Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holiday Driving Can Be Distracted Driving

With the coming of cell phones much has been written and discussed about distracted driving. Most of us have had the experience of the car next to us drifting into our lane, causing us to honk, brake, swerve and comment sharply on the driver's erratic moves, only to discover he or she was looking down at a cell phone -- presumably texting. This would be classified as distracted driving.

It's possible this will be an experience you have one time or another in the coming weeks.

We have also probably witnessed the driver in front of us engaged in an animated conversation on the phone, gesticulating passionately about the call. Soon the car seems to be following the gestures: weaving, bobbing and faking like an NBA guard. This too would be classified as distracted driving.

Not long ago I experienced a different kind of distracted driving. I was on a lengthy road trip and purchased an audio book for the cruise home. I was so engrossed in the book I failed to notice the gas gauge in my rented vehicle. When I finally did I pulled into the nearest gas station and put 11.49 gallons into a tank that holds 11.5. That was distracted driving.

Men, we all know what it's like to see others who are driving while distracted, but the truth is we may drive that way ourselves. We prove that it isn't always possible to give our full attention to two tasks at one time.

Thus I am advocating we give our full attention to the most important tasks at hand, especially those that involve our family.

When the woman in our life desires a conversation, it's not enough to mute the TV. Instead, we need to turn it off and give her our complete -- and undivided -- attention.

When our child asks for help with homework, we need to detach ourselves from our football game and give him or her our full consideration.

Let's show the most important people in our lives how much we value them and give them our full attention, especially now, during this time of year, when God gave so much attention to us.

What distracts you during the Christmas season? Is it any different than at other times of the year?

You can share your thoughts by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

'Tis the Season to be Thankful

With Thanksgiving on the horizon next week, it seems only fitting we should be thinking about what makes us thankful.

Here are a few comments we've received recently from people using Lutheran Hour Ministries' many resources:

For The Lutheran Hour, one listener had this to say about Rev. Gregory Seltz's message:

"This message was immensely enjoyed. In our days of hectic, frantic scurrying about to no purpose, I love the call back to reality from the Word. I am very new to the ministries of The Lutheran Hour. It has been the proverbial 'shot in the arm' for me. Please keep up the good work. May God bless your efforts to His glory."

And then there was this,

"Your message today was very pertinent, and you also speak to contemporary times in the language of today. I was also impressed with the Q & A regarding the saints. The explanation was very good and pertinent in light of the Catholic Church's naming a new saint just recently. I also heard you this morning on my program "Worship for Shut-ins." I wish The Lutheran Hour would be on TV, as my radio in Michigan does not function very well without a special antenna."

For LHM's long-running float in the Tournament of Roses, we heard this:

"This is a personal thank you for your participation in the Tournament of Roses, thus keeping 'Jesus' in this grand event. The Lutheran Hour float about Jesus was the shining best. People cheered and stood as this went by. My heart reacted and there were tears in my eyes to still have this float in this day and age. No trophy was needed, nor would do. What an exquisite application of artistry and talent and divine message."

And from a retired schoolteacher who attended the parade,

"Thank you Lutheran Hour Ministries for your wonderful float in the Rose Bowl Parade! We attended the parade for the first time and were so excited to see your float proclaiming the Gospel message for all to see. After the parade, when the floats were on exhibit, many people stopped to take pictures and I heard parents reading the John 3:16 passage to their children."

We received these comments for Pastor Klaus' and his Daily Devotions:

"I just wanted to say how thankful I am for Pastor Klaus' daily message. Each message talks about Jesus. How beautiful! Although I am not Lutheran, I am a child of Jesus Christ. And for that I am thankful. I thank our Lord and Savior for using Pastor Klaus in such a way to take every day things and apply them to what is important: salvation."

And here's another:

"I am a daily listener of Rev. Klaus' Daily Devotions and have for almost a year now. I live in a nursing home in Festus, Missouri. And I do, indeed, listen to Ken's devotions over my first cup of coffee. His devotions help get my day off to a good start. You could say that his devotions are part of my spiritual breakfast. Along with my eggs and toast, I get fed twice!"

