished and sidelined, and in some senses so too have men. White men are a kind of all purpose bogeyman now, and to be honest some of that is not without reason. Men in general have been on the receiving end of all kinds of societal anger, resentment and hate, again, not without some justification. Masculine values and ideals are also under fire from many quarters too, and are seen as a problem. Of course, many men from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds and many countries feel marginalised, and probably many women feel that it is not before time. Of course, within this fall other factors such as class, racism, nationalism and other things, not all men being equal after all. But, in short, men, masculinity and masculine values seem almost superfluous, almost redundant and not needed anymore. Men have become emasculated.

Now some people, even some men, may say the emasculation of men is not before time, and the feminisation of society is a welcome change. Some may even say that more women in power, in positions of authority and in politics, business and other spheres of human activity that have often been the sole preserve of usually powerful wealthy upper and middle class white men is a good thing, too. But, to be fair, many institutions tend to be dominated by men whoever they are and whatever background they come from.

But, didn’t God create male and female, and didn’t he do that for a purpose? Did He also create us to be different, as well? Knowing the trauma and conflict making us different genders and different colours and ethnicities would cause, just why did God create us all different? I suppose that’s another story. But it’s definitely obvious that male and female are very different, apart from the obvious differences. Most men tend to react differently to things than most women. Men usually have different abilities to women, and often have different interests to women too, although that is changing. Men can sometimes be solitary and ‘lone wolves’ whereas women tend towards empathy and sharing and caring. Of course, these are certainly not set in stone, and to be honest, how much of the general emotional characteristics that men tend to have and women tend to have are actually innate, or taught and socialised into us over the course of our childhood and later lives is most definitely open to question. What clever people might call the nature vs nurture argument.

I know that like with many things, masculinity is not something that is fully understood, but what I have a problem with is that there is now such animosity towards the idea of masculinity and so obviously to the idea of men. Many women may honestly say, ‘not before time’, but I think this in many senses is just the age old societal anger turning its ire to one group or another, and then in time to another group. Men and masculinity in general at this time are not flavour of the month. But, is this fair and is it acceptable? Should society demean masculine values and promote feminine values, if that is in actual fact what is happening? My view on this is quite simple. In the same way people vote for another political party when they become absolutely sick and tired of the one they have been voting for and not getting much from them, anger turns against one group or another when things are not going well politically or economically and badly in other ways. That can sometimes be immigrants, black people, Muslims, white working class people and so on. In the England of the 70s and 80s, Black people, Pakistanis and Irish people, women and gay people were the butt of jokes, casual sexism, casual racism and even violent racism. This hatred could be called unreconstructed as it wasn’t seen as completely malign, although those on the receiving end will probably beg to differ. In short, it was probably as much a lack of understanding than it was wilful and malignant and purposely directed. Although again, I would suggest that extreme racism and extreme prejudice has to come from focussed hate. But many people, as is human nature, just went along with it.

Today, political correctness has challenged such racism and prejudice and has turned its ire on the supposed architect of such prejudices, which is men, usually white working class men. It seems that greater, and self designated respectable, society always needs a group to point its respectable finger at, without fear of retaliation, the media itself being part of what seems to be respectable society. But as with many things ‘respectable’, there is always an agenda to shift society’s anger or frustration or the harsh economic realities sometimes imposed on the poor in some way, and usually it is shifted on a group that is either poor and can’t really fight back, or a group of some kind already resented in some way. Attacking the working class is quite an interesting move, because they are not really a minority and it cannot technically be called racism either, although I will dispute this at a later date, which seems to be acceptable to some, particularly those who seem to be quite vocally opposed to racism, homophobia and sexism. I truly find this rather strange, but not really surprising if I’m being honest. The white male, particularly but certainly not exclusively the working class variety, of which I am one of the said species, is the new scapegoat.

Working class masculinity is portrayed as negatively, and usually often as erroneously as racists portray black people or Jews or immigrants, or virulent sexists portray men or woman, or homophobes portray those who are gay. The working class are almost always portrayed by middle class writers or journalists or opinion formers, and very rarely portrayed by those who are or have working class backgrounds themselves. This often results in what are really extremes being portrayed as normal, so we either have the shaven headed, tattoo covered thug with can of strong beer in hand, or sometimes the saintly version who bears up and remains cheerful no matter how crap things are. One thing most of those writers seem to forget is we are all just human beings at the end of the day. But working class masculinity is seen now as almost completely negative. Of course, many of us rebel against this, but those of us who are smart, rebel in a smart way by being more masculine, looking more masculine, not being afraid to be men, and even grow beards these days! Men should be men. Women should be women. Never the twain shall meet!? Well, no, not exactly.

