The Soft Side of Monster Trucks

song
As my son and I began our morning trek to elementary school, we set the radio to his favorite new station Kids Place Live on SiriusXM. (We’re letting him enjoy all he can before our three month trial ends!) We heard the song about monster trucks once before but this time we were in the car long enough to here it in it’s entirety.

Many of my readers know by now that I am an advocate for breaking cultural masculinity stereotypes and so, when I heard this nugget of greatness tucked into the middle of the song, I knew I had to share it with others.

Well. I know when you think about a monster truck,
the first thing that comes to mind is
a big, mean, aggressive vehicle that smashes stuff.
Well, let me tell you something about monster trucks
you may not know . . .

Well, even monster trucks have a soft side. (Yes they do.)
They like to listen to some AirSupply.
Strawberry pancakes for their breakfast (with whipped cream.)
When they watch sad movies, sometimes they start to cry.
But, the telephone rings and then – it’s back to work again.

A great discussion starter on “being a real man” if you need one. I love how one blogger described the monster truck lesson learned: “Inside that metal exterior is a whole lotta heart.”

Four years ago was the last time many heard from the Sugar Free Allstars but they have returned with an awesome first single  and video Monster Truck and a brand new album.  Although it’s music made for kids, both young and old will love this new family friendly compilation of upbeat tunes. Give’em a try!

6 Masculinity Myths We Need To Discredit

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 11.52.06 AM
cbe-light-logo-web-300_1
  Originally posted on Christians for Biblical Equality Blog

When I was in middle school, my favorite comic book character was The Mighty Thor. He was the muscular, hammer-wielding embodiment of strength, fertility, and healing. He was a protector of mankind and a rescuer of underdogs, and I always found that concept attractive. But there was also a measure of rebellion in choosing this particular mythological hero.

It may seem silly, but I thought his most impressive feature was his long, golden hair. I’d been taught that boys and men should not have long hair. For the first time in my young life, I found myself in opposition to a masculine myth.

Mythology is a collection of myths that usually come from cultural or sacred traditions and stories. Like mythology, modern masculinity is a compilation of learned cultural behaviors and stereotypes rather than the result of God-intended individuality.

I felt conflicted as a young man because I thought my deep feelings and flowing tears, and my desire to wear a bracelet and have a close male friend, were taboo and not welcome in the kingdom of godly manhood.

The television shows I watched, Christian books I read, and the world I lived in told me I wasn’t manly.

I’ve struggled against the myth that masculinity is defined by athleticism, brawn, hunting, toughness, and love of cars.

What if you love art, tenderness, creativity, or a “song in the color pink”? What if you don’t fit the narrow cultural parameters of manhood? Is there something wrong with your masculinity?

These oversimplified generalizations of gender attributes and differences are called gender stereotypes. These stereotypes can be positive or negative, but they often fail to communicate accurate information.

Even with evidence to the contrary, we are often guilty of applying these gender assumptions to others.

Here are just a few of the culture-driven masculinity myths that prompted me to ask, “Hey God, did you mess up when you made me?”

They told me I wasn’t manly because:

1. Men Are Not Emotional

I am a man, but I am also an outwardly-emotional individual. Like David in the Bible, I don’t mind being vulnerable, open, and real. My passion and compassion flow through my tears. I have learned that they do not hinder my manliness but rather, they enhance my passion for serving others and doing ministry.

Not every man is outwardly-emotional, but I wonder how many young boys and men have been hurt because we encourage them to suppress their true feelings and not verbalize their emotions.

In rejecting this myth, we tell boys and men that it’s okay to show and share their true feelings. We need to teach our sons that it takes real courage to shed a tear and let someone else in.

2. Men Are Sports-Fanatics

I like periodically attending a baseball or hockey game and I enjoy a televised football game a couple times a year, but I much prefer to read, write, or create. Truth is: we need good and honest examples of men in all shapes, sizes, and styles.

Some men prefer a trip to the art museum over a car show or hunting store. Some of us would choose a drama film over an action/adventure flick. Some of us enjoy watching a cooking or interior design show over a basketball game.

