Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Big Stage, Big Speech, Big Deal

Before you read the next Men's NetWork blog, there will be the no-small-matter of the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. On January 20, Donald John Trump -- real estate mogul, television reality star, and come-lately presidential candidate -- will take a solemn oath as our nation's chief executive at the U.S. Capitol Building.

Undoubtedly, Trump will have a few words to say.

Here are a few opening day remarks from days gone by:

"Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America" (Barack Obama, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 2009).

"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" (George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 2005).

"Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America" (Bill Clinton, First Inaugural Address, January 21, 1993).

"The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man" (John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961).

"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance" (Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933).

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations" (Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865).

"And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people" (George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789).

Words ... each and every one ... delivered at a time of hopeful anticipation that renews every four years in our nation's history. No matter the person in office, God is in charge. No matter the circumstances of our country or the world we live in, God is in control. Let us remember that as we move forward -- whether the candidate who assumes the Office of the Presidency on January 20 is your man or not.

Well, one thing's for sure. The days of overblown political hyperbole are behind us -- at least for a while. Let us know what you think about this passing of the baton. You can do so by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Got Them Re-solution Blues?

Ever notice how the coming new year's resolutions are reminiscent or, as is often the case, poorly disguised copies of last year's resolutions? While that might speak to the futility of making resolutions at all, I think it shows a certain tenacity in the human spirit to make things right, to get things right -- (i.e. the things we really find important) at least in our own worlds.

I know there are detractors who find the whole resolution thing a waste of time. Their thoughts, I would assume, stem in part from the seeming artificiality of picking a date like January 1 of the new year as the definitive moment to initiate some radical change. Why wait until the first of the year to engage in something you feel is so important? What's so special about the passage from one year to the next when it comes to major life decisions? Their questions are valid.

Well, in truth there's probably nothing inherently significant about picking New Year's Day as the day we shed our old selves to take the reins on what lies before us. Still, it seems a good time to keep our word, start exercising, stop procrastinating, eat better, read more, go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, meet new people, stop smoking, put the TV remote down, attend to our appearance, make more blog comments, drink less or not at all, start saving money, learn a new skill, volunteer, let go of grudges, get organized, learn how to cook, travel more, forgive others, curtail Internet usage, pay off debts, let go of bad relationships, take responsibility, learn some self defense, face down fears and insecurities, and/or keep a journal.

Maybe Cary Grant, the film superstar of years gone by, was on to something when he spoke to our making of resolutions and the way we so quickly let them go. His philosophy was "never to make a resolution which won't be as important on the ... tenth of July as it is on the first of January."

All the best to each of you as you consider the open slate of the year ahead -- and what you'd like to do with it.

You can share your radical resolution(s) or your anti-resolution philosophy with us by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Presence

This is the time of year when many in the world stop to share gifts, good deeds, and kindnesses with one another. Bell-ringers remind us to give from our plenty to those less fortunate; tantalizing price-cuts hold the promise of an even more gift-laden Christmas morning; joyous greetings between strangers bring smiles that warm the night. All seems right in the world.

Yes, it's Christmas time, and everything is a little brighter.

But there is a down side to this season too, especially when the desire to give loved ones all the "latest and greatest" leads to spending money not yet earned. It can make an otherwise bright season one that becomes an inane competition. Nerves frazzle as anxious shoppers wind through parking lots, searching for a spot, any spot. Empty store shelves remind last-minute shoppers that procrastination this time of year can backfire in a big way.

Yes, it's Christmas time, and everything is a little more stressful.

The familiar melodies of heartwarming Christmas carols remind us this season is about way more than presents. It's about family and friends sharing their lives -- breaking bread together, singing songs boldly and sometimes out of key, and laughing heartily with one another.

Yes, it's Christmas time, and it's time for family.

But we'd be kidding ourselves to think it's the same for everyone -- the good times, that is. There are those who know an empty spot on the floor where the tree should be. There's the beloved spouse who brought such life into the season and who now is gone. There are the children who've moved away with kids of their own. There are others -- the newly single -- who grapple with life as the one they loved and counted on has walked away, tearing apart their heart and their marriage.

Yes, it's Christmas, and it's a time for loneliness.

There is perhaps no greater gift we can give than our presence. With that in mind, let's gather our family around us and rejoice. Let's seek out those among us who are alone, those who struggle, and those who need a friend. Let us gather them into our family, for these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let's give them our time and remind them of God's presence in their life.

Yes, it's Christmas, and we can make it wonderful for someone else.

A few more days and Christmas will be here. Is this year just another replay of years gone by? Do you find yourself falling into all the predictable ways of doing things this time of year like you always do? Maybe there's more to Christmas than we realize. Maybe it's all about being there for someone else.

Take a moment to share what it is about Christmas that's most meaningful to you. You can do this by clicking here to share your thoughts.

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.