The real perniciousness of course is that the supposedly clever, informed and clued up in the media, politics and the world of academia, particularly in the US and the UK, instead of challenging stereotypes and prejudices either pretend they don’t exist, subtly and sometimes not so subtly go along with those prejudices and don’t allow any real debate on issues around class discrimination, racism, sexism, homophobia and the like unless it comes from a very narrow politically correct agenda. In short, the people who claim to be liberal and open minded have become some of the most narrow and closed minded and illiberal people around. Some of them scream racist and fascist at people now merely because they have a difference of opinion from what a friend of mine called the New Orthodoxy, which I suppose is the idea that if you aren’t an ultra politically correct roving anti racist, anti sexist and anti homophobic champion of the oppressed, you don’t deserve to be heard. I’m waiting next to hear of books being burnt because they aren’t politically correct enough, or because the writer has had the temerity to hold an original and different thought from the PC Thought Police, on their quest to save the world from fascism and intolerance, except their own fascism and intolerance of course.

Yes, we do seem to have wondered a little off the topic of masculinity, but I see that as resentment has turned against the often racist, sexist and xenophobic nature of Western society, particularly the UK and the US, the political class and the well placed liberal opinion formers have found a target to blame it all on.

My view, as a white working class male, who also happens to suffer with chronic fatigue syndrome, has suffered with bouts of depression, unemployment, identity crises here and there, and now the ire of respectable society for being a white working class male who is not in any way ashamed of that, with an ability to grow a fairly good beard (now surely the last gasp of desperate masculine defiance?!) is to simply walk with the Lord. Whoever is persecuted in this world, for no other reason than simply being who they are without harming others becomes like Jesus when they act like Jesus. The world system may target one scapegoat after another to justify economic divisions and social and economic apartheids of many kinds, and political establishments and elites and the media will always seek to justify in however subtle a way they can such unfairness and injustice, but this is an unfair and unprincipled world where money is worshipped long before God is, and human beings come a very poor second to the worship of greed, success and self interest of many kinds, and that will never change.

We all, whoever we are and whatever injustice and persecution we may face in this world, have a saviour we can rely on. ’16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Masculinity isn’t a dirty word! Neither for that matter is femininity. Like it or not, God made us different for a reason. If men become women, and women become men, where will we all be? I am not judging people who struggle with who they are and wish in those rare and extreme cases to change sex, but the majority of us who are just happy to be men or women but feel that we should be constantly changing, constantly fearful of every new thing and social trend that says this is now acceptable but that isn’t, and then something else comes along saying the exact opposite. As a Christian, I don’t want or need changeable humanistic values or ideals, because no matter how good they are or start out, they always deteriorate eventually. Look at political correctness, or the most zealous feminists or even the proliferation of equal rights, which in that particular case hasn’t really changed that much. They all eventually become corrupted and sometimes vehicles for ambitious people for their own ends, and often against other groups of people.

God’s values do not change, neither are they the personal or special rights of any group of people, even long standing devout practising Christians for that matter, they are unchangeable laws that benefit those who obey them and condemn and bring to judgement all who arrogantly flout them.

Away from all that stuff, I really like to read John Eldredge’s very Christian and very masculine books that celebrate his Christian faith and celebrate the idea of men being unashamedly masculine without having to apologise or make any excuses for being men, and being masculine men as well. But also being Christian men, too. There is this growing idea, probably more so in the West, that men, especially Christian men, should be emasculated men. Yes, Jesus was said to be meek and mild, but this isn’t the only blueprint for Godly masculinity. Meek and mild is not necessarily weak and emasculated for that matter, either. John Eldredge says that we should reclaim our masculinity as Christian men, should see that as God is untamed as we men cannot be tamed either. That appeals to me. Obviously, becoming Hells Angels or football hooligans or pub brawlers is out of the question for Christian men, but going beyond the humdrum of emasculated manhood certainly isn’t!! I love being with blokes, having a laugh, not worrying about making, or usually hearing an inappropriate or off colour joke now and then, being loud and laughing even louder. But, I love my own space, being on my own, walking in country places surrounded by trees, greenery, hills, mountains in the distance and the feeling that I can walk wherever I want without a care. Oh, and I do like the beauty of a woman, too. I may add that Hells Angels and footy hooligans and pub brawlers may enjoy the peace, freedom, forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ, too.

