Wednesday, December 30, 2009


This is the time of year we get to look back over the last 12 months and review all that was good, all that was bad, and all that we forgot. So here goes,


Over 2,600 LCMS churches enrolled and participating in some part of the Men's NetWork

Over 650 non-LCMS churches enrolled and participating in some part of the Men's NetWork

Men's fellowship and impact events happening all over the United States and Canada

New Bible studies being produced for 2010

The Baloney Shop segments give men an opportunity to rally against the baloney of this world

"Stuff They Didn't Teach Us in Sunday School" gives men an opportunity to grow in their Bible story knowledge

Men touched by the Gospel reaching out to their fellow men and inviting them to know the Savior

Men having the opportunity to share the joys and tribulations of being a man in today's world

Men gathering together around the Word and fellowship


Sin, Satan, and the world assaulting us daily

Things we may have forgot:

It's interesting that the company, Build-A-Bear Workshop, put out a children's cartoon claiming Christmas will be cancelled this year because the North Pole is melting due to global warming. That ranks right up there with the United States Department of Energy financing an ad campaign complete with TV commercials and a dedicated Web site targeting children to save energy. Tinker Bell is the spokesperson for this campaign. I am wondering why target children? Have we become so spineless as parents that we now cave in to every whim and whine from our children?

It's interesting that the Christmas light industry has joined in the fight against global warming by providing more expensive, dimmer Christmas display lights. Seems as if the industry is concerned our children have sufficient energy available in the future. Sadly, the governments of the world have strapped future generations with such massive financial debt that our children may not afford any energy or food.

It's interesting that the United States is concerned about preventing lung cancer to the point that smoking is banned in most public places, tobacco is not advertised, and cigarettes are so excessively taxed most people can't afford them. This same government, however, renders a decision that women don't need to have mammograms until age 50, which sends a curious message to younger women who might have had breast cancer detected early enough to save their lives.

It's interesting that there is a concerted effort to prevent forest fires in the interest of preserving animal habitats, but we still abort human babies without any qualm of conscience.

It's interesting that we bend over backward not to offend people of Muslim faith, Jewish faith, or no faith, but find it newsworthy and proper to attack and belittle Christians.

Have a great 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Greetings From The Men's NetWork

All of us at the Men's NetWork wish you and yours a very joyous celebration this Christmas season. We thank you for using, supporting, and promoting the Men's NetWork resources, projects, and events in your men's groups and church families. Together we are reaching men and helping them grow in their leadership roles within their families, churches, and communities.

We promise to continue producing resources that enhance men's ministry groups. We promise we will respond to your feedback. We promise that together we will provide opportunities to introduce men to their Savior.

In lieu of a personalized Christmas card, we have decided to offer a number of Christmas greeting options. Please click from among the links below to choose your favorite greeting:

Merry Christmas Merry Christmas

A. Angel and tree
B. Linus explains Christmas
C. Mary Did You Know?
D. While you were sleeping
E. Christmas with a Capital “C”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


We hear a lot about angels this time of year -- especially those in the sky singing to the shepherds in Bethlehem. The first movie I watched in grade school was, The Littlest Angel. Then there is the e-mail inbox that has at least one message citing a story about an "angel" that gave a gift to someone in need. So I have been thinking lately about those people who stepped into my life to show unexpected acts of kindness. I don't think they were angels, but I do believe they gave of themselves in a way that impacted my life. For example . . .

One Christmas Eve we were traveling to Grandma's house -- a 300-mile trek. We started after the Christmas Eve service in hopes of arriving before 1 a.m. Our six-month-old baby was sleeping soundly as we left the interstate to travel across country on two-lane highways and through little towns. Around midnight it happened -- a flat tire. We pulled over in front of a closed store, and I began unloading the car to get at the spare tire. The wind picked up and the temperature hovered at the zero-degree mark, as I laid all of our possessions out on the parking lot. When I pulled out the spare, it was flat. We were stuck in a little town, up against the bitter cold, with no help in sight.

