Becoming Good Soil
About the Guest
Seeds need good soil to thrive. And men do, too. Author Patrick Morley talks about a few good men who became blessings to those around them. In addition, Patrick encourages men to build lasting friendships and to not face the life’s battles alone.
Patrick Morley talks about a few good men who became blessings to those around them.
Becoming Good Soil
Bob: Men tend to steer away from deep relationships with other guys. Patrick Morely says most men don’t want to be known; and they don’t want to know other guys all that well, either.
Patrick: I have a friend who applied for a job at Homeland Security. An FBI Agent called me to do a background check. He came by. He was very nervous, asking me questions about my friend. Then, a couple minutes into it, he said, “Have you ever been in his home?” I said, “Well, of course, I have.”
You could see him kind of visibly relax. He said: “I have been with hundreds and hundreds of people—checking out references—who always tell me that they’re really close friends with somebody—but what I find is, usually, the case—is they can’t even tell me the most basic information about the person that they’re supposed to be this close friend with. But I’ve learned, that if someone has been in somebody else’s home, then, that’s a pretty good litmus test for whether or not they’re really friends.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Patrick Morely joins us today to talk about how we break down the barriers that divide men from other men. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. When I got a copy of the book that we’re going to be talking about today—the book, Man Alive, by Patrick Morely, who is back with us on FamilyLife Today—welcome back, Pat.
Patrick: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: Nice to have you here. Here’s this guy—on top of the mountain—with his—he’s got his arms outstretched. I have to tell you—it reminded me—there’s a scene in the Stepping Up™ video series, where we show a guy climbing a mountain.
Dennis: Well, it’s, actually, a boy that starts climbing a mountain.
Bob: It’s a boy who starts climbing a mountain. Along the way, you see, as he gets up the side of the mountain—he gets a little older, each step of the way—until he gets to the top—and he’s white-haired.
Patrick: Wow! He must have been really slow. [Laughter]
Dennis: That wasn’t what we had in mind. We wanted to show process—that there’s a stepping up process, and courage needed, in terms of scaling a rock face—to be able to do it.
Patrick: That’s right.
Dennis: Pat Morely is a good friend. He has written a book called Man Alive. He is the President, as many of our listeners know, of Man in the Mirror Ministries. He and his wife Patsy have been married for more than 40 years—two married children, four grandchildren.
You tell a story, at the beginning of this book. The reason I like this story—I love—I love stories of great courage. There’s something about a story of great courage that just causes all of us, men and women, causes us to be—
Patrick: To rise up!
Dennis: We do. We do. Tell them about the guy in the red bandana.
Patrick: Oh, that’s a great story. Well, when reports began to come from the survivors of the World Trade Center disaster, several people mentioned a young man—who appeared out of the smoke and the horror—and led them to safety. Who this young man was, they didn’t know; but this they all said—they remembered that, wrapped around his mouth and his nose, was a red bandana.
For 56 minutes, what he would do is—he would find little groups of survivors that had huddled together. Then, he would say: “I found a stairwell. Follow me. I will lead you to safety.” He would take a group—he took one group to the stairwell. One woman had been badly injured. He picked her up, put her on his back, carried her down 15 flights of stairs, put her down, encouraged the others to keep going, and then he went back upstairs. When he arrived, he found a woman, sitting on a radiator, who had been badly injured. He said: “Follow me. Let’s gather up some other survivors, and I’ll get you to safety.” Then, he got them started down. Then, he disappeared back upstairs and was never heard from again.
Well, six months later, the story began to emerge, when his remains were found, intact—along with firefighters—in a makeshift command center that had been put together in the lobby of the south tower. His name was Welles Crowther. He was 24 years of age. He was a day-trader at an equities firm, Sandler O’Neill and Partners, on the 104th floor of the south tower. He was a wonderful young man.
When I heard the story, I was overwhelmed. I got in touch with his parents, and we became friends. I’ve learned a lot of things about him. He took volunteer firefighter training at 16. He was the kid on the hockey team who would always feed the puck to the kid who had never scored a goal, hoping that the boy would get his first goal. He carried pocket change to give to beggars, on his way to work. He was attending a little Episcopal church, not far from the site of the World Trade Center disaster.
A few months before, he had told his mother and his father, “You know, I don’t know just how much longer I can keep doing this.” He said, “My real dream is to be a public servant and a firefighter.” Then, on September 11, 2001, at the age of 24, Welles Crowther became, not only a public servant and a firefighter, but also a hero, because he was willing to go up when everybody else was coming down.