None of these preferences mean we’re not “masculine” or that we need to “man up.” We are all created as individuals beyond gender roles and stereotypes. We’re all searching for what makes us feel passionately.

3. Men Are Sex-Crazed

They told me that men are driven by their sex drives—it’s always on their minds and they can’t control it.

As a young man I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t experiment, crave, or conquer.

What are we doing to our men when we tell them that this is what’s expected? And what about those of us who would rather cuddle, receive a bouquet of flowers, or wrap up in a blanket under the moonlight?

We set men up for all kinds of issues when we buy into this myth. We encourage filthy talk and reduce women to sex objects, taking away their dignity. The epidemic of men looking at pornography is another consequence of this myth.

But we can’t address these issues if we teach our young men that’s it’s just the way they think—“boys will be boys,” after all.

4. Men Are Substandard Nurturers

All men value their careers and are driven by money, because they must be the providers or bread winners, yes?

I was told this so much that when I couldn’t provide enough for our family to survive and my wife had to work (and sometimes bring home a bigger paycheck than myself), I felt like a failure.

Is it any wonder that many men take their own lives in the midst of economic crises? I believe this happens because men are taught that their manliness is determined by the size of their paycheck.

And then, it brings up the idea of nurturing. Mothers are amazing, but some of us guys are wonderful at supporting our children and fostering love and acceptance. It can be a joint effort, yes?

I’m seeing more and more men embrace spending time with their children and making family a priority. Many men are becoming stay-at-home dads and are finding fulfillment in doing so.

So give us all a chance to nurture our children. We might surprise you!

5. Men Are Self-Sufficient

My world taught me that men are independent and don’t need encouragement from their wives or other men. But it’s so untrue. To need or want love or support from a spouse or friend is not a bad thing.

God’s love is brought to full expression when we receive his love and can fully express that love to others in our lives, and that includes other men.

However, men have been taught to be afraid to be transparent, real, and/or affectionate with other men because of the social, cultural, and even “Christian” restrictions on men seeking community.

We can’t do it on our own and we were never meant to.

6. Men Are Slobs

If I had the money, I would have a closet full of shoes and a drawer full of Happy Socks! Fortunately, young men are becoming more comfortable with sporting their own style.

Being tidy or well-groomed is not a gender trait. Some of us—many of us—do care about how we look.

When it comes to style and appearance, men and boys are struggling more and more with self-image issues. Magazines and other media display so many “perfect” male specimens that many of us have begun to second-guess our worth.

The Bible is filled with men of both strength and beauty.

We must reach out to our young men and make sure they find their identity in Christ and not in standards set by tabloid images.

We have been taught that there is only one way to be masculine. We’ve been taught that straying from the “norm” means it’s time to “man up,” hide the tears, and move forward.

Where do these myths leave us?

I believe we live in a world of heartbroken boys, confused adolescent males, and bitter angry men.

I used to keep it all inside—my questions, confusion, pain, struggles, and fears. That time is over.

We must share our stories, admit our shortcomings, and seek the transforming answers that will eventually bring hope and health to a generation of hurting young men. The church needs us to assess what constitutes true biblical masculinity. Our children need us to evaluate these ideas carefully.

We cannot and must not ignore the statistics that are piling up like lifeless corpses in a land of learned machismo. We must move beyond the myths.

They told me I wasn’t manly. I say I am.

facebookinstagramtwittermail

He Hugged Me (Without Asking)

Camera

When it comes to building healthy adult male relationships, I recently made a step in the right direction. Well, in all honesty, someone else made the first step. He gave me a hug without asking.

It was a rough Sunday morning, I had a lot on my mind and I guess he noticed. He dropped what he was doing, turned toward me and said, “It looks like you need a hug this morning.” Before I could respond, he had his arms around me. I was stunned. I believe I said “thanks” and I walked away.

For years, I have longed for vigorous friendship, male companionship, and affirming touch. He touched me and I wasn’t sure how to react.

Why is it so hard for us to develop healthful male relationships? In my case, there’s some deprogramming that has to take place. Years of touch deprivation and a fear of being stereotyped or labeled have led to continued relationship regrets.

