Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Need for Physical Touch

Hello,  Just a thought.  There seems to be so much misunderstanding about intimate relationships between men these days.  I get so frustrated hearing all the stories that physical  is all about sex.  When did hugging a man or wanting to be closer to a man become all about sex.  I love reading about friendships in the early days of our country.  Although there are those that would state that these stories are perfect examples of gay relationships.  I disagree completely.  These are stories about men just plain enjoying their friendships beyond today's complicated rules.  I really enjoy reading their letters to each other.  Flowery and sweet,  I love that and wish we could be more open in today's world.  Those men really knew how to express and show how they really felt about each other.  I also love the photos of friends in the past.  Intimate and loving.  I have to believe that they were not sexual with each other,  they just enjoyed being together, and expressing those feelings more openly.  We could take lessons from them and in the process learn and practice what they did.

In our society there is a great need for men to open up and be transparent with each other. We are not allowed that and if we do cross the lines of being transparent and open we are labeled.  I have dealt with those labels all my life and even more so in the last few years as I have opened up and shared very private parts of my life with others.  I am unique in that I feel I have a great understanding about men and close relationships with men.  All my life, or since I was young man I have had really amazing experiences dealing with men.  I have enjoyed wonderful close friendships with men and understand that men can have healthy close relationships with other men and not compromise covenants or promises made with others.   Meaning that my friendships have nothing to do with sex, but everything to do with being open and honest.  

The problem is that in today's world everything is so sexualized.  From simple hugs to just holding it always leads to sex in our societies mind.   When men are not allowed to freely express how they feel between each other they tend to act out in other ways. Research has found that when men are allowed and find ways to express themselves freely between other men,  they are happier and tend to make better choices in life.  

One of the main reasons that we all get confused  is that we all have physical bodies and they tend to react to affection in uncomfortable ways, even when the intentions are good and clean. I feel that there needs to be more frank  and open discussion and teaching on the subject of our bodies and how they work and how to deal with how that can affect our relationships with other men.  Men are confused thinking that if they get an erection there must be something wrong with them and shame comes in and Satan distorts the whole picture.   When that happens men tend to be uncomfortable creating close relationships for  fear of what might happen.  That fear closes doors and might lead to long term wonderful friendships.  

Many men  are aching for physical relationships with other men.  Not a sexual relationship, but a healthy physical friendship.   Holding and hugging in a healthy way.  We have been so trained to think that it is wrong and so we avoid it  and live in turmoil for a core need that is not being met.  It is a core need for many and it needs  to be discussed openly in a positive way that heals and builds.

I am confident that it can be done in healthy way that heals and helps men stay the course. Meaning that men can have good relationships with other men and they don't have to be sexual in any way.  Even if  and when the body reacts, that does not mean it is sexual and should definitely not keep us from reaching out and forming close relationships with others.

I have found  in my working with men that most men want and need physical touch and when is met in a good healthy safe way men tend not do not act out in bad ways, like pron, masturbation, and other ways.   When core needs are not met human nature is to try to find a way to fill the need.

What can we do to teach men a better way?  I think we need to be more understanding and not jump to conclusions that if a man is wanting a close relationship with another man it does not mean he wants a sexual relationship with a man.  I personally enjoy my friendships with other men and I never think of sex or anything inappropriate with a man. In fact it is just the opposite.  I enjoy a deeper friendship and closeness when I have those relationships in a healthy way.

Indeed the great test we have in this mortal life is to keep physical within the boundaries the God has set.  I believe that we can  establish this kind of relationship with another man and keep in within the boundaries the God has set and when we do we can and will experience JOY beyond our comprehension.

Remember David’s statement about his love for Jonathan.  He states his love was sweeter for him then the love of a woman.  I love that the word sweeter is used.  Not more passionate or physical but sweeter.  Those terms are physical while the term sweeter to me refers to spiritual.  So as we learn to grasp the spiritual and ignore the physical in our friendships with other men, a sweetness comes into our relationship and we really can experience Christlike love for another man.  That love can exceed our expectations in a deeper sense then we can understand until it happens.  And when it happens it truly can be a great thing.  

On statement Jonathan made that totally expresses how I like to have friendships is he told David several times "The Lord is between me and thee".  That is really the foundation of a great friendship.  With the Lord in the middle men can establish great loving friendships that bless and build each other in good ways.   I think David was a great king because of his friendship with Jonathan.  True friendships build and lift.  

Sorry to go on and on about this topic.  Dealing with this has been a huge burden and blessing  in my life and as I have looked and prayed for guidance I have been richly blessed and I have learned many things that have brought me greater joy and peace.  Along with that joy and peace comes to my mind a constant reminder that I am being taught to teach others.    

I hope you have a joyous day as you learn to be more physical in your friendships.  Allowing more open interaction with those around you.  Thank you for all you do and for providing a safe and hopefully sacred place for those around you to learn and develop pure Christlike personal intimate relationships.   It can bring them and you greater joy and peace.   

I wish you great success as you learn to more open and trusting.  Brad

This blog has been a blessing and a trial.  It's hard to be transparent in our culture.  We get judged harshly and without understanding.  From my experiences I have learned to be more understanding and less judgmental.  My heart goes out to so many who struggle and it's my constant prayer that perhaps what I write will bless just one person.  
Feel free to comment below.  Sign up on the side bar and you will get automatic notices when I post a new blog.  Thank you for reading, understanding, and sharing.   And please feel free to share with others.  You never know who just might need encouragement.   Brad 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Giver's vs. Taker's The Story of Joseph

I love the story of Joseph in the Old Testament.  He has always been a favorite of mine.  I love his compassion and integrity.  He gave all he had, and suffered much in his life.  His example has so many lessons for me personally.  He had to trust and depend on others most of his life, and in the process he meet with many givers and takers.  He was hurt often, but still trusted and moved forward. His is a great story and we can learn much from his example. 

It's hard to trust people today.  I find that when I put it all out on the line, trying to establish friendships, that I often get my heart ripped apart.  I have learned a few things about friendships, especially when I am developing personal intimate relationships with others.  By that I mean friendships that are open and transparent. 