Dennis: And the thing that hit me about that story—because it’s really what your book is about—Man Alive—is you use that story and move on to challenge men to be men, who are men of the good soil. Jesus talked about four kinds of soil—soil that produced nothing, soil that never produced much because it got choked out by weeds, rocky soil, etcetera—but you believe men were made by God for that fourth soil. Jesus said 30-, 60-, and 100-fold fruit production.
I just have to ask you—as you’ve talked to men, across the country—you have a unique position, Pat. You’ve probably talked to more men, personally, as well as publicly, obviously, than most any Christian leader in America today. What’s keeping men today from being in that fourth soil—from being 30-, 60-, and 100-fold men?
Patrick: Well, there’s no one right answer to that; but a few things, I think, are interesting to think about. When women have problems, they tend to move toward relationships; but when men have problems, they tend to move toward isolation.
When I am out speaking, inevitably, there will be a man, who’s been hanging back, who wants to talk. I’m thinking about a man named Tom in Nashville. He wanted to talk about his business—that was in turmoil. It turned out he was very close to having to declare bankruptcy. It had put a tremendous strain on his marriage; and it didn’t look like that was doing very well, either.
I listened for about 15 minutes. When he was completely done, I said, “Well, Tom, could I ask you a couple questions?” He said, “Sure.” I said, “First, let me ask you about your Bible reading habits.” He kind of looked startled. Then, his chin fell to his chest. He sort of muttered, “Well, to be honest with you, I haven’t really been reading my Bible very much lately.” I said: “That’s okay. I understand. Let me ask you a second question. Who is your best friend, or do you have a group of guys that you meet together with—doing life-on-life together?” Again, he looked startled. Then, his shoulders drooped. He said, “Well, frankly, I’ve kind of withdrawn from all of my friends.”
Men, if you’re listening—or women, if you’re listening, and you have a man in your life—you know this is true—that our tendency is, when we have problems, we tend to withdraw and become isolated—which makes us very vulnerable. In a global way, to answer your question, I really think that this is the biggest thing that is happening to guys—is that they are withdrawing from God and from people that can help them.
Bob: Pat, in the book, Man Alive, that you’ve written, you’re trying to help men deal with those things in their life that keep them from being fully alive—from succeeding, as men. I think every guy knows that sense of: “Okay, I’m in my stride. I’m where I’m supposed to be.” One of the things that you say, in the book, is that, in order to be in your stride, the significant relationships in your life have to be in order—they have to be working for you; right?
Patrick: Yes, there’s no question. First of all, if you’re not in right relationship with God, you’re not going to be in a right relationship anywhere else. Then, if you’re not in right relationship with your wife—if you’re married—that just spills over into everything. It just taints everything. In fact, guys who are going through marriage problems are among the least productive people in the world—not to mention some of the saddest people in the world.
So, what is the main thing that God is doing in the world? Well, I’ll tell you what it is. The main thing that is always happening in the world is that God is sovereignly orchestrating all human events to bring us into right relationship with Him and right relationship with each other. That’s what God is doing, and that’s what God wants. Don’t resist that. A lot of guys do resist that because they have ambitions to be somebody—to make a name for themselves—or maybe, they’re caught in some kind of an addiction. The reality is that a lot of guys, because they are not walking with the Lord, their relationships are a mess.
Bob: I was interested—there is a diagnostic question that you use, in the book, to help guys think about, “Do you really have good friends—guys that you do life-on-life with?” The question is all about guys who have been in your home. Why is that—what’s so telling about that—do you think?
Patrick: Oh, gosh! This is so interesting. I have a friend who applied for a job at Homeland Security. An FBI agent called me to do a background check on this guy. I said, “Fire away!” He said, “No, I need to do it in person.” So, he came by. He was very nervous, asking me questions about my friend. Then, a couple of minutes into it, he said, “Have you ever been in his home?” I said, “Why, of course, I have.” You could see him kind of visibly relax—so much so that I remarked about it.
He told me an interesting story. He said: “I have been with hundreds and hundreds of people—checking out references—who always tell me that they’re really close friends with somebody—but what I find is, usually, the case—is they can’t even tell me the most basic information about the person that they’re supposed to be this close friend with. They don’t know the names of their children. They don’t even know how many children they have. But I’ve learned that if someone has been in somebody else’s home, then, that’s a pretty good litmus test for whether or not they’re really friends.”
We’re often saying: “Well, yes, he’s a good friend of mine. He’s a good friend of mine.” Actually, what we really mean is that we met them once; you know? [Laughter]
Dennis: They’re an acquaintance.