So, what can we do to make strides towards healing and restoration? Here’s just a few suggestions (ones of which I’m slowly beginning to test myself):

1) Hang Out
Plan time to be around, get to know, learn from, laugh with, and be comfortable around other men. For some of us, this is easier than for others. I’m one of those who has to force myself to be a part of community. It’s hard to leave my current comfort zones BUT once I take the relational risks and experience the comradery, I’m always pleased that I dared to deliberately hang out with other men.

2) Stop Hiding
It’s often hard to be vulnerable with anyone especially with other men. But, let’s be honest – we need each other. We need someone who might understand. We all need a shoulder to lean on – a “partner in crime” who can empathize with what we’re going through. I have my wife and she is a tremendous blessing but there are times I need to be her rock and she doesn’t need me to be blubbering. To be honest, (even though she would try) there are some things that I experience that she just wouldn’t understand.

I have my Lord, for whom I am most grateful, but even He understands that we need those earthly friendships to strengthen us. He left this earth asking us to be His hands to reach out and help, His arms to hug, His feet to walk along beside, His compassion to listen and love. Stop hiding. Maybe your courage will encourage another man.

3) Give Love
Take time to listen to other men and show them that you genuinely care. At a men’s retreat this past Fall, I remember one of the men at my table mentioning that he used to sing in high school choir. He brought it up during one of those odd “ice-breaker” conversation starters when we had to share one thing about ourselves that others might be surprised by. He went on and shared that he actually sang with Jim Nabors on one occasion. A few weeks ago, while hunting for some new vinyl for my collection, I found an unopened Jim Nabors record (surprise, surprise, surprise). The next time I saw him at church, I gave him his gift and it was MORE than an album – it was a way for me to say “Hey. Someone was listening – to you. You are important to me.”

God intended for us to find His FULL expression of love from each other and that includes other men; however, for years we have been afraid to be transparent, real and/or affectionate with other men because of the social, cultural or even “Christian” restrictions we have encountered along the way. We were created to love and be loved.

4) Accept Love
So, back to where I started OR he started. It has always been easy for me to express thoughtfulness and heart BUT receiving it – that’s always been hard for me. I thought I’d “embrace” the moment when it came but I walked away. It was awkward AND awkward is where I’ve spent (broken) for many years. And so, where do I go from here? Well first of all, I’m gonna let him know that he inspired this post. I’m going to thank God that he can take all the messy hang ups I’ve learned along the way and bring healing where I need it most. I will not only continue to give love but I will also learn to accept it as well: one get-together, one heartfelt conversation, and one hug at a time.

facebookinstagramtwittermail

STAND Magazine & Masculinity: What A Beautiful Thing!

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 8.49.29 AM

“Complicating matters even more is the irony that the modern man, in his attempt to ‘protect’ his ‘manliness,’ shies away from any lengthy talk about ‘the beautiful’ in a floppy attempt to protect his masculine toughness—while in reality demonstrating just how shaky that masculinity really is.” Jared M. Silvey

MAGAZINE REVIEW
We often do not articulate the words beauty and masculinity in the same breath; however, “encountering and contemplating beauty should be an integral part of the formation of men.”

It’s important for us “explore what it means to be a man” and strive “to be a better man tomorrow” Dwayne Hayes the editor of the all new STAND Magazine explains. “STAND is for men who do not allow themselves to be defined by their failures but stand back up!”

So why do I call the magazine and masculinity BEAUTIFUL? The definition of beautiful is to be aesthetically pleasing, of a very high standard, and excellent. As human beings, creations of God, “imago dei” – we are beautiful beings and everyones’ story matters. We are not mistakes but excellent in His eyes and our design met a really high standard. God himself said he was pleased and that the creation of man was “very good!”

STAND Magazine is beautiful because it is aesthetically pleasing, of a very high standard, and an excellent masculine resource for well-balanced living. For me, what stands out most is that it’s attractive to all of its male readers. There’s a great balance of raw “macho” responsibility, wisdom, strength and justice combined with artistic, emotionally raw, and heartfelt believability.

