Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Well, it's that time of the year again -- New Year's! It's another chance to begin clean with a new slate -- a time we can all resolve to be better, do better, and live better lives. All of the errors of the past year are wiped clean with a flip of a calendar page. Everybody has permission to start anew.

Yep. New Year's resolutions are here. I personally don't spend a lot of time resolving to stop habits I have acquired or beginning those I haven't. I usually try to announce resolutions I know I have a fairly good chance at keeping -- for example this year I think I will resolve to

1. play more golf.
2. watch more football.
3. switch to light beer (at least when there is not a regular one to be found).
4. cheer on the Cubs (It takes a special team to have a bad millennium.)
5. pray for the president.

In theory, you gotta love New Year's resolutions. You get a "do over" -- a chance to start fresh. I get that every morning when I wake up. I have a new day, one I haven't messed up yet. I can do some good! Yet each night I go to sleep with the good I would do undone and the evil I would not do done. While there are things about me that seem habitual, there are others that change all the time. One thing that never changes, however, is the comfort Jesus gives me as He forgives me each day, wiping away my sin, giving me a clean slate. That is awesome!

What will you do today?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Will You Leave Behind?

"But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." -- Benjamin Franklin

"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice." -- Old Indian Saying

"If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he's dead, then maybe he was a great man." -- James Dean

Death is a certain -- we will all die. But what will we leave behind?

For some of us, we are intent on leaving behind wealth -- money, stocks, bonds, land, and houses -- an accumulated fortune that will provide for our family. For others -- leaving behind a good name, a reputation for honesty, decency, kindness, and generosity is the most important thing. While yet others might want to leave behind monuments dedicated to all their good deeds and accomplishments.

All these are well and good, but all of these legacies end for that generation when that generation passes. It's just the way it works.

St. Paul reminds us "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

The only eternal we experience is eternal life in Christ. One great gift we can leave behind for the next generation is a witness to our faith: a life spent walking with Christ, words of God's love spoken to our family and friends, deeds that match our faith. We can witness to our faith and pass that on - what a great gift that is!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Go Green

It seems as if everywhere you turn today people are telling you to "Go Green." No, it is not a cheer to motivate the Michigan State Spartans, nor is it kudos to Kermit the Frog, but rather it is an exhortation to conserve resources, use earth-friendly products, and reduce emissions.

Green is a good thing, isn't it? We should all be careful users of the limited natural resources we have. We need to care for the outdoor environment. (Genesis 2:15 - "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.") To insure there will be clean air and water for our children and our children's children just makes sense.

It seems that today, however, we are closing in on having regulations and laws passed that will further legislate the issue for industries and individuals. Some would say it's the only way to insure the future of the environment; others would say we don't need another set of laws. But if we rely on people to voluntarily do the right thing, will they? And what is the right thing? Will people learn to be better caretakers of the environment if we pass laws and affix penalties? What's the best way to get the point across that taking care of the earth is good for us now and good for us in the future?

I am having a hard time getting my arms around this one. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Christmas Letter

Does anybody really read Christmas cards? I'm not talking about a quick glance to see from whom the greeting originated. I mean read it, enjoy the words, etc. How exciting can the pre-written word by some card writer really be? Of course, "Season's Greetings" cards are even worse. If you are like me, Christmas cards aren't the priority when opening the mail. I usually go for the Craftsman® tool sale circular followed closely by the Bass Pro Shops® flyer. On the other hand, Christmas cards do remind us that somebody out there sees some redeeming quality in us, or at least our family. With that in mind, I will eventually look them over and even read a few.

What really catches my attention is the "Christmas letter" - you know - the once-a-year missive rattling off the events of the previous twelve months. I have yet to read a letter that starts out, "Well, this was an average year - the kids passed with a "C" average and nobody did anything worthy of mention. Merry Christmas!" However, I have read the long letter that started out, "On January 3 we.... On January 10 we...." And then proceeded to recap all 52 weeks. That was a fun read.