Bob: Or, “We’ve been focused on business together,” because that can happen. You can have somebody you spend a lot of time with doing business stuff; but at the end of the day—like you said—if you said: “What’s his wife’s name? How many kids does he have?” I don’t know much about him, personally. I just know about him on a utilitarian basis.
Patrick: Let’s keep it real, too. I mean, guys, if you’re listening, before we go off on somebody else, just ask yourself the same question. Somebody that you say is a real close friend of yours—do you know how many children they have? Do you know their names? The reality is that most guys do not have deep friendships.
Bob: Why is that? Why are we, as men, predisposed toward shallow, superficial relationships?
Patrick: This is the most cliché possible answer I can come up with, I guess; but women, generally, tend to be more oriented to relationships. Men, generally-speaking, tend to be more oriented to tasks. That doesn’t mean that women don’t do tasks and men don’t do relationships. Of course, they do. But the principle disposition of men is to be task-oriented—to do the deal. That means that we keep it at the level of news, sports and weather; and then, we get on with the project at-hand.
Dennis: We’re good at the task—
Patrick: Yes, we are.
Dennis: —but we may not know how to do relationships. So, we may avoid them. It’s a part of why we commissioned Bob, here a couple of years ago, to begin work on a video series called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood™—to get men together and to begin relating to other guys in small groups, where they could begin to connect with each other. We designed this so a guy—all he has to do is raise his hand and say, “I can carry on a conversation around a table.” So, you know what? That guy can lead that small group. He can lead a group of men, plug in a video, show it on a screen, and maybe, have some—as Bob likes to say—order some wings.
Bob: Right. Get the wings in there.
Dennis: Get the wings out and start watching the video. Then, at the end of the video, begin to talk around some meaningful questions that will guide you into a conversation, where no longer are you the stray—where the lion can seek to devour—but you now can be a part of a protective herd, where you don’t lose your identity. In fact, if anything, you gain more identity and more courage by being a part of a group.
Pat, I know, because of your history, you’re a big believer in small groups of men. You have a quote in your book—I wrote it down, “Never doubt the power of a small group.”
Patrick: Yes. If someone was to ask me, “What is the one thing that a man can do that would give him the greatest potential to be successful as a Christian?” I would say: “You can’t narrow it to one, but there are two things. Number one is that he would be in the Word of God for himself, on a regular basis; and then, secondly, that he would be doing life together with a few other guys, in a small group.”
By that small group, I mean a small group that has a leader—who has a vision to make disciples—and a group who is digging into the Word of God because the Word of God—that is what has the transformative power. At our Friday morning Bible study, we’ve averaged four visitors a week for 27 years. I lead the first-time visitor’s table. I always ask them, at the end, “Where are you on your spiritual journey today?”
How many men do you think have said, “I don’t want to talk about it”?—Zero. Every single man, for 27 years, has wanted to share where he was on the spiritual journey. The reality is that men are hungry for relationships. They’re hungry for meaningful conversation. So, if you can get yourself into a safe environment—you have to give it some time to build some trust—but once you do that, and begin to open up with the other guys—Bob—when we were off the air—you were telling me about a group of guys, that you put together, who share very vulnerably—but you set the pace for that. Then, once you did that—then, they followed right along.
Bob: Yes. What I found was that—when they found they were in a safe place—and that’s where I think, with a lot of guys, they feel like: “Is it really safe to be transparent? I would love to be able to be real with somebody; but, especially in a church environment, if I admit—if I ‘fess up to the fact that I’m not as holy as I’m supposed to be: “I’m going to get kicked out,” or, “All I’ll ever get to do is parking lot attendant, as a church responsibility,” or, “I just can’t be real about my thoughts, my feelings, or my actions without getting busted.”
So, I started the group by saying: “Okay, let me tell you my story because all of us have one. All of us are on a progressive journey.” Guys were like, “Oh, we’re telling the real stuff about our lives?” Then, they wanted to. They wanted, in a safe environment, to be able to say: “This is who I really am. If I can trust you guys to keep this information confidential—between us, keep it in check and not hold it against me—I’ll go to battle with you.” There was that sense, around the table.
Patrick: Guys, if you’re listening, the truth is that we are made for relationships. We’re made for a relationship with God. We’re made for a relationship with a woman. We’re made for relationships with children. We’re made for relationships with a handful of brothers, that we’re doing life together with. If you stop and you think about it, you may be better at relationships than you think you are.
Dennis: Bob, back to that conversation the three of us were having—you quoted James MacDonald about how a man needs to respond when another man spills his guts about some issue he’s struggling with.