The first issue (through inspiring interviews, articles, photography, humor and poetry) speaks to fatherhood, the wisdom of older men, depression, poetry, sports, style, the plight of sex trafficking and character development. And STAND Magazine plans to be so much more than printed text, according to its editor, STAND  is also about the “community that will develop around it” because we all need to “associate with people” who are likely to improve us. Kudos to Dwayne and his staff for an excellent new resource created with all men in mind!

SUBSCRIBE HERE.

facebookinstagramtwittermail

 

“Like Father Like Son” Book Review

dad-hugs-son

“I agree that boys have to learn to survive and thrive in a broken world with a lot of jagged edges that cut and slash. But what a boy needs from his father is not shame-training, but his embrace”

BOOK REVIEW
On my book writing adventure on Christianity and masculinity, I have traversed many articles and books on the topic of being a man and masculine identity. I quite often found myself wandering and incomplete rather than enlightened and free. This is not the case with Pete Alwinson’s new book “Like Father Like Son.” Purchase your copy here.

After forty years of ministering to men, Pete shares (through well though out words and strengthening quotes Scriptures) the importance of love and a relationship with our heavenly father that changes everything for a man.

Many of us struggle to learn how to be a man because we were abandoned in different ways by the most important man in our lives – our fathers. The pain is real and we start our search on trying to figure it all out. Alwinson explains that quite a few young men have been hurt to a point of complacency and confusion and “aren’t taking charge of their lives and instead are passively waiting for life and a career to happen to them.” So, what do we do about it?

o2cjFNwNloHckCmVmkZ_83CeAZoHyGaM3mmdjY2plN3RDhf7fk59pb8w6s-PeKOx1XVqwVeuE9Ora9pq9Gm1gS_jaUlGgqJGoNIYBG8qB2SglTjhAVxm8eioXafU=s0-d-e1-ftOur earthly dads have focused on “actions of manhood” instead of love. The author vividly demonstrates the scenario when explaining that many young men feel like an “it” instead of a son. But, it doesn’t have to be that way! Pete reminds us that our “value is only as high as our current owner.” When the owner changes, our value changes. It’s should be about who we are in Christ. Our identity is defined by our relationship with Him!

Our life is all about a new adventure in seeing our heavenly father in everything! When a man embraces the fact that he is a special creation and image-bearer his core identity is strengthened realizing his great “incomparable worth and high status.”

I highly recommend this outstanding book. Be prepared to find some great advice as a man and father in the areas of acceptance, approval, addictions, life adventure and more! I received this book for free from the publisher (New Growth Press) through Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange of my honest opinion.

facebookinstagramtwittermail

 

You May Not Be Gay

gay

“I remembered the constructs and stereotypes pushed my way as a child and teen. I felt emasculated by the cultural and Christian “masculinity” ideals. I questioned if I was a mistake because I didn’t fit into the ‘man box.’ I even wondered if I might be gay.”

I love many of the Humans of New York photos I find on my Facebook pages. I believe they give many people a voice. One of them specifically caught my attention earlier this year. The photo depicts a young (possibly teen or preteen) boy in tears. (You can see it below)

My heart broke when reading his quote: “I’m homosexual and I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me.” My mind flooded with many questions and concerns for him and other young men who feel the same feelings and experience the struggle and hurts that come with them. I was not one of those advocating for the removal of the photo and quote (the post was deleted by administrators almost immediately after going up). If this is his story, I don’t mind it being posted because – everyone’s story matters! I believe many of the HoNY photos invite us toward much needed conversations. As a Christian, I believe it’s all part of the beautiful tension between humanity and God’s grace.

Many of you know by now that I’m writing a book on Christianity and masculinity. When I searched my heart for chapter topics, I knew it would be imperative to ask the hard questions. I also know that my questions, thoughts and opinions might cause some controversy. I am not an expert on this topic and I want to be very careful as to how I approach it. My goal is to end with a completed book filled with encouraging thoughts and heartfelt concern. And so, I remembered the constructs and stereotypes pushed my way as a child and teen. I felt emasculated by the cultural and Christian “masculinity” ideals. I questioned if I was a mistake because I didn’t fit into the “man box.” I even wondered if I might be gay.