In the world today I have found that there are basically two types of friends--givers and takers, just like in the time of Joseph.  Let me explain about givers and takers.

Takers are those that are in the relationship or friendship for one main reason, or at least if often seems that way.  The reason is to get something they need and want at the expense of the other person's feelings and heart.  Actually in all fairness we all develop relationships to get something.  The main motivation in building the friendship for a taker is to get what he wants, with no consideration for the other person.  There is something we all seek in relationships, but a taker is only looking for what he will get out of it and not what the taker can add to the relationship.  Most often when he cannot get what he wants he moves on to the next person, constantly looking to have his cup filled but not willing to fill others' cups.  We all have met takers in our lives, and to be truthful most of us have been hurt by the actions of a taker. 

Givers, on the other hand, go into a relationship needing something, understanding the need they have, but also tuning into the other person's needs, making sure those needs are met in a good way.  Givers are tenderhearted and most often trusting.  Givers are those who edify those around them and find great joy in doing so.  They put it all on the line and give all they have to the friendship.  Givers most often are looking for long-term friendships, the types of friendships that last through thick and thin and just seem to get stronger and stronger as time goes on.  Givers for forgivers.  They easily overlook the faults of others and tend to see the positive in most things, especially in those with whom they choose to be friends.  They are optimistic about life and want to share that happiness with others.  Because a giver gives more, he expects more, often setting himself up for failure.  Givers uplift, empower, and validate others. 

I have learned that we are all at different levels in our progression, and that at different points of our lives, our needs are different.  I have learned to see and accept what others' intents are.  I still stay open, but hold back if I sense they are takers.  Sometimes the taker needs to be taught.  Sometimes he just needs to grow up.  I have had experiences that started off badly and later turned out great, and I have also had just the opposite.

I think the worst thing we can do is to stop reaching out because of the fear of being hurt.  For all the times I am hurt, there are far more times I develop wonderful friendships that bless my life. 

One thing I have thought and shared before is the belief that the Human Heart has no limits on how many people we can love, or on how deeply we can love them.  Society puts limits and restrictions on that.  Have you ever heard the phrase, "If you have one good friend in this life you are lucky"?  I have heard that my entire life, and I don't like that thought.  I think it stops us from opening our hearts and letting others in, and in the process, we miss out on great opportunities for friendships. 

Why stop at one best friend?  The world is filled with likeminded people with whom you can connect and create life changing friendships.  When we stop at one friend we deny ourselves growth, and we deny others the chance to meet a really great person.  We never know just how much others can change our lives or just how much we can change the life of another person.

So how does this go with the story of Joseph?  Sometimes in life when we meet takers, (remember a taker would will take whatever he can, regardless of how it hurts you or lowers your standards). the best course of action is to run.  By this I mean that often there are those who desire to take so much that it could put our lives and happiness in jeopardy.  For Joseph it was Potiphar's wife.  She was a taker, looking only for what she could get our of the relationship, with no thought of the consequences of her actions.  I often hear of stories like that.  Joseph set the perfect example.  Run.  If we are in a situation where our integrity is being compromised, run.  Joseph ran and didn't look back.  Yes, his choice caused temporary discomfort, but in the end he was able to get just what he needed and so much more.  All of his life he was surrounded by takers and, yes, givers.  He learned great lessons from each one, and as we look at his life we can learn how to handle those situations in our own personal lives as we deal with takers and givers. 

When creating friendships, proceed with caution, but with an open heart and the ability to discern between givers and takers.  Don't be afraid to love and be loved.  The world is full of givers, don't let the experience of takers spoil your chances for happiness and joy.  Healthy friendships are truly the foundation for a life filled with goodness. 

Brad~A Happy Giver 

This blog has been a blessing and a trial.  It's hard to be transparent in our culture.  We get judged harshly and without understanding.  From my experiences I have learned to be more understanding and less judgmental.  My heart goes out to so many who struggle and it's my constant prayer that perhaps what I write will bless just one person.  
Feel free to comment below.  Sign up on the side bar and you will get automatic notices when I post a new blog.  Thank you for reading, understanding, and sharing.   And please feel free to share with others.  You never know who just might need encouragement.   Brad 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Validation Ahead

Recently I realized something really powerful about myself.  I share this with a little fear, but also realizing that there are many that struggle from the same thing.

I realized that I have an empty void in my heart when it comes to being validated, especially by men. I have become really active this past year in the Mankind Project and after a recent weekend training as I was writing in my journal I realized the reason I love the Mankind Project is that it is filling the void in my heart that has been there for years.

I also realized that most of the men there are in it for the same reasons.  For whatever reason we don't get that validation in our homes, works arenas, and yes even in our church families, we go through life needing to be validated, but never really feeling that we have value and never being validated in a way that helps us move forward.

At least that's my story.  I grew up in a home were I never felt loved or needed by my father.  Often times when we don't get that at home we can find it in other places, like school.  School was not the place for me.  I remember teachers watching as students kicked me down the halls and I remember teachers laughing as students told them I was a faggot, I hate that word, and  needless to say I never felt validated in school for anything I ever did.   I never remember a teacher telling me or even really talking to me in a positive way.

Most of the young men my age shunned me and stayed away.  Those that were my kinda friends were in the same place I was, not strong enough on their own to help another.   I was beat up frequently and shamed constantly.

My father a good man,  grew up without a father  and in all fairness to him I was totally out of his comfort range.  He was a hard working cowboy and did not understand my softer, yes even more feminine ways.   He could not validate something he could not understand.   I did all I could to be validated by him.  Cleaned the house from top to bottom almost every day,  Worked hard and yes I even joined the football team.  That was a disaster.  We are very close now, but growing up I did not get what I needed from him in terms of being validated as a man.

I have found that in many cases when men are not validated in a positive way by men, they seek validation in other ways.  From drugs, sex, pornography, abuse, and for me it was wall building and self shame.