I figure we all have a need to feel special once in awhile. I don't think there is anything bad about sharing the good news of the family. That is why I like reading the Christmas story. That story shows me just how special I am. And why is that? Because God sent His only Son for the whole world - and that includes you and me. When the One who created the universe gives you the gift of His only Son, well, it don't get any more special than that!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Christmas List

Some things I've learned about Christmas gifts:

1. When buying clothes for your wife, size does matter -- go small!
2. You better buy batteries.
3. One must be exceptionally cautious if purchasing a gift for your wife at Auto Zone. Lowe's is a safer bet; get it at Macy's and you're golden.
4. Gift assembly on Christmas Eve generally strains a marriage.
5. There is nothing easy about E-Z Credit.

It is better to receive a very specific list of items that would give happiness to the gift receiver. The list should include sizes, colors, brand names or, in a perfect world, the SKU (stock-keeping unit) number. An electronic list with pictures usually gets priority.

We can rejoice that we have received one Christmas gift that is just the right size, works flawlessly every time, and is absolutely perfect for everybody -- the real gift of Christmas...our Savior!

I have found that reading the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke to the family on Christmas Eve really puts the whole Christmas gift thing in perspective.

What about you?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank You

Two important words: we teach them to our children. We say them automatically. We expect to hear them at the proper time. Yes, hearing "thank you" is important. If we give a gift to someone and they forget to say "thank you," we are disappointed. If we continue giving gifts and still don't receive any words of thanks or appreciation, we just might refuse to give gifts. For, we reason, if they can't even say "thanks," they certainly don't deserve a gift.

A quick inventory of everything we have shows just how many gifts we have been given. We have air, water, food, shelter, life, health, family, friends, occupations, TVs, computers, tables, chairs, couches, and beverages. We have talents, hobbies, interests and our minds. Everything we have has been given to us; most of these items are obvious; others are less so. In the end, however, everything we have is a gift. This being the case, I know I've forgotten more than a few "thank yous" along the way.

Do we thank the Creator for the universe we live in? Do we thank Him for the sun, moon, stars, planets, or the incomprehensible beauty of the world around us? Do we thank the Creator for the abilities we have? Do we thank the Creator for the most perfect gift of all - His forgiveness of our sins through His Precious Son - Jesus?

For that, I'm going to go say "thank You" a lot more often.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If Momma Ain't Happy....

You have heard the phrase, "If Momma Ain't Happy Ain't Nobody Happy."

So how is a real guy supposed to keep Momma happy? Here are a few tips:

1. Don't vacuum the rug with a leaf blower.
2. Don't keep your live bait in the refrigerator next to her pâté.
3. Don't forget to tell her about the nitrous switch on her dashboard.
4. Don't store your WD40 on the bathroom counter next to her hair spray.
5. Don't forget to teach her how to operate the TV remote -- for when you are out of the house.

Guys tend to be self-centered -- it is who we are. It's about us. But guys also need to realize it isn't always about us. There are times when we must put other people's needs or wants above ours, especially when it involves those we love. Sometimes we need to see that "chick flick" even if there is a John Wayne movie on at the same time. Sometimes we might walk with her around Macy's or even put gas in her car. And who knows, with a little practice, we might find listening to her is a good thing and praying (out loud) for her is a very good thing.

As our Lord, Jesus became a human for us. He put our needs first, took our sins to the cross, and was crucified for us. Can we do any less than put other's needs above our own?

Do you struggle with this? Have you found ways to show your love and respect for others?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Get It Right The First Time?

Now, that's a novel idea.

Sometimes what people want more than anything is just to feel like somebody else cares.

While organized denominations (Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, and others) are complex, multi-tiered organizations that function much like any large business, sometimes the rank and file - those of us who sit in the pew on Sunday mornings - are left wondering if too much of the "business" has seeped into the church.