Just then a police car pulled behind us. He checked out the situation, woke up a friend who owned a service station, and put us in his warm car to wait. The friend soon pulled up in his truck, took the flat tire and the spare to his station, fixed them, replaced them on our car, and loaded our stuff -- all with no charge -- just a "Merry Christmas!"

I tried to remember his name and the name of his service station, so I could thank him when we returned that way. When we pulled into town, I stopped at what I thought was his station, only to be told it wasn't. No one had heard of him -- or his station; it must have been a different town.

I remember that event vividly. I know my tire was flat. I have pulled into the store's parking lot numerous times; it is a real place. I have yet to figure out the man who fixed our tire, but he has influenced my life. For after that event I have helped others stranded by the side of the road, giving them a ride to the nearest service station, staying with their family, helping change a tire, even giving a donation or two of money. I am not an angel. The man who helped me was not an angel, yet we might have been perceived as such. I do not know. I do know that acts of Christian charity are good things to do -- not just at Christmas, but all year around. I do know Hebrews 13:2.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Merry Christmas

"It's a Wonderful Life" may have been replaced by "How The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." "Miracle on 34th Street" may have been replaced by "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." "Merry Christmas!" may have been replaced by "Happy Holidays!" The mall may have replaced the local church as the favorite gathering place of the season, but . . .

As Christian men and leaders in our families, we have the power to influence and train our children that celebrating Christmas is less dependent on what the world does, and more on how we do it. Just because the media have removed the Christ from Christmas doesn't negate the reason for the season -- Jesus. Just because the manger scene has been removed from some buildings doesn't mean we have to remove it from our houses, our lawns, or our hearts. Just because retail stores have embraced political correctness and view the holiday season as a time for increased revenues, doesn't mean the gifts we exchange are any less meanignful as a small reminder of the great Gift we have all been given. Just because we have people who deny the birth of Christ, doesn't mean He wasn't born.

As Christian men and leaders in our families we need to study the Bible. We need to pray always and share the Good News of a Savior, born of a virgin, who would suffer and die for us. He paid for our sins. He rose from the dead to give us eternal life. Nothing can change that -- not a movie, not a government decree, not a holiday greeting, not a store, not a person. We need to proclaim the Good News to our families -- each and every day.

Men, we need to be the model our children will remember and follow. Our words and actions will be what our children will replicate when they leave our homes. How we live our faith life will speak louder to our children than how we talk about it.

Men, we need to be the man our wives will eagerly follow. We need to step up and lead the family devotions, read the Bible to our spouses, worship with them, pray earnestly for them, and love them -- even as Christ loves the Church.

As Christmas shopping days become fewer, the crowds at the mall loom larger. The more people, the more stress -- the more stress, the less joy -- the less joy, the more anger -- the more anger, the more opportunity for harsh words. Men, it's time for us to smile and offer a hearty "Merry Christmas!" to those who need an encouraging word: the store clerk, the bell-ringer, the mailman, the fast-food, drive-in window clerk, the neighbor, the person next in line, and maybe -- just maybe -- the person who cut you off in traffic. We have an opportunity to brighten a day, to encourage, and to witness this Christmas season.

This Christmas season, let us each share Christ no matter what the world says or does. Christ - and Him alone -- is the reason for the season. Merry CHRISTmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy "Holy Days"?

Would you be able to name all of the explorers who "discovered" and settled the Western Hemisphere? (I am eliminating Native Americans and just concentrating on the Europeans here.) I would venture a guess and say you could name, "Columbus." Then, there were many more (see this Web site for a complete list).

One belief virtually every explorer from Europe held in common was Christianity. It would be safe to assume these explorers brought with them customs for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I mention this to establish that Christmas has been celebrated in the Western Hemisphere since the late 1400s. The celebration of the Holy Day of the birth of Christ continued unbroken for centuries, until 1966 when "Black Friday" was named. Black Friday refers to the day after Thanksgiving when the traditional gift-buying season starts.

Ever since then, the retail market has been shaping and defining how and what we celebrate. For example, now we have the opportunity to not only purchase gifts for Christmas, but for Boxing Day, Three Kings Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and even Festivus (that is, if you consider exhibiting "feats of strength" giving a gift). And thanks to the United States Post Office, we can now celebrate Eid al-Adha as they add that stamp to their official holiday stamp collection.