I’ve been on this planet for nearly 50 years now. Sometimes I’ve lived as a man, sometimes I’ve lived as a half man. It’s like I’ve never lived. Well, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt at 80, so I’ve got some time yet. But, God made me a man, and a masculine man. It’s where my heart has always been. No longer should us men be ashamed of our masculinity.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

God Loves Me... Even if Everyone Else thinks I’m a ****

Ah, to be cool like Steve McQueen, or Idris Elba, or Robert de Niro, Or Al Pacino, or one of the great Shakespearean actors like Laurence Olivier, or Paul Scofield, or one of the cool musicians like Jimi Hendrix, or Miles Davis. Oh, to be cool like one of those fellas!!! But, alas, most of us are not, even though we all cling to a little bit of coolness, a little bit of mystery, a little bit of sly hipsterism. Well, most do, Well, some do. Well, I do. Well I try to. Sometimes. Not all the time. Most days, not all.

When I am alone, I wish to share my thoughts and my life with others. When I am with others, I sometimes want to be alone. On my best days, I muddle through. On my worst days, I go off into worlds of my own imagination. Not sure where I will end up. Until I need a cup of tea, and then I fall quickly back to earth again.

I am, and was for a very long time, socially awkward. You wouldn’t really know it to look at me, but sooner or later, you would notice. The thing is, now I don’t care. I crack silly jokes, I laugh too loud, and I sometimes make a spectacle of myself. But didn’t I just tell you, I just don’t care?

It’s cool to be socially awkward! I spent a lot of my life wishing I was someone else, and now I am glad to be me, and no one else. I spent half of my life running away from me. Now I’m not running anymore. I’ve spent half my life thinking that people just didn’t want to know me. Well, God does, so that is all I need at this time. I could be extremely angry at the people who treated me badly in the past, one of those guys who walk around like they are ready to strike like a coiled snake. But, there’s too many people knocking around like that these days. I don’t want to be one of them.

I am a misfit. I am one on my own. They definitely broke the mould when they made me. I’m the spare part. I’m the one that doesn’t fit in. I’m like nobody else. There is nobody else like me. I wanted to fit in. Now I don’t. Take me or leave me. Accept me or reject me. Like me or hate me. I don’t care. I am socially awkward. Maybe the socially awkward shall inherit the earth?

Once, I used to hate myself. I’m still not sure how I feel about myself now. But God loves me, even if everyone else thinks I’m a ****.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Men’s Issues

What are men’s issues, what are the things important to men, and what moves us and what are the things men often like? 

Some men are gentle; does this make them lesser men?  No, I don’t think so.  Some men, like me, are a curious mix of tough and gentle, we’re city boys used to seeing macho guys, some with tattoos and shaven heads and used to watching our backs in the tougher parts of cities. Cities call for a kind of toughness, but they also call for a kind of urbane smartness and refinement; many of us have these two qualities.  We’re tough because of where we grew up, but perhaps we’re gentle too, maybe because we’re Christian men and maybe because we see the folly of violence.

If you’re a working class male, or you grew up in a working class city or council estate or environment, you’re probably used to seeing violent people and the occasional violent situation and you might be used to seeing the limited horizons some working class people have and what this can mean for men: unemployment, drifting, getting involved with the wrong crowd, indulging in drink or even drugs. I’m not suggesting that only working class men are involved in these kinds of things as they can affect all different kinds of people from all walks of life, but that for poorer men, this can be their lifestyle because it’s the only one they can cling to, and when men have nothing else in their lives, they can doggedly cling to a lifestyle that to most everyone else appears harmful, unhelpful, life-limiting and even dangerous.

Nothing in life is permanent-just when you think you’ve got something pegged, then everything changes.  Life changes, society changes, people change, situations change and life in all its splendour just keeps on going whatever happens.

The lucky men find in life what makes them successful or what makes them happy, and they pursue it, and so subsequently find their thing in life.  No doubt there are many more men who struggle to make their mark in life, still trying to figure it all our and sometimes going from one thing to another and never quite finding just what it is they want; that sums up me anyway.