And for Men's NetWork Bible studies, we received this remark:

"You have labeled them under 'Mens NetWork,' but we are using them for our Wednesday night service, which is a worship service with Communion, but it is more like a glorified Sunday school class. The sermon is usually about 45 minutes long and is open for questions throughout the service. I do not know where the sermon will end up. I simply start it, and we see which direction it goes. I call it an 'interactive sermon.' The video series fit right in and work great. We go through the discussion guide questions, and that takes about 45-55 minutes. We move into the service of the Sacraments and have Communion. The Wednesday night service has grown from around 25 people to 47 last week. Not bad since we average around 75 on Sundays. We also have a hot meal after the service, which invites a lot of fellowship. Service begins at 7 p.m., and we usually are leaving by 9 - 10 p.m. I have men and women, young families to 95-year-olds. We have been enjoying them and using them."

Did you get a chance to use any of LHM's resources in 2016? If so, drop us a note and tell us about it. We'd like to hear from you.

You can share your thoughts here: click here!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Putting One Foot in front of the Other

I don't know if it's age or routine or what but I don't get outside to walk quite often enough these days. I remember periods in my life when going for a walk just to go for a walk was an anticipated and almost daily occurrence. The chance to brush off the cobwebs in the open air was a welcome respite from the stale oxygen of closed spaces. And there was always a feeling of rejuvenation at the end of my trek, with a renewed focus on whatever the day held next.

I might add too that the particular peregrination of which I speak is unaccompanied. Absent are cell phone, headphones and a playlist of jams, and/or any other device that distracts or preoccupies your thoughts.

Rest assured, you can do without them for a while.

Evidently, not a few creative types have found walking a healthy pursuit, with a dedicated allegiance coming from those who write for a living. Authors from Dickens and Thoreau to Orwell and Nabokov were fond of practicing the simple art of ambulation in their quest to vent their minds and inspire their creativity.

"There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together," said Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, in a BBC interview. "Walking requires a certain amount of attention, but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively. Your senses are sharpened. As a writer, I also use it as a form of problem solving. I'm far more likely to find a solution by going for a walk than sitting at my desk and thinking."

So, do you ever feel like your brain's not firing on all cylinders? Is your thinking sometimes dull and uninspired?

If so, put on your favorite pair of kicks and see where you end up. You may find the fresh air and open spaces therapeutic in ways you never imagined. (And remember, leave the gadgets at home.)

Do you have any favorite treks you make to clear your head and sort out your thinking? You can share your thoughts here: click here!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Time Is Here

This coming weekend Lutheran Hour Ministries and the Int'l Lutheran Laymen's League kick off a yearlong celebration honoring 100 years of Gospel outreach throughout North and South America and around the world. Festivities take place this Friday evening to Sunday morning, October 21-23, at Union Station in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Bringing Christ to the Nations and the Nations to the Church has been the theme of LHM's work for years, and by God's abundant grace we've been able to connect with people far and wide, taking His message of love and salvation to a world bound in sin and in need of a Savior.

To highlight the impact LHM has had on others, a few comments from those using our resources is in order. For instance, we released an illustrated children's booklet of rhymes that relates to kids who Jesus is. It's been a big hit. The booklet is entitled Do You Know Who Jesus Is? Here's a note from a church that ordered 350 of them this month.

"These were purchased to use in layettes that will be donated to a local hospital as well as 'bags' that are provided to children who are brought to a local shelter for children in crisis. The bags contain personal hygiene items, as well as 'comfort' items the children can keep, so they have something of their own, especially since they are often removed from their homes with only the clothes they're wearing. We've looked at several places for books to put in the bags and to add to the layettes that are given away. Unfortunately, most books are so expensive they're cost prohibitive to include them in the multiple bags/layettes we provide. Your books really help. Do you happen to have others that might be appropriate? We would love to have something written for toddler-age children!"

And this from a woman who ordered 125 of the same booklet,

"Our grandchildren like it so much we thought we would give one to all their cousins for Christmas, even though we aren't Lutheran. Then I thought about all the children that trick or treat in our subdivision, so I ordered them to hand out with the candy. We pray our Lord will anoint these booklets, so the children in the neighborhood will come to know Jesus and His love for them."