So, it seems to me that in the ever-increasing drive to boost retail revenue, combined with a push to be all-inclusive, what happens is the supreme significance of Christ's birth -- and what that means for a creation lost in its sins -- blurs in peoples' minds. This diminishing is due in part, it would seem, to the growing number of alternate holidays vying for the public's already challenged attention span this time of year. I don't think this is a good thing.

Is it time for Christians to stand up for Christmas? Have we traveled too far down the material road to ever fully reclaim this annual day of honoring our Savior's birth into this world? Is it time to demand at least equal treatment for Christmas in store ads that mention Eid al-Adha but not Christmas? I personally will drop a coin into every Salvation Army kettle when the bell ringer offers, "Merry Christmas!" For two seasons now I have not dropped in a coin. This gives me pause to think about how, even in seemingly small and insignificant ways, Christ is slowly, almost imperceptibly being excised from the Christmas season.

How will you share your CHRISTmas greetings this year?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is It Just Me?

The other day I heard a news report that reported a new government task force has recommended women be advised to get mammograms starting at age 50 instead of age 40 and then just get one every two years instead of annually. Since I heard this on the way to work, I promptly forgot about it. After all, I'm a guy; what do I care?

But the more I thought about it, the less I believed I heard it correctly. After all, I know many women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s. I thought I really heard the report wrong. The government couldn't be recommending women between the ages of 40 and 50 ignore the number-two leading cause of death for women. So I looked it up. Yep, I heard it correctly. The government task force is recommending the first mammogram at age 50 and then every two years after that! I was aghast!

My daughter's mother passed away at age 55 from breast cancer that was diagnosed when she was 42. She had 13 more years due to early detection and aggressive treatment. Now, due to what the government is advocating, this diagnosis would likely have been missed.

I wonder why?

Could it be the government has found a way to reduce healthcare costs? After all, if a whole decade of mammograms aren't performed, then millions of dollars would certainly be saved from healthcare costs! Perhaps, I'm being cynical. Perhaps, I'm being distrustful. Either way, I will make sure my daughter gets her first mammogram at age 40, regardless of what any government says. Her life is too precious to me to be trusted to a task force.

Is it just me who thinks this way?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Live Within Your Means

What do Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin have in common?

According to a new report from the Pew Center on the States all of these states are in deep fiscal trouble as they experience constant unbalanced revenues and spending. All these states are facing higher taxes, accelerated layoffs of government employees, high unemployment, low consumer spending, and are being pressed to provide additional services, such as Medicaid.

States do not have the same luxury as the federal government when it comes to deficit spending. As we've witnessed the past few months, our federal government can spend more money than it takes in - indefinitely. All it has to do is increase the national debt. The federal government has no checks and balances on how much debt it carries. It just passes it on to the next generation, the next election, or the next party in power.

States cannot do this. Hence, they must live within their means. Ah, there is the rub. More and more the population is looking for the government to provide all the necessities of this life. This entitlement mentality has been passed down to the states, which are now perceived as the deep pockets able to bail out negligent companies, irresponsible politicians, less-than-motivated citizens, as well as those looking for a handout instead of a hand up. As the troubled states now know, government cannot provide for all our wants and needs. It takes individual initiative and restraint to provide for one's own needs.

Perhaps if the men of the world would step up this Christmas season and say, "We can't afford it," the message would be sent: Let's live within our means, spend what we have, and heed the wake-up call of individual responsibility.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

World War I -- "The Great War" -- ended officially on June 28, 1919. However, the fighting ceased with the declaration of an armistice of the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month," 1918. Ever since then, 11/11/1918 has been recognized as the end of WWI.

Starting with President Wilson and ending with President Eisenhower, the country now celebrates "Veteran's Day" on November 11. This year is no exception. This year's celebration has been especially enhanced by my last plane ride.

I was on a flight from Atlanta to Albuquerque. On the flight was a large contingent of Navaho Code Talkers. These brave men were able to disseminate messages throughout World War II and the Korean Conflict using their native Navajo language. The enemy was never able to break their code. I was honored to sit with these brave men.