Does God want Christian men to be stereotypes, stereotype Christians?  Are we meant to question things, the way things are, or are we meant to just to put up and shut up?  If God created us, then all the things we are, questioning, asking, inquisitive, all these things must be from God.  Why do we pretend to be what we are not, why do we hide behind religion and religious platitudes instead of finding out who we really are?  Are we frightened of who we really are, are we frightened of finding out the truth of who and what we are?  And, just who are we?

We’re men, in all our glorious mess, our glorious imperfection, our wonderings, our wonderings of just who we are and what our lives mean.

Once you feel like a loser, for whatever reason, it’s hard to shake off the feeling and it can consume you and seem to ruin your life. 

We all deserve a second chance, we all deserve another shot at life, no matter what we’ve done or what we haven’t done.

Anyone can be a good Christian, a good neighbour if they live in a nice, prosperous middle class suburb, but their faith isn’t really tested. What if you don’t live in a nice prosperous middle class suburb?  It’s easy to be nice if you’ve got a nice comfortable life, surrounded by affluence and other nice people.  What if you don’t have a nice comfortable life?  What happens if you’re unemployed, or very poor and struggling, or live in a very run down area or just struggle to make something of yourself?  Are you not Christian material then?

What sort of people did Jesus come for?  Those who have it all together or those who find they haven’t got it all together?

What sort of men does God want?  Perfect men with good jobs, always smiling and endlessly successful with film star looks?  What about men like me, a mix of all kinds of contradictory emotions, sometimes awkward, or loners, or misfits?  Is God above dealing with people like that, people like me, people like you?  What does God want with us anyway?  Why doesn’t He leave us alone?  Weren’t we fine doing our own thing, didn’t we get on well without Him?

Can bad men be reformed, can they become Christians?  What about those men who don’t really care one way or the other about religion, who would rather be in a pub than in a church?  Can God reach out to them?  Why don’t men like going to church, why do so many men feel it’s not for us even if we are Christians?  Does organised Christianity appeal to men?  It doesn’t appeal to me anyway.  I’ve wondered about this for a long time: just what sort of worship do we want as Christians? It seems to me that church attendance is declining and yet no one is really asking why. Is it because it seems so deadly dull and out of touch?  What city boy wants, really wants, to go to a traditional church, sing hymns and hear a sermon that seems to have absolutely no relevance to them?  Raising money for church roofs, bric-a-brac sales and garden fetes are all very well, but they are not what Christianity is really about.

Talk about crucifixion and the suffering and trials and temptations of Jesus, and some men might relate to that.  We relate to what we know, to suffering, to hard lives, depression and sometimes the sheer injustice of life and the way things have turned out for us.  I can relate to Jesus’ sufferings because I have suffered.  Why can’t we be honest about all of this, why do we have to hide behind all kinds of falsehood, why can’t we debate and discuss these, and many other, issues openly and honestly?  Are we supposed to keep our heads down, say nothing, and pretend everything’s fine even when it’s obvious that it’s not?  If we’re honest, we might just find some truth by default.  And, don’t we all want to get to the truth, after all?

So, we’re men and we have issues.

What is all this religion about?  What is Christianity about?  What’s with all these denominations and which denomination is the true one anyway?  What sort of church do men want?  One that doesn’t mind our tattoos, our unshaven faces and looking like thugs in jeans and t-shirts? Do we want a church that has a barbecue serving steaks and ribs and burgers and a bar serving ice cold beer, with footy on the telly? Perhaps. What we most want is something real, something that speaks to our hearts and experience, something that makes sense to our troubled souls. What we want is a faith that speaks to us, to our masculinity, our brokenness, our uncertainties, our awkwardness, all the things in fact that make us men. Is Jesus big and tough enough to deliver all this?  I think He is. Perhaps we need to ask Him.

Men are complex. We cry at some things, but not at others. We are emotional, but usually in a negative aggressive sense.  We are meant to be hard, but we ache to be gentle and kind and caring.

Who do men identify with and want to be like?  Famous footballers, rock stars past and present, charismatic and handsome film stars from all eras, and maybe great writers and thinkers and artists. Some of us may even identify with Jesus.

We’re all mostly ordinary men, so why do we identify with the extraordinary, the great, the best? What’s lacking in us, for us to want to be something out of the ordinary? We’re ordinary and we live in the mundane everyday world, but sometimes we yearn for something bigger than us, to be something beyond us, to be part of something bigger than we are. We want it all to mean something. That everything isn’t by accident but that it all has a purpose, a bigger purpose that will be made known to us.