How's your church? Are folks charged up when they get together? Are members enthused when greeting new folks at the door? Do you sense from others or have you experienced yourself any compelling desire to want to invite people to your church?

Or, is it otherwise?

And we all know what "otherwise" feels like - chilly, distant, sluggish - the complete antithesis of what a group of believers united by the cross of Christ should be expressing.

Not a few studies (and a lot of common sense) have shown that positive first impressions are lasting impressions. Nowhere is this probably truer than for the individual attending a church for the first time. The warm handshake, the genuine smile, the attempt (no matter how clumsy it might feel) at conversation - each goes a long way to breaking down barriers and giving people a reason to come back.

And that return trip might just be the start of a relationship with Jesus that otherwise would never have happened in that person's life.

Think about it. What is it about meeting people for the first time you find awkward? What do you wish others would do when you visit them on their turf for the first time? Is it something you can do when others visit your church?

Is it possible to get it right the first time?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Can You Make a Difference?

I know things have been worse in the past, but today's world seems whacked -- high gas prices, unemployment, devastating weather, food prices, an out-of-control stock market, clogged highways and, now an election where both major parties tell us what we need is change. All I know is that we'll get it one way or another - change, that is.

What can one person do? The problems seem so monstrous there is no possible way one person can make a difference.

But one person can make a difference. There is one of those movies circulating the Internet about a grocery bagger named Johnny see video here see video here and how he made a difference in the lives of his customers and in the culture of a simple grocery store. Yeah, it kind of smacks of a "Hallmark® moment," but it does make a point. Who knows if it's true? And, in the end, it doesn't really matter.

But I do know a true story about how one man made a difference in his world -- my Dad. My Dad taught his children to work hard, be honest, pray and trust in God. He expected us to do well and touch the lives of those they met in a positive way. He was demanding but forgiving, loud -- yet with soft edges. He loved God and shared that love freely.

He made a difference in his world and now in mine.

Can you make a difference?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Golf War

It's a war out there. I face the enemies - sand, words, trees, and water - armed with nothing but my driver and a Titleist®. Oh, I have the shoes, the hat, and the glove to back me up, but the big gun I sometimes use is my mind. So I see the swing, feel the swing, be the swing, and attack the fairway. Sometimes I win, most of the time the fairway wins.

Eventually it happens and I beat the fairway - only to do battle with the green. The green uses subtle illusions of light and shade to reshape itself into a different animal. It bends to port while telling me it will bend to starboard. Ah, it is sneaky. It does its best to defeat me, slowing the ball, moving the cup at the last moment, or just collapsing the cup all together. But, I will prevail - no matter how many strokes it takes.

Ah, the golf war is a war I love to play, always lose, and yet always go back. Why would I subject myself to the certainties of humiliation, frustration, and rejection?

Because there is always that one shot that brings me back. It is one shot that brings form and function together in one smooth and graceful motion that produces a professional grade gold shot. It may be a 300-yard drive in the middle of the fairway, a chip shot that lands six inches from the hole, or a 35-foot putt that bends twice and rattles home. That is the shot that keeps bringing me back. That is the shot I remember when I walk into the door at home and the wife asks, "How did it go?" I can answer truthfully, "I had an awesome shot!"

For me, that is how my life with God is. In spite of all my best intentions, He makes everything right - perfect. He sees me as perfect, made perfect by His Son. That is awesome!

How is your golf war going?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scary Jobs

One year I worked for the local "haunted house." My job was to sit in a chair in the back of the room - very still. When the people would come by me I had to remain seated and still, until I would pick out one person to scare. I would then leap off the chair, raise my hands, and yell. Usually I was able to get a scream; sometimes they would back up screaming, and one time a person fainted. Now that was a scary job.