As we approach this year's celebration, the country is in mourning for the loss of life at Fort Hood. We are in shock thinking about how this tragedy happened. We honor the men and women who have dedicated their lives to fight for our freedom.

We also remember and honor those brave men and women who continue to fight the good fight around the world, particularly in Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. No words can convey our gratitude for their sacrifice, dedication, and courage.

This Thursday I will fly my flag as a tribute to those who defend it from all enemies domestic and foreign. I will also offer prayers of thanksgiving for all military veterans, and I will implore our Almighty God to send His holy angels to surround them with their protection.

I will also distribute information about the military prayer guides available from Lutheran Hour Ministries. These prayer guides, written by the Rev. Ken Klaus, wrap thoughtful and comforting words around the deep feelings and emotions surrounding military life. To purchase your copies of "Those Who Serve" and "Those Who Support" visit our online store.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thanksgiving - 2009

The Halloween pumpkins have been reduced to pies; the trick-or-treat candy is getting stale, and the stores in the mall have their Christmas decorations out: welcome to Thanksgiving, 2009. I, like much of America, look forward to the day when I can eat turkey, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, homemade rolls, corn, and lots of pie! I admit it. I like the meal.

I also will partake in the American tradition of "Let's pretend to watch the Cowboys on TV while we take a nap." Ah, those are what memories are made of: the family all gathered around me at church and at home, the big, delicious meal, the all-afternoon football games, the laughter, and the joy -- each of these are much looked forward to during Thanksgiving.

A bigger part of the day for me, though, will be the time I spend apart from family and friends, and even spouse -- and talk to God -- just Him and me. I start off with giving Him thanks for all of the gifts I have been given over the past year. This year will include a growing family, a godly spouse, an awesome job, lots of opportunities to share His story, a comfortable house and more things than I could possibly ever use. Yes, God has given me more than I could ever dream of!

Then my thoughts will turn to the times when I wasn't particularly happy with my life. This year there have been health issues, family job reversals, downsizing, and uncertainty about the family's financial future. I will share with God a little of my frustration and anger over those things too.

Then my thoughts will turn to our nation. I am fearful of what is happening in our country. It seems as if there is way too much anger, self-serving maneuvering, and self-righteousness among our politicians, our news reporters, and our neighbors. I feel this year more than any other we are facing a "house divided" -- in much the same way President Lincoln must have felt. I will give thanks for our nation. It is still a nation of safety and freedom like no other country in the world -- and for those things I am most thankful. I will, however, also ask God to bless us with wisdom to walk away from our selfishness and look to the greater good.

Then I will be still and just sit in wonder and awe at the greatest gift I have -- eternal life in Christ.

Yes, God and I have been chatting for many Thanksgivings now. I look forward to this year's conversation as well. Perhaps you look forward to talking to Him, too?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sexual Temptation

It's hard to avoid. It's in the movies, a substantial number of TV shows, on the radio, at the grocery store checkout counter, in e-mails, and all over the Internet. It's been around since the first fig leaves in Eden, and it thrives in today's society -- sexual temptation. The numbers are both staggering and sobering. According to some studies, 70 percent of men ages 18-24 visit a pornographic Web site monthly, 30 percent of viewers of Internet pornography are women, 90 percent of children ages 11-16 have seen Internet pornography and the majority of pornographic Web sites are visited between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

All classes, races, and occupations of men are affected by sexual temptation and particularly the sin of Internet pornography -- even churched men. The numbers continue to grow, due in part to the affordability, accessibility, and anonymity afforded by Internet pornography. Often the addicted will attempt to dismiss his or her sin with the words, "It doesn't hurt anyone," or "It's a victimless crime."

Ah, the rationalization of Satan! Sexual sin is sin that fractures families, destroys lives, and places people in danger of eternal damnation. Addiction, especially to Internet pornography, will cause a person to draw into him- or herself at the expense of family, work, and all relationships. One extreme danger associated with pornography is the exploitation of children. Dipping one's toes in this cesspool can lead to a federal charge of child pornography -- a felony punishable by a fine and jail time.