Bob: James MacDonald, when we were shooting the interview that we did for the Stepping Up video series—I found out, during that conversation with him, that his doctoral thesis had been on the verse from James, Chapter 5, that says, “Confess your sins one to another in order to be healed.”
He applied that to men in ministry. One of the insights that he had—he said, “If a brother ever opens up his heart to you and shares with you: ‘This is what I’m struggling with. This is what I’ve done in my life that I’m not proud of,’” he said, “you better be ready, as soon as that brother’s done, to be equally vulnerable and transparent, or he won’t go there again.”
In other words, he has to know that if he’s going to risk it, that you’ll go there with him. James said, “If a guy says to you, ‘Man, I’ve always struggled with anger in my marriage,’ and you say, ‘Well, you know, here’s how you fix that.’”
Bob: Yes. Now, you’re not going to be friends. Maybe, you’ll feel better about yourself; but you and that guy aren’t going to be friends. But if you say to him, “You know, for me, it’s not been anger that’s the issue; but I’ve always struggled with passivity—just checking out.” Now, all of a sudden, that’s where guys start to go, “Okay, there’s help here,” because we confess our sins, one to another; and in that process, God starts to do the redeeming work.
Dennis: Last week—just to illustrate what you’re saying—last week, I was with a businessman. We were on our way to a meeting. On the way, he said: “You know, my wife is really struggling—feeling like, ‘I don’t match up.’ She says, ‘I just don’t feel like I’m meeting your expectations.’”
I hadn’t heard your illustration, Bob—from James MacDonald—but instead of giving some trite spiritual answer—he’s a good friend—I said: “You know, Barbara and I have struggled with that, too. She’s admitted to me, many times, ‘You know, you just drive a hard bargain! You’re a tough dude to satisfy—to please!’” He said, “Really; really?”
Patrick: Oh, Dennis. I could have told you—you were high-maintenance. You didn’t need to have Barbara tell you that. [Laughter]
Dennis: See, you’re bitter because I said your books are being sold in a garage sale. You’re no better, either! [Laughter] I know exactly what’s taking place.
Patrick: You’re not the first guy who’s told me about the garage sales—trust me. Trust me.
Dennis: It’s because some of mine have been sold there, too. That’s how I know they’ve been sold.
Bob: Yes; but his were a quarter, and yours were only 15 cents.
Dennis: Mine were a dime! Mine were a dime!
The challenge for men—that I want to hear out of this is—you know what? Grab a hold of Pat’s book, grab a hold of Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood—the video series—order some wings, and get some guys over to your home—back to Pat’s illustration. Get them out to, maybe, a church on Saturday morning—five, six, seven of you—or more, if you want to have more. Show the video. It’s a 30-minute video that cuts to the chase. It’s entertaining. It’s funny. It’s powerful. It’s spiritual, and it will spawn all the conversation like we’re talking about here.
Bob: Well, you know what? If somebody would like to see what we’re talking about, this month, right here before Father’s Day, we are making available copies of your book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, along with a DVD sampler that has Session One of the ten-week series on it. It also has the first half of Session One for the Stepping Up video event resource, as well.
We’re sending out the book, and the sampler DVD, if folks will just call in and cover the cost of the shipping and the handling. The book and the DVD are free, essentially. All you have to do is cover the cost of shipping, and we’ll get it out to you. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how you can get Dennis’s book, Stepping Up,and the sample DVD that comes with it. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order a copy of Patrick Morely’s book, which is called Man Alive. We have that in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, as well. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Patrick’s book; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Now, as most of our listeners know, FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. We depend on hearing from folks, like you, in order to continue the work of this ministry. Your donations help to cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. This month, if you can help support the ministry with a donation, we’d like to send you, as a thank-you gift, a message from Dennis—a message presented, a number of years ago, at a football arena—where he was talking to tens of thousands of guys about the important role a father plays in his son’s life, helping him navigate his way through the traps of adolescence. The message is called Turning Your Heart Toward Your Children. The CD is our thank-you gift to you when you make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today this month.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the button that says, “I CARE”, and make your donation online; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make your donation over the phone. Just ask for the CD from Dennis Rainey when you call in with your donation. We’re happy to send it to you. We’re grateful for your financial support. We appreciate hearing from you; and we appreciate your generosity, as well.
And we want to encourage you to be back again with us tomorrow. Patrick Morely is going to be here again. We’re going to hear about one of the most powerful moments in his life—a moment with his dad that he will never forget, as long as he lives. That’s coming up tomorrow. Hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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