I imagine there are other scary jobs. For me, painting the Golden Gate Bridge would be scary, or driving 18-wheelers on an ice road, or launching nuclear missiles would be scary. Walking the steel on high-rise buildings, parachuting out of planes, or putting animal tags on gorillas would also be scary to me. Racing cars around the track might be scary, but real fun, just like riding broncos or directing traffic in downtown Chicago.

If I had to rank some of the scariest jobs of all time, I would say being a kindergarten teacher tops the list. A close second would be just being a man in today's society. With all of the expectations placed upon men and all of society's rules and norms, it is harder for a man to be himself. Yes, it is a scary job, but a necessary one.

It is a job that God equips and empowers me to do - for I can do all things with His help. That is always a comforting thought.

What scares you? Where do you find comfort and help?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Keep The Faith

There was a time in American history that phrase would waft across college campuses. It was a rallying cry for a generation bent on changing society. It was a touch point for strangers that immediately identified one as a member of the group. "Keep the faith" still brings memories to many.

There is another faith we need to keep - not "faith that we can change the system," but faith in almighty God. This God created us, gives us eternal life, and gives us the power to share our faith with others.

Sharing your faith in the '60s was easy - raise up two fingers or a fist and shout out, "Keep the faith!" Sharing faith in God in the 21st century is more complicated. Real men aren't supposed to get emotional about faith issues, so the stories of tear-filled, life-changing moments don't do it for men. Running up to another guy, hugging him, and declaring, "God loves you and so do I," is not for men. So what is a man to do?

Live life and let people see your faith in your deeds. Take time to talk about your values, your beliefs, with children and other men. Use natural moments of discussions to bring up how important God is in your life and why. Driving your son to baseball practice is a great time to talk to him about how God saw you through rough spots in your life and how God does answer prayer - sometimes even helping a boy's best efforts to get a hit in a game.

Condemnation, confrontation, and contradiction are not the best way to share your faith. Listening, sharing, and living your faith works - even if you think they don't.

How do you share your faith?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Camo Paraments

Those of you who have been worshipping in a Lutheran church for a while might have noticed the color of the paraments (fancy word for altar cloths). We're men, so most of us probably missed it but a few years back, we added a new color to the parament collection -blue for Advent.

Do you think a panel decided on those colors? They aren't listed in the Bible anywhere, but I'm guessing you couldn't just mix them up willy-nilly without someone getting pretty red in the face. Do you think anyone is open to adding one more color to the collection? How would you feel about this new color for those cloths - camouflage? Some will split hairs and argue that camouflage isn't a color, but a pattern. Tell that to a deer hunter or a soldier. Camo paraments - you won't find them on the Internet, but I still think they would be appropriate for two services each year.

We could put them on the altar for Reformation. Though Luther intended to initiate a discussion, he initiated a war - a war of words (and later weapons) over the truth of the Bible and the importance and central position of the Gospel. Because he said that man was saved by God's action alone through faith in Jesus, he was declared a heretic and could be killed on sight. Camo paraments would work for a day that celebrates that kind of battle.

The other day this new "color" might be appropriate is Good Friday. On that day, the most important war in the history of the world was fought and won. Jesus, on our behalf, did battle with Satan and all of the forces of evil - and He won. "It is finished!" was His victory cry and Easter Sunday was the day of celebration. Good Friday was the battle.

There probably won't be camouflage paraments on your altars this Reformation Sunday or on Good Friday. I wonder, though, if people wouldn't take more notice of the importance of those days if there were!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wait for me.... I am your leader

Do you ever feel like that? You're following when you should be leading-or vice versa. Welcome to the club.

Men are born both leaders and followers. It's often a question of timing. There are times when we must lead and others when we should follow. The places to be a leader abound: our communities, our jobs, and our homes. The degree of influence we have in these various arenas varies. However, when it comes to spiritual leadership of the family, we have our job description. Spiritual leadership is a God-given responsibility to men. Sorry, ladies. Please don't shoot the messenger!