Here's one of many comments we receive on our Daily Devotions, written for years by Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus for The Lutheran Hour.

"I just wanted to say how thankful I am for Pastor Klaus' daily message. Each message talks about Jesus. How beautiful! Although I am not Lutheran, I am a child of Jesus Christ. And for that I am thankful. I thank our Lord and Savior for using Pastor Klaus in such a way to take everyday things and apply them to what is important: our salvation."

There was this comment on GodConnects, a set of 12 videos that explain the chief doctrines of the Christian faith and includes accompanying discussion points and related Scriptures for study. It's hosted by Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, the Speaker for The Lutheran Hour.

"I wanted to commend you on the great study, GodConnects. We are using it for our adult vacation Bible school at our church and neighboring Lutheran retirement community, which is Concordia Senior Living in Oklahoma City. Keep up the good work: 'Well done, good and faithful servant!'"

The following comment was prompted by work LHM does in Africa:

"I'm a Congolese Lutheran Christian based in Lubumbashi (Katanga Province, southeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo). I heard and met people working with LHM during one of my missions in Nairobi/Kenya. As a result, I expressed our need of seeing LHM being operational in our country. Lutheran Hour Ministries is wonderful in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide. I am persuaded your presence in this vast country would be highly appreciated and productive, as it will bring Jesus to many families and the latter to the church."

Staff and volunteers from LHM have presented hundreds of workshops and seminars over the years. Here's a response from someone who attended a MISSION U workshop presented by Bruce Sutherland, a ministry resource manager for LHM.

"Bruce Sutherland did a wonderful job of presenting the MISSION U 201 materials to us. He was very knowledgeable and personable, and the personal experiences he shared about dealing with 'tough questions' certainly resonated with our group. I heard only positive feedback about Bruce and his enthusiasm.

"We live in a diverse university community and perhaps must deal with those tough questions more regularly than those in more homogeneous communities. Bruce gave us actual scenarios as to how we might deal with the real questions that arise, and charged us to do our 'homework' to develop our own answers. I especially appreciated the fact that he taught us to deal respectfully with those who disagree with our point of view, rather than slamming them with the Law."

There was even this note we received on our building:

"I am from Benton, Arkansas. I am 83 years old. I was visiting a daughter in St. Louis. While driving by your headquarters building on two occasions, I was blessed to see your large lighted Christmas message in front of your building. It was wonderful, inspiring and transported the true message of the Christmas season. God bless you for your message. If you will advise where to send a contribution for your cause, I will do so."

Has LHM impacted you or your congregation in a positive way, over the years? Have you listened to a sermon from The Lutheran Hour, participated in one of our many Bible studies, read one of our topical booklets, attended one of our outreach-focused workshops, listened to or read a devotion in Spanish, or even joined us for a convention in years gone by? If so, drop a line and let us know about your experience.

We'd love to hear from you!

You can do that by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Time Has Come (or Nearly So)

It's a little (all right, a lot) depressing to think of modern campaign tactics: all the negativity, the politics of fear, the misinformation, the bloated half-truths. Back in the '60s when I was a kid, politics seemed a tad more noble, a little more civil. Candidates spoke more eloquently about the positive changes they would make; they even showed respect for their adversaries. Throwing mud at other candidates was classless, a sign of desperation. And it was those ads that stood out as being less than savory, less than the way individuals contending for a high civic office should act.

Sure, it was all probably naïve, contrived and artificial. But at least I had the impression I didn't have to hold my nose to vote, reluctantly pulling the lever for the lesser of two or three evils. Campaign seasons -- and the elections that follow -- now give me the impression we're just putting a new crop of horrible, self-interested people in office because, well, that's all we have to choose from.

Reminds me of the comment I saw recently, probably on Facebook: "We've got 300 million people in this country and this is who we've got to vote for?"

I wonder if that's why the U.S. Congress typically has such low public approval ratings. Maybe that's why government comes across as a necessary evil.