Men, it's time to step up and be sexually pure. Men, let's examine what our mouth says, our eyes see, and our mind desires. We need to especially scrutinize our use of the Internet, cable TV, and what we read. It's also time for men as responsible -- and protective -- fathers to critically assess and guide the use of the Internet by our children.

Men, it's time for us to confront a sin that seems to know no bounds. And men, it's imperative we remember there's still hope in Christ for the sinner -- every last one of us. It's time for us to extend the Good News of the Gospel to those entangled in the use of pornography, especially Internet pornography.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whose Job is it?

With all the recent discussion about health care, gay rights, abortion, military involvement in war, euthanasia and government bailouts, the question is naturally asked, "Whose job is it to take care of people?"

It seems to me today's answer would be, "The federal government needs to take care of all the social needs of society. Only the federal government will insure that social programs are administered fairly and equitably to all residents of the country, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, financial need, or citizenship status." It seems it is assumed in today's society only the federal government is capable of delivering social services to America's population. It seems as if individual states are looking to the federal government to keep them fiscally afloat, even as it provides for the social needs of the state's population.

As I review the list of social services afforded by the federal government, I am in a quandary. I wonder, "Wouldn't it be best for people if social services were provided by churches instead of governments? Wouldn't it make sense for churches to come forward and feed the poor, help the homeless, provide for job placement help, fund the medical needs of the indigent, and so on?"

I know churches used to be the first place people went for help in time of need. I know churches still do an awesome job providing aid and comfort; hurricane Katrina is a perfect example of how the church community stepped up and continues to provide aid. However, why is it many church folk today seem content with the federal government taking over the primary role of aid and comfort? Why is it so many non-Christian people in America see the church as close-minded and unwilling to help others in need?

Is it time for Christian men to step up and become a force for social programs in the church and not rely on the federal government? Is it time for us to speak up and show up? Have we gone so far that churches will never regain their role of providing aid and comfort to those in need?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Guest BLOG - My Lesson in Grace

I first remember experiencing grace was when I was about 12 years old. It was just after Christmas and I was the church acolyte one Sunday. Nobody had trimmed the wax on the Christmas candle in a while so I should have just blown it out at the close of service rather than trying put it out with the issued equipment. As the candle started to fall I quickly reached out and grabbed it resulting in hot wax pouring over my hand. The swear word that exited my mouth not only was loud enough for the congregation to hear, but I'm pretty sure anyone walking outside became a little more curious about the Lutheran denomination that day.

Now it was standard operating procedure that our pastor would stand facing the alter as I put out the Advent and Christmas candles behind him. After my charismatic outburst, pastor slowly glanced over his shoulder checking to see that I wasn't on fire. As I turned back toward the congregation I noticed everyone's eyes darting around the room in every direction but mine.

I then finished up my duties, exited the sanctuary, and put away my acolyte gear. It was then that the fear of the inevitable gripped me. A lecture was a given, a beating was more than possible.

As I exited the church and found my dad I braced for the worse. What I got though, wasn't what I expected. Nothing. Nobody said a word. It wasn't even joked about by anybody. It was as if it had never happened.

Our Lord and Savior is just like that, only better. His forgiveness is complete each and every time. In fact, Psalm 103:12 reminds us,"as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Now I'm not saying that the grace of my congregation is equal to God's everlasting grace, but the feeling and the consequence was pretty similar.

You see, even though I screwed up royally nobody held it over my head and they still let me light the candles. I'm sure with crossed fingers. In addition, I learned from my mistake. First, I kept a tight grip on my tongue; and second, I blew the candles out the next go around just to avoid a repeat performance.

In our Christian life it's humbling to recognize that we're all just a bunch of dumb sinners. But that our Lord is the Lord of second, third, and as many chances as we need. And that He will keep on forgiving and forgetting until we get it right.