Life is unfair. Some of us are born wealthy and affluent, and some of us simply are not. Getting on is an issue for most men. But how are we to approach this as Christians?  Surely we should just leave it to God, pray and hope for the best?  Are we even to have ambitions to better lives as Christian men?  Surely Christians are meant to live in poverty and just accept the circumstances they find themselves in? Well, in the past poor people often had accept their lot in life, whilst rich people, those wealthy or connected, could really do what they liked. We live in more enlightened times now, and part of life for most people is getting on, progressing, setting goals and going about trying to achieve them.  But for the Christian man, where does God fit into all of this? Is trying to be successful setting ourselves against God and His plan for our lives? Doesn’t everyone want to get on? What about the Christian man? I believe in every area of our lives, especially whatever it is that we are unsure about, we should simply pray to God for help and for an answer. Everything we do in a sense should be approved by God, but there’s no reason at all why anyone can’t aspire to a better life, to make money, to fulfil a dream, start a business, be a sportsman, musician, writer, shopkeeper, further a career or simply like many of us just get a job. There seems to be an unwritten rule, especially in England, that Christians must stay poor to be real Christians.  I’m not quite sure why. It never seems to apply to those already wealthy or Middle and Upper class Christians though. There is a double-standard here which we all need to move on from. Christianity can be about empowering people, to do things they might never have dreamed of. God’s calling on your life might very well be to serve Him in some kind of reduced circumstances, helping others in poverty-stricken areas, but it might also be that God wants you to enjoy abundance and be successful, providing of course you remain true to Him and your Christian calling. It can be done.

Where do men stand with women?  Where do Christian men stand with the whole dating game?  If you make a move on some women, even if they like you, they’ll draw back from you and act like they don’t like you.  With another kind of women, if they like you they flash their eyes at you and expect you to rush over and break the ice. If you don’t right at that moment, they won’t usually give you a second chance. So, what’s a man to do?

All the things we want to be good at, successful with women, successful in general, happy, healthy, with a general sunny out outlook, yet we often fail to live up to any of this and we feel failures. Yes, we’re men and we have issues. You may ask ‘are we Christian men real people?’ Yes, we’re real people, if you hit us we bleed like anyone else. Why do we cling to so stubbornly to this faith, this belief, when often it seems to bring us no good?

For Christian men, the past represents our old life, and the present and future represents our new Christian life.

Money! That old chestnut money. Is there more to life than money and the making of money?  Whatever we think about it, money is something that is a big part of men’s lives, either we have it or we don’t have it, either we’re making it or we’re not making it and, whether we have it or not, it is the thing we most want in life, the thing we must keep making. If we don’t have it we want it, and if we have it we want even more of it. So, is there more to life than money? Well, there is peace, joy, happiness, a sense of well-being and contentment, and also the idea that we are not continually looking around the corner waiting for something better to turn up.  But, let’s be honest, we can attain all these things anytime...can’t we? And what we all really want is money...isn’t it? Money is what makes the world go round, and whether we like it or not, we live in a world dominated by money, one way or the other.

Money touches all our lives. In what way should Christian men treat money?  This could be an easy question, or not an easy question, depending on your point of view.  The first answer is we should fulfil our need before we satisfy our greed and we should be grateful for the good things in life we already have, like a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, access to the things in life that keep us clean and healthy and so on, and not worry so much about whether we are wealthy. Of course, to some men, this answer might seem a cop-out, a trite answer that just doesn’t work. I mean, don’t we all want to get on, make money, be successful, improve our lives and have a good quality of life and be able to buy the things we want? Most of us do, if we’re honest but where do we draw the line?

I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men!’ (Ecclesiastes 1:13)

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Trapped In Me

Trapped in me,

Words are not enough

to explain the bittersweet emptiness I feel.

I have no friends near, no one understands… may never understand

what it’s like to be trapped in me.

My greatest gift, and my worst curse is simply to be me, and no one else,

and no one else can understand what it feels like to be me.


I journey strange voyages alone… I can’t get anyone to come along.

But then, why would they?

I’m a man, or so I think.

That’s what I am supposed to be.


Loss, pain, success, thrills, glory, tears, laughs...

To everything turn, and turn again.


I’m not a poet,

and nor would I pretend to be.

I’m just trapped...

in me.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Thinning On Top?!

No, Thinning on Top is not a small quaint village in Worcestershire somewhere (pronounced Wus-te-sha, not wussussestershishishishishi etc) full of English stereotypes out of a Hollywood movie, I’m talking hair here, and you know, you’ve all been running from that for a long time, haven’t you? Time to face the truth...

Oh, woe is me! Hair today, gone tomorrow!? As the hair goes, the beard grows! Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street!? His head is growing through his hair! Taking longer and longer to wash your face??! Well, at least you’ll save a fortune on combs!! Hey, Chromedome!! Oi, Slaphead?!! And on and on it goes, a veritable litany of cruelty, jibes, anxiety and hilarity aimed at the man who is ‘follicly’ challenged.

I’m going a bit thin on top, you see. At one time, it was a traumatic thing for blokes to go bald, or starting to go bald. In fact, it still is really, but the trend now is to make it trendy “are you going  bald, mate? Oh no, I’m just shaving my head. It’s really cool, isn’t it?” and so on. Get a tight t shirt and tight jeans, grow a trendy goatee beard, or the latest guy accessory a full beard (if you can, that is) and the bald head is the crown on the head of your new image change. Baldness can actually be trendy...

I suppose of course, that losing your hair also brings your youth to an end in some cases, too. But, not always. What seems to happen to guys where I come from is they actually start to take more care in their appearance, lose a bit of weight, perhaps work out a bit and start thinking about their wardrobe and what clothes they are actually wearing. In some cases, some blokes might even start buying AND using moisturiser!!! Not me, oh no... But, suddenly the hair loss isn’t the end, not a bit of it, it can be the beginning of a whole new you. Without hair though, obviously.

Just look at these guys for a moment, if you will, and savour their slapheadedness in all their glory...

 So, it’s not so bad to be a baldy, is it. Could be the start of a whole new you... and let’s face it, you won’t go through the trauma of going bald again, will you? And I’ll leave you with this pearl of wisdom, that may leave you at peace:

 Perhaps going bald is just God’s way of saying you are losing your hair....?

 And Here, is the Slaphead’s Slaphead....

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

John Sentamu’s Coming!!!!!!!!

John Sentamu’s coming, he’s coming today

Is he staying for a year, or a year and a day?

John Sentamu’s coming, he’s on his way

Three cheers for the fella, hip hip hooray!!!


John Sentamu’s buying, he’s getting them in

Cider for her, and I’ll have a gin

John Sentamu’s buying, so don’t be late

He drinks like a fish, and he eats for eight.


John Sentamu’s drumming, he’s forming a band

Rap indie rock metal, he’ll never be panned

John Sentamu’s strumming, a one man band

It’s always live music, he’ll never be canned.


John Sentamu’s running, get out of his way

Running for dolphins, or so they

John Sentamu’s gunning, he’s gunning for souls

He’s driving a mini, but never a Rolls.


 John Sentamu’s thinking, of what to do now

Skiing for hedgehogs, hopping in Macau

John Sentamu’s smiling, a friendly old chap

The nation is grateful, we all doff our cap.


John Sentamu’s laughing, but never at you

His anger is righteous, his barbs are all true

John Sentamu’s angry, but never for long

Soon he’ll be smiling, then what can go wrong?


John Sentamu’s singing, he isn’t half bad

Hes rarely unhappy, and usually not sad

John Sentamu’s ringing, he wants a nice chat

Nothing important, just this and that.


John Sentamu’s going on holiday

A caravan park, thats where he’ll stay

John Sentamu’s going, a nice well earned rest

Some fishing, some climbing, whatever is best.


John Sentamu’s crying, for all the poor

He jeers at poverty, shows injustice the door

John Sentamu’s frowning, at all of the pain

But his soothing smile is like desert rain.


John Sentamu’s dancing, dancing with joy

For every girl and for every boy

John Sentamu’s rapping, in the cathedral at York

He walks the walk, and he talks the talk.


John Sentamu’s jumping, and hopping with glee

He’s doing it all for you and for me

John Sentamu’s flying, flying at height

He frowns at wrong, and smiles at right.


John Sentamu’s walking, and he’s walking tall

He does it for one, and he does it for all

John Sentamu’s jogging for sweet charity

For  hope, and peace and equality.


John Sentamu’s sombre, he’s thinking through things

He takes in his stride whatever life brings

John Sentamu’s smiling, the sun has come out

He never worries, and there’s never a doubt.