Research indicates that when a woman/mom leads the family in the commitment to a church, 17% of families follow. But, when a man/dad leads the way in commitment to a church, 93% of families follow! That is a lot of power! After giving men this responsibility, should we be surprised if He provides these leadership gifts in abundance to men? What's more important than eternity-I mean really?

We all want to follow a powerful leader. That is why many people follow Jesus as their leader. He was decisive, powerful, courageous, bold, and confrontational. He was encouraging, compassionate, and understanding. He was everything a great leader should be-and more.

Who do you follow? Who follows you?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

No More Mister Nice Guy

So, what kind of guy are you? Do people know where you stand on issues, or do you smile and let people guess? Do you admit your mistakes and move on, or do you hide them and fret? Do you embrace conflict when defending what is right, or do you avoid conflict at all costs? Are you a nice guy or a good guy? There is a difference.

Many men today have been raised to be nice guys. (Look at the lead male character in most any chick flick.) They are taught early on that hitting, pushing, and fighting are wrong. Nice guys never hit, push, or fight. Right? We are told to be nice and turn the other cheek.

Stop already... these are the kind of guys whose man card needs to be revoked. Occasionally, standing up for what's important can result in some bruises. We don't need to walk around with a chip on our shoulder, and we don't need to be a jerk or bully, but standing up for what is right requires no apology.

We have been taught that Jesus was loving, kind, compassionate, and suffered in silence. At times, Jesus was all of those things, but that's only part of the story. We often neglect to include how He got Himself in "trouble." Jesus was bold, outspoken, powerful, occasionally disruptive and confrontational, and He was always angered at sin. He took action. He got in the face of authority, and He even got physical from time to time (remember the money changers in the temple? Matt 21:12). Jesus did not fear even those who could make Him suffer. His motivation was always true and holy. Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world; He is also a leader that inspires. Jesus was focused on what is good, which at times made Him do some things that many would say were "not nice."

There's nothing wrong with being a "nice guy," but it shouldn't be at the expense of being a "good guy." A good guy will stand up for what is right, call a spade a spade, and will not tolerate those that take advantage of others. A good guy must sometimes be powerful and show strength. He must be the leader his family, community, and work needs.

Don't be confused: nice is nice and good is good, but they are not always the same thing.

Is there a time to be a nice guy? Is there a time to be a good guy?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Women Find Attractive In Men

Women are sometimes hard to figure out. Remember the Mel Gibson movie, What Women Want? You know, I can't read my wife's mind, nor do I care to. I know it's better that way.

So what do women want? I suggest that we'll never know for sure, especially when you're trying to figure out an individual woman. I think we're on our own on this one. (At least, we're all in the same boat, and there's safety in numbers.) Seriously, though, a little research can give us some pretty good insight on women from a broader perspective.

A search of the Internet shows some of the biggies women look for in guys are men who are self-confident, intelligent, possess a good sense of humor, respect women, display integrity, and make good eye contact.


If not, there was one attribute that women mentioned that might come as a surprise: a godly man. Yes, a godly man-one who lives his faith in word and deed.

Something to think about, isn't it?

What do you think?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Man Stuff

Welcome to "Man Stuff"-a discussion forum of the Men's NetWork from Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Every week or so, we will throw out a topic where regular guys can dispense opinions, kick around ideas, or just read the commentary for the heck of it.
Agreement is fine, but a "spirited conversation" is a whole lot more fun. Join the dialogue; speak your mind; stir it up. "Man Stuff" will give you an idea how other guys view their world and their role as leaders at work, in the community, at church, and at home.

What will we talk about? There will be all kinds of stuff-serious, not so serious, sports, politics, current events, religion, leadership-just about anything is fair game. What's on your mind? If you're thinking about it, chances are you're not alone. Shoot us a topic idea, and we will send it up the proverbial flagpole.

Sign-up to receive more information about "Man Stuff" and the Men's NetWork from Lutheran Hour Ministries either by using the link or Clicking Here.