So here is the tough question (and I’m not suggesting that I have the perfect answer): Is it possible that some men (young and old alike) may not be gay? Is it possible that the “masculinity” stereotypes we grew up with make us feel less than manly rather than a unique created individuals “that represent a wide spectrum of gifts, personalities, interests, and callings.”

I remember as a young man yearning for and experiencing some close and loving relationships with other boys. It was not taboo. Whenever we played “cooties” in grade school to stay away from the girls, it wasn’t because we were gay but because we weren’t interested or so we thought. Even my son (at age nine) said “I’m not interested” and planned to “not get married” in the future.

After a few years went by, a cute little red head girl during sixth grade recess caught my attention and I began rethinking the idea of staying far way. Things changed when it came to my male friends as well. Somewhere between middle school and high school we learned the unsaid (but well kept) rules of keeping our distance, our feelings, and our hugs from each other. We were slowly becoming the “monsters” we were told were men.

I am not discounting the young man’s story in the picture BUT I am asking us to consider the possibility that some of us may not be gay but rather unique and different from the stereotypical “macho” male. We are all a unique mix of strength and beauty. It’s what makes the world go round. Our differences make us stand apart and our similarities draw us together. Is it possible that society told us that the loving feelings a man has toward another man is wrong and so when we crave those relationships, we fear that there might be something wrong. Maybe, instead of embracing our male relationships, we keep each other at arms length and miss out on something wholesome and strengthening.

One of my favorite Bible characters is David – a man after God’s own heart.  He bragged about taking out a lion and bear to protect the sheep in his care. He was also artistic, played soothing music, and was a great poet. He was a tremendous leader and yet a devoted follower. He could stand and fight alone but knew he could find strength and comfort from a close male friend. His relationship with Jonathan was comforting and empowering. He was a mixture of what our culture would consider macho and feminine. He was uniquely David – the man God created him to be.

And so, I bravely encourage others like me to consider the possibility that you may not be gay. You are not a “male fail” just because you don’t fit within the “man box.”  And if you are longing for male companionship, know that these feeling are normal.

I was saddened that day. This young boy is mortified that others will not like him as he is. It’s a sad commentary on all of us including our churches. It then disheartens me even more to think that he “might” consider himself gay because we’ve somehow made our men feel like there’s no other alternative when it comes to “true” masculinity. There’s a lot more to be said but I have shared my heartfelt thoughts for now. May the conversation continue and may many find love, identity and a hopeful future.

This is an excerpt from a chapter from the upcoming book

facebookinstagramtwittermail

humans-of-new-york

To Boldly Tweet

 

 

 

 

Young businessman drawing social media facebook and twitter communication concept. Isolated on white.

I didn’t give details because I’m not ready to and because others can possibly relate to something NOT so specific?

I am a man, a husband and father. I am writing a book on masculinity and Christianity.

I’m experiencing much more freedom as I share and heal BUT . . .

(today’s tweets)
I’m slowly learning to free myself from the man box
BUT still holding back
What will they say about me if
I truly embrace MY masculinity?

The things I want so badly
I find myself afraid
It’s all new
I’m insecure
BUT

I am growing forward

They are my feelings
BUT I’m sure
I’m not the ONLY one
Tell me (if you’re out there)
Can you relate?
Is it too late?
What is our fate?

The Right Choice

school

GUEST POST written by Gary Armour

“Why do you want to teach little kids?  That’s no kind of profession for a man!” my dad was incensed.  “How do you expect to raise a family on a teacher’s salary?”

It was the end of May 1957.  I was only 17, a few weeks before my 18th birthday.  School had ended and I had graduated from High School.  My intention was to begin college in the fall to pursue a degree in electrical engineering, the profession my father had planned for me.  Dad’s intentions were good.  He only wanted me to complete college and be able to make a better living for myself than he had with his limited eighth grade education.  Somehow, in my heart I knew electrical engineering was not really my passion.  Nevertheless, I enrolled in junior college that fall and took  only math and science courses that first year.