I hope your first experience in grace was just as memorable.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

NFL - Week Four - Real Men Wear Pink

Watch any football last weekend? Pink hats, pink gloves, pink ties, pink shoes and even pink ribbons on the goalposts. Coaches, receivers, linemen and even officials are wearing pink. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL has donned pink to draw attention to the second leading cause of cancer death for U.S. women - breast cancer. These men of the gridiron are showing support for and encouragement for the estimated 192,370 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and the estimated 2.5 million women living in the United States that have a history of breast cancer.

While some may think it is a bit odd for the bastion of manliness...the NFL to take up this cause of breast cancer awareness, I could not agree more with their support. I have a bias towards anything that will advance the cause of breast cancer awareness and cure.

My wife did everything right - according to all of the risk factors for beast cancer. Yet at age 43 she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. A radical mastectomy and aggressive chemotherapy gave her ten more years of cancer free life. Then the disease returned - this time no surgery, no treatment could take away the disease. She fought for three more years as the disease slowed its ravages, but continued to progress. The disease won and she was called home to her Heavenly Father. She left behind her husband of 35 years, four awesome children, a fantastic daughter-in-law and one amazing grandchild.

Having witnessed her fight against the pain, the attack on her body, the weakness, and her physical deterioration, I am a crusader for Breast Cancer Awareness Month - for if I never witness another woman who has to fight this disease, I will be happy.

Her fight was such an inspiration to me - for against her tremendous pain and suffering - she always pointed to God as her salvation - God as her strength - God as her Fortress! As her pain increased, her trust increased - she witnessed to her faith, her strength, her Father. I pray that we each can be encouraged by her faith, but never have to face the disease.

The men of the Men's NetWork also join together to encourage the women in our life to have an annual screening mammography beginning at age 40. We also urge the women who are at high risk of breast cancer - a first degree relative who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, delayed child birth, along with other risk factors - to have a screening mammography at an earlier age. Yes, real men are wearing pink and are proud to do so,

Yes, this real man will wear pink.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It seems as if there are a number of people who wish to instill fear in our hearts and minds. Najibullah Zazi is being sent to New York to face charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction; the Associated Press reports that "School drinking water contains toxins"; President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain demanded that Iran fully disclose its nuclear ambitions; Michael C. Finton, also known as, "Talib Islam," of Decatur, Illinois, made his first court appearance Thursday on charges of attempted murder of federal employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction by plotting to bomb the federal building in Springfield, Illinois, and the two Belleville (Illinois) West High School students who attacked a third teen on a school bus recently now face felony charges under the juvenile code. Yes, fear, intimidation, and even terror appear to be the motive for many of the news stories coming out of just one day.

Adrian Monk, fictional San Francisco detective, appears to hold a "fear record," categorizing 312 fears. Among his phobias are germs, needles, milk, death, snakes, crowds, heights, mushrooms, and elevators. Perhaps some of the popularity of his character is that many people can empathize with his fears -- for we seem to live in a fear-filled society.

Much of the anger and rhetoric revolving around the current administration appears to be fear driven too. Many people are afraid of the unknown and the loss of control -- both of which come to the forefront when discussing economic bailouts, government health reform, the recession, and retirement costs. This fear has driven people to action -- some good, some not so good.

Fear can be debilitating and cause inaction. Fear can be depressing and cause inaction. Fear can be demonizing and cause inaction. It has been said that fear can be healthy. I would suggest that fear is unhealthy -- raising anxiety levels, causing inaction, and derailing people from participating in constructive civil debate.

So I have stated the obvious. So what? Perhaps it is up to us as Christian men to step forward in courage, overcome our personal fears, and speak the truth in love. Perhaps now is the time to examine issues with rationality and objectivity -- refusing to blindly adopt un-informed opinions. Now is the time to address the issues rationally and draw our own conclusions.

I will try.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Did you know September 17 was Constitution Day? This day commemorates the ratification of the United States' Constitution on September 17, 1787. It was a celebration of our rights and responsibilities as a citizen. It was also a time to reflect on how we are doing with our civilitas -- our civility -- our politeness, if you will.