The apostle Paul once wrote a letter to the believers in the Washington D.C. of his time. In Romans 13 we read, "Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:3-4).

I love that phrase: "He is God's servant for your good."

As the 2016 presidential election nears, let's pause to give thanks for God's gifts to a broken world, I want to start by giving Him thanks for our government. No, it isn't perfect. We have imperfect people doing imperfect jobs. But God has a very important purpose for our government: maintain law and order and thwart those who would bring disorder, crime and chaos. A government for the people can offer its citizens the chance to live peaceable lives, a society where they can follow their beliefs freely in a society without restriction. I encourage you to join my prayers that God will uphold our leaders, guide them to just decisions, protect them from vanity and deception, and give them clarity and purpose.

Please share your thoughts about our government and the election process. You can share your thoughts here: click here!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Smell of Books

With fall's arrival my mind turns to books and reading. If there's a hint of early color to the leaves outside, my thoughts are redirected all the more. By the time there's dew on the grass, frost on the pumpkin, and steam when I speak, it's full-on book mode. It's at this time that self-absorbing reveries increase as summer's exuberance wanes, against cooler temperatures and the more meditative frame of mind autumn ushers in. With this mental shift, the world of literature takes on a newfound significance, inviting me to remember why I love to read in the first place.

And while I'm at it, the smell of books is a beautiful thing too, isn't it? Any book lover can tell you, often in terms waxing poetic, about the exhilaratingly rich oxygen that exudes from the printed page. This is especially true of those careered volumes that have lived a few years on a book shelf, be it a public institution or a private library. For the lucky book-handler wandering the stacks, there's the serendipity of discovery; the joy of cradling the chosen tome; the tactile sensation of locating a particular passage; and then the realization that he has but one choice: a nosedive into the book's spine for some rarified air.

Odd perhaps, but for the like-minded, it's one of life's little pleasures.

Clay tablets, papyrus manuscripts, vellum parchments, books: what's your favorite thing about books (besides reading them, of course)?

Do you have any special connection with books that seems out of the ordinary? If so, let us know what makes a book tick for you.

You can do this by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Gridiron Clock

We're moving headlong into fall now! Labor Day festivities wrapped up yesterday, and football is back. High school games have begun; college pre-conference season games are underway, and the NFL kicks off with a bang as the Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncs host the Carolina Panthers at Mile High Stadium this Thursday night.

I always wanted to play football when I was a kid. I dreamed of being the star running back on the team, my name echoing out over the loudspeakers as I ran for touchdown after touchdown. But there was one problem to this pipedream: I was thin and scrawny. Consequently, I ended up on the sidelines, playing tuba in the marching band. Only later did I learn that for every glorious minute on the field the football team spent hours grinding through practice and working out.

The guys on the football team and those of us in the marching band took our separate paths. Each day we both practiced, honing our respective skills. But Friday nights we came together, each ready to take the field in his or her own time, bringing glory to our school, and a little to ourselves. Even now, on Friday nights when I drive by a high school and see the stadium lights and hear the drums pounding, it takes me back.

Life seems cyclical, doesn't it? These days I find myself in a somewhat similar situation with my son. He's finished high school now and is in college. I'd love to be there with him, enjoying all his experiences -- the struggles as well as the triumphs. But both of us have a different path to take: I'm off to work each day, while he's pushing through his college course load and forging plans for his future.

Like the marching band and the football team, we'll end up doing our stuff apart, in the future. But I can encourage him from the sidelines with my thoughts and prayers. I'll look forward to those game times when I can take my place on the sidelines, and cheer him on.

But life presses on, and the chances are not far from slim that I may not be there for some of his greater achievements, especially if they happen later in his life. The differences in our ages being the determining factor on that issue.

Football with its start in the late summer-early fall of the year has a way of marking in our minds that sense of transition we feel with the changing seasons. In fact, the next Men's NetWork blog you'll read will be one day short of the first day of autumn. How quickly time flies. How helpless we are to do anything about it.

How do you feel as you watch your children "spring up" before your very eyes? Do you have any special or innovative ways of staying a part of their lives, especially as they move beyond your household?

You can let us know by clicking here.