I learned at a very young age to build walls up around my heart to protect it.  My wall building like other ways men seek to fill the void has often times made life hard.  It has hurt my marriage, I have a great wife and love her with all my heart, but I have to sadly admit I have at times kept her out of my heart.  She is great and I admire her determination to make it work.  Wall buiding has   kept me from succeeding in things that I really want to do in life.   One of the biggest things that has happened to me is that my walls keep me enclosed in a world of self doubt.  The fear of failure is huge and I think it comes from the lack of healthy good solid validation in my life.

This past year has really been a growing experience for me as I have personally witnessed just how powerful validation can be.  When a man looks at another man and tells him of his value it changes both men.  The giver is lifted up and the receiver is strengthened and is able to move forward with a more solid view of life and himself.

In the Mankind Project validation is huge part of the training and words cannot express how powerful it can be and what it has done for my heart.  I have been seeking for over 50 years the feeling of belonging and being accepted by men.  My boy person never got that and so I grew up with a huge void.

I think and believe that as men we need to be more attentive to the validation needs of men around us, understanding that in our society men validating other men is probably one of the most powerful tools we can have and use.

I know I am not alone in the need to be validated.  I know I am not alone in aching to be noticed and loved by those men around me that I admire and love.  I am working on getting over my fears of rejection and learning to look beyond myself to validate those around me and to except the validation given to me.

It takes practice and effort and awareness to be able to reach out and lift those around us.  From the work place to our church families and everywhere else in between there is a great need in our world for men who feel validated and men who can validate other men.

For me, it's been a life changing experience to be able to see my value from the efforts of good men that take the time to show me my value and take the time to help me see how my value can lift others.

Men,  it's time to step forward and get over our fears of rejection and help each other see the value we have.  I love being a man and I love men, especially men who have the courage to validate.  Is there validation ahead for you?  Is there validation ahead for those in your path?

Feeling validated,   Brad

Monday, November 28, 2016

Are We Strong Enough

In a past post "The Trial of Abraham" I talked about what Abraham must have felt as he was asked to sacrifice his son.

"Such must have been the case with Father Abraham.  A prophet of God.  One of the mighty and great ones that walked on the earth.  He was obedient to all of God's commandments, yet he was asked to do hard things.  Things that would probably shake most to the very core.   Can you imagine being asked to sacrifice your only son.  Especially when you felt to the very core it was wrong   I cannot imagine the pain Father Abraham must have felt.  Do you think that perhaps as he was walking he questioned the Lord in his heart.   Do you think he pondered all the good he had done and possibly wondered why he was asked to do such a thing.  Thoughts must have crossed his mind like,  I am a good man.  I have done all I could to obey.  And then other thoughts like,  If only I had been better or I must not be good, and even,  Does the Lord love me.  How could he if he asks things that break my heart and the hearts of those I love".

Recently I was once again reminded of this great story, but this time my thoughts turned to God and what was going on in his mind, not that I know that, but it is interesting to ponder such things and I find great strength in maybe gaining a little understanding in His thoughts and plans for us.

In the story we think often of what Abraham went through and seldom think about what God must have thought.  I was thinking that God in his defense,  not that we have to defend God, but sometimes we often wonder how he could ask such hard things of his children.  I came to the understanding that the reason he asks hard things of his children is that he knows us.  Take Abraham for instance.  I am certain that God knew him and knew of his strength and conviction way before he even asked the question he already knew what Abraham would do.  He knew what Abraham didn't know yet.  He knew that Abraham had the strength to do hard things.  I believe that God does not just randomly place hard things on us to fail.  I believe that he already knows how strong we are and just how capable we are in being able to do the hard things he asks of us way before he asks them of us.

God already knew that Abraham and his son could do it.  Abraham and his son didn't realize it yet, but they came to understand that they could do hard things, something that God already understood about them and knew.   He did not set them up to fail, he never does that and never will.  He will never give us more then we can bear or take on.  Yes it seems like it's unfair and impossible,  but we, like Abraham have to trust that God knows best and move forward understanding God does not give us impossible tasks to perform.  God already knows we can do it and already has given us the strength and power to succeed.

We are all faced with seemingly impossible challenges.  We often question God's wisdom in placing them on us.  We often wish for lighter roads and easier task, not taking into consideration that God knows us personally and his design is for us to succeed not fail.   He already knows we have the power to do so.

Now you might be asking,  "If that is the case, why do I fail so often."   The answer is not God's lack of belief in us, but our own lack of believing in ourselves.  Our own failure to understand our potential and strength.   After all we are created in his image and have been sent to earth to succeed, not fail.   His design is not one of failure, but one of success and happiness.   As we learn to trust his belief in us and learn to trust that he believes we are strong enough for the things he asks of us we can  achieve great things.

No matter what the trial, no matter what the test,  he believes we can do it.   His belief in us is perfect.

I was thinking the other day about hard things he has asked of me and I had a strong feeling that he asked them because he knew I could do if I wanted to.  One of the hard things I felt that I was asked to do was start this blog.  It has been one of the hardest things I have done.  The judgment's that have come have been at times painful and hard to handle, but I take great strength in knowing that God does not ask us to do things we cannot do.   That does not mean it won't be hard, difficult, easy, and yes sometimes out right impossible.    I take confidence in knowing that God knows me and when he asks he already knows that I can do it.

Father Abraham was a man of strength and power.  His power came as he learned to accept the understanding that God knew him better then he knew himself.   As we learn to trust in that all trials and difficulties can be overcome and we can gain a greater understanding that God knows us and trusts in our strength to do hard things.

No matter what your trial,  no matter how hard it seems, take comfort in knowing there is a God and he knew before he placed the trial in your path that you have the strength to do it.   God knows you and knows you can succeed in all things.  Life is a journey,  hard, difficult, yet filled with joy and we come to understand we have the strength to do hard things.

Enjoy the Journey

Monday, November 14, 2016

Courage to Connect

Often times we go through life lonely and alone.  Both have different meanings.  Lonely to me is when we choose not to connect to those around us when we feel drawn to them.  Alone is when we are surrounded by people yet we don't let them in our hearts or lives.

Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone and feeling connected right off.  I am talking about that connection where you feel it and something stirs in your heart.  I have to admit that for a long time those feelings confused me.  Especially when it was another man I felt that connection for.  It would leave me wondering where it came from and if it was appropriate or not.   On rare occasions the feeling has even brought me to tears.  What I mean by that is the feeling of being connected to that person was so overwhelming and powerful and stirred my heart so profoundly that it actually brought tears to my eyes.  

Over the years I have learned to understand and accept those types of experiences and even more important I have learned to act upon them.   The important thing to say here is that as I have learned to act upon those feelings  my life has been changed in remarkable ways.

As a young man I was fearful to act upon those feelings.  The fear of rejection and misunderstanding was to powerful for me to move or open my heart up to accept those feelings.  After all we live in a society that is not really good about connecting.  We live with our walls up and rarely take them down.  We allow superficial relationships to develop, but rarely allow others in the deepest parts of our hearts.  The fear of rejection is huge and to be transparent and vulnerable is not considered a strength, at least to most,  and especially among men.

Relationships are hard to say the least.  But some of my most prized relationships are those that happened when I was instantly connected to the person.  There is more to it then we understand, but I believe deeply that those connections started before we even came here.  When I have acted upon those types of feelings the end result every time is a good wonderful friendship.  Perhaps the reason is that the friendship was already started and we are just picking up where we left off.  Many have had the same experience of meeting someone and the friendship is so natural and easy that it leaves you amazed.   Often times we have to work at building a friendship, and I do love those friendships, but the best are when it just comes naturally.   When you already know the person and what is really great  is when the feelings are mutual.  Often times we don't understand, but after we talk and get to know the person we find out they had the same experience we had.

Funny story about that is over the years I have become comfortable with connecting and when I feel that deep connection I act.  A while back I was traveling and was at an event.  I walked into the room and had that overwhelming experience.  My heart stopped and I walked up to the man and he reached over to shake my hand.  I took his hand and pulled him up and hugged him and told him we were going to be best friends.   He was a little shocked to say the least, but after he got over the shock it was ok.  We are best friends now and I am so grateful to have him in my life.  So grateful that I was able to follow my gut feeling.  His friendship is a great blessing to me.  My life has been spiritually blessed from his association.

Life is a challenge, and one that we don't have to take on alone.  It is a challenge to take a chance, but when we take chances great things happen.  I have to say that most of my deep meaningful friendships are because one of us took a chance and showed courage to move beyond the wall of comfort to connect.   In each case once one of us got beyond the wall we have established wonderful friendships.  Not the pat on the back kind, but meaningful, transparent, open friendships where one really feels loved and accepted.

It takes a huge amount of courage to connect.  It takes courage to overcome the fear of rejection.  It takes courage to not worry about what people will think.  It takes courage to be open and transparent. It takes courage to reach out, step out, and open up to accept others into our lives and hearts.  It takes courage to connect.

I have heard over the years that we are considered lucky if we have one good friend in our lives.  I think that the human heart has an unlimited ability to love,  there are no limits on how many people we can let into our hearts or how deeply we can love them.  The only limits are the ones we place there out of fear and misunderstanding.    For me,  I will continue to take down my walls and let others in that special place called friendship.  After all life's greatest blessing are the three " F's".  Family, Friends, and Food.

Enjoy the Journey
Your Friend~Brad

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Man to Man ~ A conversation about friendships

Long-term, meaningful relationships with other men are a strong endorsement of manhood.

The more I learn about men and relationships men have or don't have,  the more I am amazed at how Society has totally messed it up. We are not allowed to have those long-term, meaningful relationships, man to man,  that so many of us need and desperately want. I am not talking about the buddies we hang out with in bars or watch the super bowl with or smile at in church,  I am talking about relationships with men that are deep and meaningful.  Friendships where we can cry if we need to or just vent freely the deep struggles we are having with out feeling we are not less then what we are.   

We are allowed to have superficial friendships that are totally devoid of transparency and intimacy.  I must tell you that when I say intimacy I am not referring to sex.  Intimacy in friendships to me means open honest transparent relationships that can include healthy touch.  Healthy touch could be hugs, holding, holding hands, and  experiencing touch other then a slap on the back or a high five.  

Most men have the need of expressing deeper feelings other then the weather or sports talk. We are not allowed to be sensitive or emotional. When we do we are thought to not be a man's man in a man's world.  We are called many other things and struggle to feel secure in a world where that kind of behavior is not allowed or understood.  

From a personal side, from a very young age I struggled with this.  I preferred not playing sports.  I liked music and art and writing poetry.  I was not accepted.  Times have changed a lot, men are allowed to like music, write poetry, and not even like sports.  On the other side, I was emotional, sensitive, touchy, and wanted to be  transparent. I was shunned and abused.  In that regard times have not changed much.  We are not really allowed to be emotional, sensitive, or touchy. When we are, look out.  We are instantly branded and labeled.  

So we hide behind our macho masks and pretend to be tough and mean.  We spit, cuss, and beat our chests, while on the inside we would just once in a while like to be understood and appreciated for not being what everyone thinks we should be and especially with another man.  

I have learned to be a man that does not worry much about what other men think.  In saying that, it has been a process.  For many years I did mind and I did my best to be different.  I found the greatest peace was when I owned up to the fact that I could be me.  Yes I am strong, confident, and manly, but I am also tender, sensitive, and huggable. 

In my journey I have found that there are many men who want to same, but have no idea how to go about it. Many live in fear, so much so  they stay behind the walls and deprive themselves of wonderful meaningful deep intimate relationships with other men.

So the question might be, Just how do I create relationships like that?  Good question, for me it was just learning to be open and not being afraid to approach other men, especially when I feel a connection with them.  You know the feeling.  You meet someone and instantly you feel connected with them, like you have been friends for a long time.  That feeling alone can often times scare a man.

Don't be fearful. Chances are the other man is feeling the same connection with you, but is in the same place.  I have to say that every time I have followed that feeling I have ended up with a great friend.   And often times I have had to be the teacher and help them get over the fear factor of having a more meaningful deep friendship.  

I hug all my friends,  express to them often how much I appreciate them and I open up and share with them.  There are just things that only men can understand and I seek understanding from them.  

I have found that all men are on the same journey.  We all want to be better and whether or not we will admit it we want more out of our friendships.  

For me being a real man is being able to create meaningful intimate transparent relationships with other men.  Take a risk.  It has been the greatest thing I have ever done. 

And truth be known men,  when you learn how to have these kind of relationships with men in improves your relationships with the women in your lives. 

There is a lot of criticism with about men in the early days. From their actions many assumptions are made.  The letters they wrote to each other were like love letters, filled with kind words and loving thoughts.  They also slept in the same bed when traveling, held hands, and were very affectionate to each other.   How about this assumption,  They were friends that understood just how to be a good  friend.  They were comfortable enough with who they were to be a good friend.  I love the passionate letters they wrote to each other,  I love affection they displayed to each other in public.  I love those stories and have decided I want to be that kind of man. 

Join me men everywhere.  Let's create the kind of friendships we want and not let the world dictate to us how to be a friend.  Take a chance.  Enjoy the journey.

Friend of Men Everywhere  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Crazy, It would be Crazy

Life is all about choices.  Every day we make choices,  some really small and others really big.  Sometimes the small little choices have the biggest consequences and the big choices have small ones.  We never know when we make a choice what the consequences will be, large or small, we have no way of knowing the outcome.

At least most of the time we have no way of knowing,  but there are some choices when we make them we are pretty sure the outcome and yet we still make the choice and even when we know the outcome there are so many variables that we cannot even begin to understand or comprehend.

Years ago as a young missionary in the Dominican Republic I made a choice to do something having no idea the outcome.  In fact I never even gave it one moment of thought.   One day I made a choice to buy shoe shine box and go shine the shoes of a family that we were teaching.  I had a pretty good idea what the consequence would be.  They would go to church the next day.  We arrived at the door after a pretty interesting walk through town carrying a shoe shine box on my shoulder.  We were laughed at and jeered at as we carried a shoe shin box down the streets.  I guess it was a pretty unusual sight,  two America boys with a shoe shine box.

We finally arrived at the home of the Mendez family.  We knocked on the door holding our shoe shine box.  Brother Mendez opened the door and looked at us with a questioning face.   "What are you doing here Elders?"  he asked.  "We are here to shine your shoes for church tomorrow."  We exclaimed.

Brother Mendez looked at his daughter and said "we have learned something about the Mormons today."   We entered the house and shined every ones shoes.  The Mendez family came to church the next day and I forgot about that experience for along time.

That was one of those times where the small choice turned out way bigger then I could have thought.
Years later I discovered that Brother Mendez had written that experience down, for him it changed his life,  and mailed the letter to my Mission President.   He in turn shared the story with hundreds of missionaries over the years.  I had no idea that our choice to shine shoes would effect so many.

The really interesting part of that story for me happened 20 years after the experience.  My wife and I traveled to the Dominican Republic for the dedication of the new LDS Temple.  It was a huge event and I had not had contact with anyone there for over 20 years.  Back in those days we didn't have Face book or email.  It was harder to keep in touch.  Anyway,  we arrived in the DR and had a great experience.  One evening we went to an event in the home of a family I had taught 20 years ago in a city I had served in.  Many came to see me and my wife.  Among those in attendance were several missionaries that had served 16 years after me and Brother Mendez was also in attendance.

They were all sharing stories.  Remembering when type of things.  It was wonderful indeed.  At one point Brother Mendez asked,  "Petersen, remember when you came and shined our shoes for church?"  I laughed as I remembered it like it was yesterday.   All of the sudden the missionaries that had served 16 years after me exclaimed loudly,  "Wait, your the shoe shine missionary?"   "Your a legend in this mission".

I have to admit that I cried and laughed.  We all laughed and cried.  It was a joyful moment.  That night I learned a powerful lesson, one that I have never forgotten.  One that has guided my choices and I am sure will continue to guide them the rest of my life.

The lesson was this,  we never know the impact our choices will make and it's often the small and simple things that we do  that have the biggest impact on those around us.  Choices we make that are simple or big, we just never really know exactly how they will impact others.  

One of my favorite music groups has a song out  and I love the lyrics.  Mercy Me is the group and the song is "Crazy".  It talks about choice and how we would be crazy to choose the wisdom of the world over eternity.  I have thought about that a lot lately.  We are surrounded by the wisdom of the world and we are often told that is how it is, that we need to above all, follow the wisdom of the world.  That wisdom often over powers all we hold dear and valuable.  In the process of following the world we make choices that not only effect us here but forever,  eternity.

Recently I went to a wedding of my best friends son.  It was interesting,  it was a gay wedding.  I was overpowered with the consequences of choices that were made that night.  From the parents to the men getting married.   The choice of the parents to support their son, even though it was probably the hardest thing they have ever done, the choice of those attending showing support even though they did not approve of the choice,  the choice of boys getting married, following the wisdom of the world.  I am not judging, just my observations of the event.

For me I felt the impact of so many choices.  Choices that probably at the moment were not really thought about but the impact of so many of those choices have eternal consequences,  and if not eternal, far reaching that will indeed effect so many lives.   Time alone will be the judge of whether or not little or big things come from the choices we make each day in our lives.  

Indeed it would be crazy to follow the wisdom of the world when so much of that wisdom does effect  lives here and after.   It is usually the small and simple things that bring about the largest changes and often, actually more then often we never get to see the consequences of our choices.  Good and bad we cannot avoid what will happen when we make a choice.  And just think, if the small and simple things we do can cause such great things to happen in life,  what happens with the big choices we make in life.  Wow, defiantly food for thought.

Again,  I am not judging anyone for their choices.  I just wanted to offer food for thought.  Often times when I write this blog it is for me and I often learn and grow in the process.

Don't Be Crazy

Monday, August 29, 2016

The ManKind Project~Helping Men Grow Up

This past year has been a really busy one for me.   I have been running all over teaching and enjoying the great adventure of life.  In May of this year I had the amazing privilege of going through the ManKind Project in Prescott Az.

The ManKind Project is an international organization designed to help men grow up.  It's purpose is to help men be better husbands, fathers, employees, companions, friends,  neighbors, and citizens.

I was nervous about the entire weekend and filled with dread and anticipation about it.  Friends recommended, highly recommended it and something just told me I needed to go.  I signed up six months before the actually weekend and before I knew it I was there.

I was intriged by what I was told and by the web site they have that talks about the weekend.  I was, I have to admit really scared about going.  The weekend was filled with strong macho men, the type that always have made me nervous to be around.  Not that I have anything against that type of man, but that I have always felt less of myself around strong got it together men.  So I was terrified.

They don't tell you much about the weekend.  They want you to come without any preconceived notions about what goes on so they ask those that have been before not to share to much.  So I really had no idea what was going to happen other than there would be some processes to help me be a better person.

I have to say it was one of the best experiences of my life.   I really am frustrated that I had to wait so long for that type of experience to actually happen to me.   It was beyond anything I could have imagined on my  own.  Filled with fun, work, and the opportunity to get to know some absolutely amazing men and in the process I learned so much about myself.

I learned that as a man I am just like most men.  Struggling with life, trying to make sense of  the journey, doing my best, which is most often not that great.  I learned that those macho men that scare me are great men just like me trying to do the best they can.  Often times men, me included, create masks to hide what is really going on inside.   We do that to protect ourselves from being hurt or beat up.

I learned that each of use are facing difficult challenges, from work to home,  being a dad to being a man in today's world.  From serving the community to making our marriages work better,  from gender identity to building meaningfull relationships with those around us.   Each man is on a journey.

The Mankind Project really opened up my eyes to life and the journey we are each on and just how important it is to learn how to deal with our past, present, and future in way that we can be the best in all  area of our lives.

With all my heart I Love the ManKind Project.  Since my Warrior Weekend Experience,  I have learned so much about me.  And I have to say the most important thing I have gained is the affirmation that I am a good man.   Sounds funny, but my life time struggle has been believing that I have value and worth.  The ManKind Project in it's amazing way has opened up a door for me that I have looked for my entire life,  Understanding my Worth and more important learning how to use the worth that  I have to be a better husband, father, friend, man of faith, employee, person, and man.

I like most men,  have a long way to go on my journey of being a Man, but with the things I am learning from the Mankind Project, for the first time in my life I see hope and in the hope I am finding greater joy in my relationships.  My marriage is growing stronger,  I am seeing hope for my career, and I am enjoying the newfound friendships that encourage me and help me see who I really am and I have to say I like what I am seeing.

Men don't wait to long to discover your real potential.  It's time to grow up.  Find out if the ManKind Project might just what you need in our life.

For me, it came just when I needed it and I cannot express the fullness and joy I am experiencing in life because of the tools I have learned to help me deal with the life.  It's a journey, but we don't have to do it along and without understanding.

The ManKind Projects offers weekend experiences that are called The New Warrior Training Adventure.  They are all over the world.  You can go to to learn more.  I highly recommend the New Warrior Training Weekend to any man who just wants to be better and connect with other men who are on the same journey of being a good man in today's world.  It's a life changing adventure.

If you know a man or are a man that needs to grow up,  take a good look at the ManKind Project.  It might be just what is needed.  

Black Panther

PS  The next New Warrior Training for Arizona is in October of this year.  You don't have to live in Arizona to come to the this one, and  I am serving on staff.  Sign up, only 32 men are allowed on each weekend.  If you have any questions let me know.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Need for Physical Touch

We live in a society starved by physical touch.  We are taught to avoid it from all sides for many different reasons.  Some of the reasons are based on fear of rejection, fear of being too familiar, or fear of being inappropriate. Whatever the reason many live starved for touch. 
Touch is one of the most basic of human needs. It starts out while we are in the womb and greatly defines us in childhood. Indeed, there have been many studies on the effects of touch in infants and always the end result is that when there is touch, the infant grows better and happier and is even physically healthier.  
As children our need for touch grows and as we receive it we grow emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. When we receive the right kind of touch we are confident in the things we do. Healthy touch is so vital in our growth that without it we suffer deeply and the wounds often take years to heal if they heal at all.
From the basic holding hands to hugging and holding, touch can be healthy on every level.  When we take it out of our lives we suffer emotional damage and its effects can be felt deeply in all areas of our lives. 
Each of us has different emotional, mental, physical, and touch needs. One of the most important things I have learned recently is that "core needs" are non-negotiable, meaning that some needs cannot be negotiated out of our lives. When we push a core need out, there are always consequences. Touch is a huge core need for most of us and we live in a society where we are seeing the results of cutting out the core need of touch. 
Many are confused about gender, how to have healthy relationships, strong marriages, even friendships are put on the line as a result of lack of touch. Touch is so vital to healthy relationships, but even more so for personal health and well-being.  When we deny ourselves of core needs we suffer. 
It has been discovered that when we deprive ourselves of core needs we act out in other ways to fill the need. Often, struggles with pornography, addictions, depression, social discomfort, and many other problems can be traced to the lack of touch.  
Personally, I get so frustrated in a society that tells me that touch is not appropriate. That we do not need touch and that we are ok without it.  I get frustrated when we are denied "core needs" on the basis of what is politically correct or what is based on our Christian standards. We fear what we don't understand and touch is so misunderstood in our day. We think it strange when men hug, hold hands, or have the need to be held by a man. Those that express those needs are shamed and felt ostracized from society. 
Out of fear of being judged, many are left hurting and in great need of something this is so needed and I might add natural. Many are left confused when the heart tells them they have a core need, but society tells them that they are not normal when they express the need. 
Touch is good.  Healthy touch is a great gift and can change lives.  The need for physical touch is not going to go away. We need to address it openly and honestly. We need to come to the understanding that there are many that have core needs that need to be met and faced. We have to get away from judging and shaming those things we don't understand completely. Perhaps I might not have the need for touch that someone else has, but I need to understand that they might have needs that I don't get or understand. That does not make it bad or even wrong, it only means I don't understand. 
Many are hurting deeply, craving the deep need for touch in their lives. As a society we need to come to understand what we as individuals can do to help those that are starving for something as basic and easy to give as touch. 
Hooray to the man that will hold his friend, even if he feels weird and out of place, but understands his friend needs to be hugged. Hat's off to the man who can sit and hold hands as he comforts his friend who needs more than just words. I applaud the man who looks beyond modern convention and rules to really learn the power of touch and how effective it can be in creating intimate healthy wonderful meaningful relationships with other men. We have to get away from the idea that touch is sex.  Once we pass that obstacle, touch can become a meaningful healthy part of our relationships and in the process can heal deep wounds that often can hold us back.
Personally, I confess. I love touch. I realized for me, having grown up in basically a touch free home, that I had a great need to feel that connection with men. I discovered it is a core need for me. For years I pushed it under a rug from fear and shame. Feeling confused and frustrated by a need that society does not address or understand. It is not about sex, it's about having a deeper more meaningful relationship with my friends. I love to hug them and I enjoy when we are talking deeply to hold hands with them. When life is really dark, a good hold is amazing. It heals me like nothing else. I discovered that for me it's a deeper connection and my friendships are more meaningful. I state again that it is not about sex, it's about connection and affirmation that makes touch an important part of my life.  
Touch is vital. I encourage you to take a look at your life and the lives of those around you. Be sensitive to the touch needs of family members, friends, and others that we come in contact with. Touch can heal, lift, strengthen, affirm, comfort, sooth, and make life just plain down right better.  
And please be cautious to judge someone when you see them doing something that you just might not understand. They could just be having a core need filled that just might be the difference between life or death for them. Something like a simple hug or even holding a hand can change a life.  I clearly remember a time in my life where the difference between me making it or not, changed by the actions of one young man that was not afraid to hold me when my life depended on it.  I am forever grateful for this man who stepped outside of his comfort zone when it was hard for him to do so to save my life. 
 Touch has been a powerful influence in my life. I understand and see the power it can have when it is done safe and with respect to boundaries and each person’s personal convictions.  
So go out and hug someone today. Hold someone and change a life forever.

If this blog resonates with you, please share with others.  There are many struggling with topics I cover on this blog.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.  

Feel Free to comment below.  Your comments are appreciated and enjoyed. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gift of God or Curse

Often times it is the way you look at something that determines its value.  For example, the common dandelion plant is considered by many a horrible uncontrollable weed. It is hated and despised, yet it is one of nature’s greatest treasures. It has been used for salads, cleansing the body, and removing warts. Pages and pages have described the benefits of this so called common weed that seems to overtake and discourage many.  
Recently I was asked to listen to an article that talked about how being gay was a gift from God. There was so much good in the article, but there were some things that I wanted to express and define to help create a greater understanding. So often men are put in that category simply because they show a sensitive sweet side.  I often get offended that our society is so quick to judge men when they don't fit the norm of what we think a man should be.  For example, if they are tender and kind and not beating their chests they are assumed to be gay. 
Read this next line carefully.  I have to agree that being gay is a gift from God if your referring to men that are tender, kind, and sensitive. However, not all men that are tender, kind and sensitive are gay.  Most men that I have met that seem to be sensitive, kind, tender, and most important, in tune to spiritual things are labeled and mostly what sets them apart from other men is their "sensitive" side. Truth be known, for some reason, being labeled, seems to be the trial in life for men that are on the sensitive side. 
As young as I can remember, I was teased, mocked, scorned, laughed at, judged, humiliated, despised, beat-up, kicked around, spit upon, and shunned for being a sensitive, tender, kind boy. I was called gay and fagot so often that I almost believed it. Even my parents wondered about me and my mom frequently had talks with me about that issue. 
I was constantly encouraged to change my behavior, do sports, and other ‘manly’ things. I felt stupid because I liked to grow things, write poems, lip sync to Haley Mills, and yes even dress up.   I hated baseball, hunting, and most boy things. I cried easily and felt things deeply. I had a knack for house cleaning, cooking, and babysitting. 
School was by far the worst.  In my school there were hippies, jocks, cowboys, and Mormons. I practiced none of the above and there was not a place at my school for sensitive sweet boys. No one knew how to handle me. When no one knows what to do they tend to do the wrong thing. I hated school. It was painful every day. One of my worst memories, and I have many, was walking into the locker room and hearing laughing. I heard "Hey coach, have you heard the latest? Brad is a faggot!" I remember looking at them and feeling so stupid and I looked to the coach for help and he just laughed with them. 
Home was not a place of refuge either.  Dad was a cowboy and just did not understand what to do with this boy that was considered a sissy. To be perfectly honest, I was a sissy. He tried to understand me and I tried to gain his approval. I did join the football team once just to prove I could do it and gain his approval as that of others. It was a disaster and I hated every moment.  The only good thing was I remember the feeling when I was able to tell my parents I made the team. The look in their eyes was glorious. If only that look could have been there when I did the things I loved. I didn't last long. None of the other team members welcomed me and made me feel like I belonged. I hid in the bus at games afraid I would have to play. I just couldn’t do it.  
All those years I really believed that my tender nature was a curse. I was angry with God and the world because I was not loved or understood. I could not be me and be loved at the same time. I would create all these different personalities to please everyone in my world. It was a hard time. I tried to be macho and tuff. I tried not to cry at movies or get overly passionate about things.  I fought my tender side and loving nature. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not change the person I was. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was not a macho man. 
At times, life has been extremely difficult. Many times I have been frustrated not understanding why I was created different from others.  It took a long time for me to finally embrace who I was and feel comfortable being "different".   For me the journey is not about being gay, it's about being in touch with the man God created and liking him despite what others think and judge.  It's hard when so many tell you one thing and you’re feel something different.  I decided that I am like the dandelion, totally bright and flowery. I stick out wherever I go, and many just look at me like I am a weed not understanding that under that flowery perhaps feminine cover is real stuff. Strong and useful beyond understanding, I have come to understand that like the dandelion my differences are a great blessing in disguise. What to some may seem a curse,  really is a great blessing.  My differences like the dandelion if understood and used properly can bless others in great ways.  
Perhaps we should take a lesson from the wonderful dandelion plant.  Small and misunderstood as many are in the world, when we take a closer look there is value in every part of a person just like the plant, from head to toe, every human being, no matter the difference, has great value.  What may be considered a weed to some is a wonderful flower filled with beauty and goodness.  
I have been labeled many things and am still constantly being labeled and misunderstood for the things I do. It has taught me to be more accepting of others and most important it has taught me to trust in a God that created me.  He has his divine purpose and as I learn to trust in Him, I have learned to love and accept who I am and I am better able to combat the constant judgements of others. I trust and follow Him and find great peace in the journey.  
Boldly I declare I am a man, yes I cry at movies, well truth be known, I cry over a lot of things. I love gardening, cooking, chic flicks, romance novels, and life.  I enjoy making friends and am overly passionate about a lot of things. Yes I still like wearing bright colorful things but I also can appreciate sports, working out, shooting, spitting, burping, and just being macho. I enjoy hugs from men and I love men that are sensitive, open, and dare to be who they are.  
Saying that, I leave the judgement to you about what kind of man I am, and say we are all in our uniqueness, gifts from God.  


Please feel free to comment below.  Your comments are apppreciated.  Thank you for reading and please share when needed.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Love, More Powerful than Principle

Recently  I had a conversation with a dear friend about an upcoming event in their lives that they choose not to attend. The choice was based on principle.  They are strong christians and believed that by not attending the event they were making a strong stand on what they believed.   

Often times in life we have these choices to make.  We have our strong Christian standards that come hell or high water we will maintain no matter what the cost.

My purpose of this blog is to remind us that Love in more powerful than principle.

I totally get the fact that we have to stay true to our standards.  I totally understand that we have to be true to what we believe and I get the fact that we have be true to the faith.  But on the other hand when principle totally overlooks love, I have issues.  

Often times I get frustrated with our culture where Principle is the guiding factor,  meaning that the rules often  over look the person and in the process the person is left hurt, confused,  and wondering what is up. I am not saying that Principle is not important.  

Our good intentions to be right and live up to our Principles often do more damage than good.  We need to ask ourselves what motivates our actions.  Is it love or principle.  Nothing wrong with principle as long as it is motivated by love and not by self righteous or prideful judgment.  

I  realized something the other day.  Often times when someone ask us to do something that is against our belief, what they are really asking is,  "Do you love me more than the principle, or is the principle more important than your love for me"?    Most often the offender already knows how you feel and what your standing is,  they are just checking to see where your heart is.  

Let me give you an example.  Recently a friend expressed how they had told their son that they would not be attending his wedding.  It was against everything they believed.  Their son is getting married to another man.  I can see perfectly how that would go against all they believe.  Having thought about it I decided that here was a great example. 

 Chances are the son knows exactly how the parents feel,  the son was raised in the same faith and knows he has broken their hearts.  Yet he asked them to attend.   Common sense would dictate that they should not go.  After all it is against all their principles and standards.  The son knows this. One might ask why would he even bother asking when is knows just how they feel.    

In defense of the Parents.  I get it,  it would be devastating to have a son tell you he was getting married to a man.  His parents, their entire lives have been taught how wrong that is and it goes against all they believe.  It would be a huge challenge to support something so against all they believe.   They honestly feel justified in their choice not to attend and they feel that not going sends a message to their son that they do not approve and to all the family it sends the message that they are faithful and will not be taken off course.  

I admire the courage it takes to take a stand, but let’s take a look at it in a different light.  What is the message they are really sending to their son and family.    The message is that principle is more important than the person.  Love comes in second to principle.  Sorry,  you may be saying now that it is love when we stand our ground and stay true to our beliefs.   

Can we have both,  principle and love.  Yes,  I firmly believe that we can.  I believe that we can hold to our principle and love at the same time.  I don't think we have to comprise who we are or how we feel or what we believe when others do things we are not comfortable with.   

In regards to the parents who's son is marrying a man.  I believe the son knows perfectly well where the parents stand.  I think that when he was asking for them to come he was really asking how much do they love him.  The parents could express their views and beliefs, and express that coming to the event does not change their values.   Going does not mean they embrace the lifestyle and that it is not their choice.  Having expressed that the parents could then tell the son that in view of all that they will attend because the love for the him outweighs the choice he has made.  

That in no way condones his choice,  but it does validate their love for their son despite his choice.  That in no way takes away the faith and commitment to what they believe, in fact that adds credibility to their faith and beliefs, especially when it is a christian belief.  

Can you see the message they are sending their son and family now.  They are saying that Love is more powerful than principle.  That the love of the family is the most important thing ever and no matter what the choice their children make,  they are there for them, to love them, even when they make choices that they do not condone, or want, or understand.  

In no way am I condoning or justifying behaviors of others that go against personal and religious beliefs.  All I am saying is that often times choices others make are out of our control and when that happens we have a choice.  To abandon and shun them, cutting them out of our lives and taking ourselves out of their lives.  Or  we can stay true to what we believe and stand strong in our standards never wavering, and at the same time love them.  That does not mean we have to embrace the lifestyle or choices they make, but it does mean we can still love and honor them for who they are despite choices they make that we might not understand or believe.  And in the process we can still maintain our personal standards and beliefs.  

Whether or not you believe in Jesus Christ,  he was and is the perfect example.  He never shunned or shamed the sinner.  If you remember he choose to with them that had different beliefs and standards then he did.  He understood that love and acceptance does not involve lowering your standards, in fact as we love others, it adds strength to our standards and it adds power to our ability to love and lift.  How can we possibly love as the Savior did when we place the principle over the person.    He never lowered his standard, but loved and lifted others by loving them even when their choices were not his.  

The long term effects of our loving others regardless of the choices they may make far out weigh the short term effects of our standing firm to our precious principles.

Love should always be stronger and more important than principle.  Love is the power that changes lives, softens hearts, and cements family hearts together forever.  Principles are important and powerful, but if they divide the family, where is the value in our principles? 

I believe with all my heart that Love is more powerful than Principle.  And as we love regardless of choices others make, our hearts are filled with grace and joy.  


Please feel free to comment below.