So how are we doing? Is it just me or are we witnessing a decline in our civility towards one another? The news today is filled with half-truths, evasive talk, provocative comments, and the strident and often hostile responses those comments produce. Screaming, vilifying, threatening, belittling, disrespecting and so forth seems to be erupting in all areas of our lives -- sports, show biz, Congress, and even driving down the highway. Where there was once sportsmanship, respect, and politeness, now we have other adjectives to describe society.

But why now? Could it be we have placed too much emphasis on individualism to the end we have lost a connection to the greater society? Could it be we are frustrated and angry at increasing demands and restraints placed on us? Could it be we see something of value is being taken from us? Could it be we see our way of life will be unduly legislated, or that our financial security will vanish, or that our homes and families will be ripped away from us, or that our values will no longer be tolerated and respected, or that, perhaps, even our country will cease to respect our freedoms?

Is this a time to tear down or build up...a time to be silent or a time to speak?

What is a guy to do? Perhaps now is the time to step up and become a group of Christians that is a healing community, proclaiming God's far-reaching love and unconditional grace, speaking the truth, offering pardon, reconciliation, and hope to those who feel passed over, left out, and misused.

Perhaps we need to proclaim our civilitas in all we do, say, and think.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rubber Chickens

The federal government announced it's imposing a 35-percent tariff on the import of Chinese tires starting September 26. The U.S. trade representative's office has stated that four domestic tire plants closed in 2006 and 2007 and three more are closing this year. During that same period, only one new plant opened. Imports of Chinese tires more than tripled from 2004 to 2008 and China's market share in the U.S. went from 4.7 percent of tires purchased in 2004 to 16.7 percent in 2008, the office said.

It would seem logical then that the United States needs to protect its manufacturing interests by imposing a tariff, reducing the trade deficit, and protecting American workers and their jobs. However, it has been reported on local radio news programs that China will retaliate by imposing a tariff on imports from America, particularly American chickens. At first glance that may seem a harmless thing. After all, it's only chicken feed.

To the American farmer, however, this is no laughing matter. Our nation's farmers produce more food than Americans can consume, hence they depend on exports in order to make a profit. Not only do they depend on these exports to make a profit, but so do businesses connected with this enterprise, such as seed companies, tractor supply companies, car dealerships, even local flower shops-for they depend on the agricultural community putting its profits into locally owned businesses.

Hence, decreased profits from chickens can hurt America almost as much as increased tariffs on imported tires can help America. It seems we face an interesting dilemma today: how can we provide all the goods Americans need or want at a reasonable price? Would we be willing to buy American in order to save American jobs and businesses? Are we willing to forego buying products made outside the United States? Are we so dependent on foreign goods that we wouldn't be able to survive on American products even if we wanted to? Are we on the brink of a worldwide trade war?

It would seem this is a good time for action. Prayer is a good start, but being informed and taking a hard look at personal budgets might go a long way to helping resolve an impending crisis, too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day - 2009

Labor Day 2009 is now in the books. It comes as little surprise that this past Labor Day saw the American labor force in a bad spot. The U.S. Department of Labor reported the national unemployment rate for August rose to 9.7 percent from 9.4 percent in July, with Georgia experiencing a rate of 10.3 percent, Nevada at 12.5 percent, and Michigan reporting 15 percent. With 7.4 million people unemployed since December 2007, it seems we have little to celebrate this holiday. Even with $12 billion in stimulus money, there were only 500,000 to 750,000 jobs saved or created (emphasis on "jobs saved") not much when compared to 7.4 million jobs lost.

Combining increasing jobless rates, falling stock prices, and failed banks with dismal housing market sales means less money in circulation. Less money means taxes must be raised in order for states to honor their obligations. Take Illinois for instance. It now taxes candy and soda pop at up to 10.25 percent -- up from 2 percent in the past. But, candy that contains flour, such as Twizzlers® is still taxed at 2 percent -- fun in Illinois. Illinois is just one example of how every state has had issues funding projects and programs. Teachers have been laid off in every state, roads have gone un-repaired, and state governments are on the brink of collapse -- threatening shut down. Prisons will be emptied, schools will be closed and police will be laid off. This is not a good future.