Shortly after school started that fall, I came to know Jesus Christ in a very personal way.  Although I had gone to church with my mother as a boy, I never really had such an encounter with God.  In the days ahead it became more and more clear to me that He was speaking to a very different place in my heart regarding my professional plans.  Although I loved my college physics class, college level mathematics was much harder than I expected and I began to realize that my heart was not in theoretical studies.

At my little church, I had been asked to teach a group of junior high school boys.  I had never been around kids that much younger than me, so I was skeptical.  But as I got to know the boys (there were only about four) I realized that I really enjoyed being with them.  God began showing me He was calling me to work with children.

The next year I enrolled in courses I would have never considered before:  Introduction to Education and Psychology.  It only took me a few weeks to realize that for the first time in my life my heart was really happy and at peace. I had decided that I wanted to teach in elementary school. Needless to say, Dad was not pleased.

“Why do you want to teach little kids?  That’s no kind of profession for a man!” my dad was incensed.  “How do you expect to raise a family on a teacher’s salary?”

I finished junior college and went on to the state teachers’ college to finish my degree.  In the spring of 1961 I finished my degree program and started teaching fifth grade in the fall.  Although Dad was still disappointed that I didn’t pursue electrical engineering, he was proud that all three of his children had graduated from college.

When I retired years later I wondered what my life would have been like if I had not followed my heart.  Would I have finished college?  Would I have been successful as an electrical engineer?  Teaching young children was not considered by most men to be a “manly” pursuit.  But God gave me 34 years of of joy doing what He had etched on my heart when I was still a teenager.

——————————
How many men truly follow their hearts and choose a profession that allows them to express who they really are?  How many choose to spend a lifetime trying to fulfill the dreams of their fathers?  How many choose those professions that allow them to further isolate themselves from people because they are afraid of exposing their hearts or opening up places of pain in their lives they are unwilling to face?

Gary 2014AUTHOR BIO
Gary Armour is father to three sons and step-father to another son and two daughters .  He is married to Joyce and together they are grandparents to 11 ranging in age from 5 to 21.  They live in Central-Western Colorado. 

For 34 years Gary was a public school teacher and administrator and has worked with children in elementary, middle school, and high school, most of  it (30 years) in Colorado.  Since retiring from education he also worked for five years with youth in the juvenile justice system. 

He is now fully retired and enjoys reading, writing, cooking and the hobby of geocaching which he shares with grandchildren, adult friends, and most-often his dog DeeDe. Gary accepted Christ at the age of 18 and enjoys mentoring younger men. 

Family Found

12105922_10153351844237779_8349254111361637865_nI love to see my boy smile and for the last couple of months, it’s never stretched wider. You see, he’s a lot like me. He doesn’t fit into the stereotypical, insensitive, athletic macho man box. His creativity helps define new boxes. He’s passionate and we finally found that one big thing that drives him forward.

What a joy to see him laugh and garner acceptance among a group of male peers who illuminate the same zeal. Each of them (still 100% boy) but not embarrassed by their rhythmic twirls, made up faces, or treble vocal outbursts. He found family among his Spotlight musical friends.

Now, I did mention my son’s smile BUT it was mine that was hardest to hide. I watched several fathers work tirelessly to make the production a success. I watched them hug their sons and tell them they were proud of their accomplishments. My heart skipped a beat and a tear rolled down my cheek when I saw a father present his son with a bouquet of flowers – who labeled these natural beauties FOR FEMALES ONLY in the first place?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all men should join their local drama troupe BUT I do believe that every man is gifted in special and unique ways with purposed passions and sincerity and we must embrace that created uniqueness in each other.

I am so excited that my son, with all of his somewhat nerdy and dramatic quirkiness, has found that special something that makes him beam. I am most delighted that he found a family who lets him shine as himself and a group of friends that don’t hold him to a different standard. May we each learn to love and embrace each other’s differences. Thank you Spotlight. Thank you young men for letting my son know he’s not the only one and he’s okay. Thank you dads for still being proud of your boy!!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK!