Archive for the ‘male bonding’ Tag

LADS WEEKEND AWAY

Posted 11/1/09

I just got back from a CCB Lads’ Weekend Away and wanted to post a few immediate thoughts on it…

a) It was brilliant. Genuinely. Why? Well the teaching was great – encouraging, wise and challenging; it was great to hang with mates and get to know them better; the discussions was frank, honest and helpful (and very much of the sort we wouldn’t been having if there had been girls around the table!); the setting was awesome; the card games were competitive… I feel very well served by the weekend I just had – if a little knackered.

b) Cross-pollination is helpful. I know that last year it was done as a ‘dads weekend’ and a ‘lads weekend’. That may be necessary as dads, in particular, do face distinct challenges. However, it was good for the church that morning and evening chaps got to know each other properly – the wisdom of the more mature among us proved invaluable for spiritual input, but also as a reminder that they still face many of the same challenges as the ’20-somethings’ (a category I can apply to myself for one more month!). The healthy mix of worlds was, I think, best summed up by the music requests on Saturday evening – Rolf Harris followed by The Prodigy! An eye-opener for everyone…

c) Summary of the material: Perks spoke twice; on lust and idolatry. The former contained great practical advice and honest appraisal. Having examined David and Bathsheba, I will remember for myself the practical conclusions that David should never have had so much idle time on his hands, should never have ventured onto the roof in the first place, and, having placed himself in moral danger, should then have jumped off the slippery slope at the earliest possible stage instead of letting things develop beyond any original intention! It is vital to understand the combination of true forgiveness and hard consequences that he subsequently faced. The latter talk’s concept that all sin is first a consequence of idolatry, valuing other things more than God, was complimentary to the material of the first talk but built upon it – the idea of us addressing ‘the heart’ first and foremost was particularly unfamiliar and instructive.  

The Driscoll e-book ‘Porn Again Christian’ was challenging and led to good discussion. Even so, I am not entirely behind it. Much of what it says is important – pornography is tearing up the young men of the church and we all need to stop making excuses, particularly for the sin that often accompanies masturbation. However, I felt it was unhelpfuly harsh, particularly on that very issue of taking things ‘in hand’… there seemed an acknowledgement that married men have ‘needs’ and need a ‘Plan B’ when full sex isn’t an option. However, it seemed not to imagine that single men have any such requirement, essentially telling them to stop everything and, if necessary, get married (quite clearly not the simple option in many cases – particularly to the oversexed 15 year old, living in this hypersexed world!)… the instruction is particularly tough when married to the graceless assertion that ‘men who remain enslaved to sexual sin will die in their sins and wake up in the eternal torments of hell’. Not if they place their faith in the perfection of Christ they won’t. Having identified the guilt that so traps young Christians on account of these issues I’d like to see Driscoll’s book offer a little more compassion and a bit more practical advice alongside the unmistakeble wake-up call.

Sunday saw Pete leading a session on the decisions we make as men – really fascinating and, to me, totally new stuff on the source and process of our ethics. His second session sent us away with a Bible to look up and share our favourite passages concerning the nature of Christ – again, original and hugely rewarding. Perhaps my favourite moment was when we then sang together – a bunch of often repressed men, comfortable with one another, ganing in volume and passion throughout our rendition of Amazing Grace, all but taking the roof off with the certainty of that awesome final verse.

d) I hope the girls are as well served next week as we have been. Our church has a deliberate lack of female leadership from the front, but this can make it tough to offer our girls specific teaching of the stature offered by Pete, Perks, or any other Co-Mission leader (assuming none of them are invited). It does worry me that Nina has rarely been challenged or held accountable in the way I have been over numerous meals, drinks and coffees from the likes of Angus, Ed, Perks and others among our CCB senior ranks. There is an idea I’ve heard expressed around our neck of the woods that girls automatically look after one another whilst men need the extra help. I have seen little to support this (no criticism of our girls – I just mean their femininity isn’t some automatic shortcut to Christian growth and mentorship – many just feel like fish out of water in the strange old world of church!).

Lots there – thanks for the great weekend anyone who was there. I’ll post soon regarding my New Year Detox (Retox?) folowing December’s particular rubbishness. It’s been an interesting start to the year…

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THE STAG WEEKEND

Posted 28/9/08

Intro: The internet is public space. There is always the chance one that someone who joined me on the stag weekend last week could see this, and be less than enamoured with a version of events where they are portrayed as spiritually lacking or as set upon knocking me off my moral high horse. I’d like to make it clear, therefore, that I don’t in any way consider myself better than anyone else. Far from it. I had a great time in Norway, and was delighted to go because I was doing so with some of my best friends – caring, generous brilliant blokes who I often wish I was more like. The very reason I’m a Christian is not that I think I’m good, but that I accept I’m entirely rubbish and incapable of saving myself. However, with repentance for my rubbishness comes a certain obligation to change; to try and live by biblical guidelines which are sometimes at odds with the world and even with the worldview of my good mates. It is from such a perspective that this account is written.

Also, Christian or otherwise, I acknowledge to an extent the principle of ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’. I have no right to write anything that could get anyone else in trouble (not that there’s much!) and will only be writing about myself!

OK – so, as you’ve probably worked out, I went away last weekend – to Oslo, as the only Christian in a party of 11. I was excited to travel, and to spend time with the boys, but was praying hard in the days beforehand. This is because, amidst the male bonding I know primary aims of such a trip to be a) Drink until inebriated; b) Appreciate the local female population; c) Humiliate the groom-to-be. My aims, on the other hand, were fundamentally to a) Retain sobriety; b) Ignore the local female population (nothing personal against them, but for the best); c) Ensure humiliation of the groom-to-be didn’t reach life or marriage-threatening proportions! Any meaningful conversation regarding the source of such attempted distinctiveness would also prove a bonus. Those at CCB without non-Christian friends may not be best placed to spread the gospel from a relational basis, but they do at least spare themselves the danger and difficulty of this toughest of challenges – the stag weekend!

Even so, there are those who rejoice at the opportunities offered by such a scenario – one very good friend often talks of the discussion prompted by the ordering of an orange-juice rather than beer in every other round. I, however, am a coward. And no great fan of orange juice (as opposed to beer, which I’m really rather partial to). Therefore, regarding alcohol, my distinctiveness was to be subtle – based upon a dubious theory that someone would eventually notice my having been surprisingly sober for a little bloke and surprisingly faithful for one so married! Top tricks employed include:

a) Arrive late – circumstances have to favour this one. Given my inability to escape the dull business of teaching a school day on Friday, I was unable to get to Oslo before midnight, where others had departed London many hours before. Therefore, I wasn’t joining the group until they were about eight drinks in… rather easing my difficulties.

b) Phone calls – stepping out to call home can be strung out to incorporate a long walk and tour of the city – they’ll be in the same place, doing much the same thing, when you return!

c) The slow sip – an empty glass is soon replaced with one full of lager. So don’t let it get empty too soon!! No-ones watching what number you’re on anyhow…

d) Dance! My trump card – when I dance my arms do all kinds of crazy and profound things. It is, frankly, clear to even the most critical observer that holding a drink unspilled in such circumstances would be all but impossible. Therefore I danced a lot. Alone or accompanied – the dance floor was my home for many hours of my Norwegian Saturday night. All precious time spent not boozing (precious time indeed considering the day’s itinerary featured ten and a half hours solidly doing that very thing!).

And why the obsession? Well I’ve written about this before – albeit a while back. The Bible doesn’t seem to counsel that drinking is wrong per se. Rather that the drunkard is a fool. It is drunkenness that opens all other doors – loosening the tongue, rewiring the brain and, above all else for a bloke, as evidenced in a thousand city centres of a weekend, dramatically enhancing the allure of the female form – any female form. My main conflict with the world upon the subject of stag weekends is as follows – the world says ‘You’re in a strange and exotic city, your wife is thousands of miles away, you’re out with the lads – what a perfect time to drink until you’re unaccountable for your behaviour’. I would say ‘You’re in a strange and exotic city, your wife is thousands of miles away, you’re out with the lads – that is the worst imaginable time to be drunk or unaccountable for your behaviour – a thousand ringing danger bells are clanging ‘Don’t be an idiot Andy. This is the very time you need your wits about you!’

And how did I do? Well I passed by my own low standards. Ask those in the group who didn’t know me beforehand and they’d probably be none the wiser that I was a Christian. They may not even have picked up the fact I was drinking rather less than them, given the weaselly nature of my tactics. However, in my small way I may have given a weak demonstration of something resembling salt and/or light. I was the least drunken individual present, although with my dancing it was probably hard to tell. I left the female population of Norway well alone – both in mind or body – and was, I think, instrumental in nudging the majority of the group against the inevitably raised strip club idea. I did manage at least one meaningful conversation encompassing invitation to church (although I’m not sure he remembers it). Importantly, in my eyes, I did so whilst staying out as late as any and contributing, I hope, to a genuinely fun and friendship-enhancing weekend (it wasn’t all drinking by the way – we went to a quality theme park!). And the humiliation of the stag?? Well he came back in one piece but I do recommend my Facebook pictures of the outfit he was forced to wear round the rollercoasters!

I will never be one to skip the stag weekend. Even for those like me too weak to demonstrate an orange juice-drinking persona they truly do offer opportunities – they give quality time with lads who, away from their better halves and plied with booze, will often be more open, honest and available in conversation than at any other time. Without doubt, this better places the Christian man to, at some point, talk with these unbelieving friends about the things that really matter. Also, there is fun to be had – but had with a sense of caution and a clear head.

The best advice I ever had as a Christian was to ask, of every situation, ‘can I do this unto God? Can I thank God for this?’ When it comes to such occasions, I would throw in the third proviso; ‘can I comfortably tell my wife about every aspect of this?’ On this occasion, I was looking forward to telling her all about it when I got home…