John Sentamu’s here, and sometimes he’s there

You’ll get to see him, just don’t you despair

John Sentamu’s grinning, with nary a frown

Hey hey, its big Johnny, he might be coming to your town...

Monday, 16 May 2016

Man Talk

What does it mean to be a man?  What does it mean to be a Christian man?  How does an ordinary bloke, a regular guy, turn the other cheek on the street or anywhere for that matter, when society and all our instincts call for retaliation?  Do we have to subsume our masculinity to live as a Christian man, should we be consciously genteel and constantly rather nice to everyone we meet, being overly polite even to our old mates?  What on earth will our drinking buddies think of us when instead of laughing at obscene jokes, we just earnestly want to talk about our faith, between gulps of beer that is?  In short, do we have to deny our masculinity, whatever that may mean, to be a Christian man?  Do we have to pretend to be something we are not?  What about all us macho big city guys, baseball cap wearing street-smart blokes-are we really Christian material?  What about guys covered in tattoos and earrings and shaved heads and 3 day stubble?  Did Jesus really come for people like that; for people like us?  Didn’t God, after all, create all of us, not just holier-than-thou, well-to-do religious types who go to church and sing hymns on Sunday?!
Can Christian men listen to rock music; can we like Jimi Hendrix, The Who or The Doors anyway?  Just why is some music considered sacred and something else profane?  Can we only interact with other Christians?  Can we only listen to Christian music and watch Christian movies?  Do we have to eat Christian sandwiches and shop in Christian supermarkets?!  Just what does being a Christian man really mean anyway?
What does the world want of Christian men?  What does Jesus want of Christian men?  What do I want from being a Christian man?  I think, above all, I want a little honesty in my life, a little reality to shine through the fog of my life.  We allow women to be feminine, to be gentle, to reassure and speak soothingly; do we allow men to be masculine?  And I don’t just mean dominant alpha males, you know, the super-successful, the super-rich, the influential politicians who make decisions and wield power, I mean the guy on the street, the bloke who might be unemployed, the guy propping up the bar, the awkward, the loner, the misfit?  The ordinary bloke who has to struggle to get on; what does He mean to Jesus?
Jesus takes us as He finds us, in all our glorious individuality, our macho masculinity, our ‘woundedness’, our brokenness, our feelings of being lost.  What Christian men need to know, understand and come to terms with is that Jesus knows who we are; if He’s comfortable with our masculinity then we should be too.
What happens if a bloke isn’t really interested in singing hymns and Sunday worship, what happens if we struggle with the idea of being over-emotional in a church setting or we’ve never even been to a church before; is God not for us then?  Is worship reaching out, is traditional Christianity really reaching out to masculine men?  Does Jesus want Christian men to be religious stereotypes, clean shaven and wearing dark blue suits?!
Men, like you and me, need to know who the real Jesus is, because only through Him can we really understand who we are and only in Him can we begin to make sense of it all.  Jesus is big and tough enough to take on our masculinity and our awkwardness, our questioning and our misgivings, our very struggles with our often flawed masculinity.
Does Jesus know that even the hardest macho man hides behind an image, an image of toughness, to hide a tender side, a side that is hidden to the world?  Is it ok to feel doubt within, doubt that we are not sure of who we are as men?  We are brought up to be hard, cold and not to cry, and then when we are just that, we are condemned for being men!  And then if we are gentle and in tune with our emotions, we are called wimps!  When we throw off these mental chains, of all kinds, maybe, just maybe we can find out who we are as men.
Being reconciled to God means we can be reconciled to other people and as importantly we can be reconciled to ourselves; we can really find out who we are as Christian men.
God is big enough to take us as we are and He knows all about us anyway, so what’s stopping you moving towards Him?  Is the Christian life for real men or just for those who hide behind a mask; failures, losers, awkward loners, those who can’t get by in life without an emotional crutch?  Real men are often broken, broken into little bits, and we spend our lives pretending we aren’t broken and everything is fine, when it isn’t and we carry the broken bits around with us, trying in vain to put them all back together and make sense of it all; at all costs we have to be macho, or keep smiling, never letting the truth seep in, the truth of our deep and bitter brokenness; not even to God can we be honest; not even to ourselves can we be honest.
So, just what is it to be a Christian man?  Can we bring all our troubles and hopes and fears to Jesus, or what?  Can we still be real men and real Christians?  You might be surprised at the answer; if Jesus was a real man, so can we be real men!