The federal government is also trying to get a handle on economic woes, but dairy farmers are losing money, new energy taxes are being considered, and health care is causing a rift not seen before in America -- sometimes with an agitation that even expresses itself with violence at rallies. A projected $9 trillion debt is hard to imagine. I lose track when it gets over a $1,000.

So what can we celebrate? How about we celebrate 91 percent employment, increases in human longevity, freedoms no other country in the world has, or the fact we can speak our mind without fear of jail? How about we celebrate our freedom to travel freely and safely around this vast and beautiful country? How about celebrating even that heart disease and cancer -- the one-two punch of death for Americans -- can be prevented by a good diet, exercise, and avoiding certain behaviors like smoking?

Can we celebrate that we have the only universal educational system in the world? We will educate anyone -- no matter where they're from, even if they're not citizens. Is that not a good thing? Perhaps we can celebrate that we have the freedom to gather, worship, or stand on street corners and share a vital message? This past Labor Day I thanked God for the gifts He has given me, roasted a hot dog on the grill, and prayed for our future. It was a good celebration.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Power Of A Job Well-Done

It was one of those days: the lawn needed care, the house needed attention, and the weather was perfect for fishing or golf -- plus -- the wife would be gone all day. What's a guy to do?

I know it wouldn't have been my first choice, but I decided to tackle some chores around the house. I cut and bagged the grass, edged, trimmed the bushes, planted grass seed, and swept the sidewalks. I then noticed the weeds in the flowerbed, so I started weeding. As I pulled out the wayward grasses, I noticed a hole under the front porch. Time to go to Home Depot®!

After the cart was loaded with bricks and rocks to fill in the hole, I had time to wander the aisles to see what else I would need or couldn't live without. I soon had pieces and parts for long-neglected projects loaded into the back of the pick-up truck and was heading home.

I had just put the finishing touches on the porch repairs when the neighbor walked across the street into the yard. He looked over the lawn and the porch and remarked, "Good job. You did good."

I admit it was good to hear him say that. He's retired and spends lots of time and resources maintaining his neat yard. As a result, his standards are high. He's also vocal about sub-standard property. He is not above complaining to the subdivision authorities if someone is not keeping up their maintenance. He is also a vocal unbeliever.

When he complimented me, I had an opportunity to not only share my tips for lawn care, but had an opening to share my belief in a Creator that made everything and saw that it was "good." I shared how sin corrupts and only through Christ are we forgiven.

If I had decided differently, I might have caught some fish, maybe even sunk a couple of birdies, but spending the day doing lawn work gave me a chance to share with my neighbor. At the end of the day I was tired, sore, but thankful God had used me that day to plant more than grass seeds.

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To Tell the Truth

For those of us who have been trying to follow all of the proposals, bills, and changes in Washington this past year, it has been difficult at best and impossible at worst. I think I have part of the reason -- we don't know who is telling the truth.

For example, we were told that the "Cash for Clunkers" program was a success. Our local news reported car sales boomed, energy-efficient vehicles increased the national miles-per-gallon figure, and Congress voted twice to fund the program. That sounds like a success. But then the same local news reported that 8 out 10 top-selling cars were Japanese and South Korean cars with only 52 percent of them made in America. The same news report showed dealers who have empty lots and empty check book balances as they wait for the Federal money. That doesn't sound good.

Health care reform has been a hot topic almost daily on every news outlet. We are told Health care reform will not raise taxes, will not create "death squads," and will not fund abortions. We are told vocal opponents who seize on rumors and use bad manners to get their point across are shouting out misinformation. We are told private health care insurance programs will not be forced out of business. That sounds like good news. But then at the same time reports on TV show only one person who is vocal, members of Congress who admit taxes will be raised, and verbiage from proposals that seem to contradict the party line. That doesn't sound good.

The government, of course, doesn't have the corner on stretching the facts or withholding information. Phone solicitors promise goods and don't deliver; banks take mortgage money and then close; investment houses line the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of the soon-to-be poor, even athletes swear they aren't on steroids.

And closer to home we can cite times when family members have lied, stretched the truth, or misrepresented themselves. With each falsehood, the moral fiber of our society frays a bit more. With society's acceptance of non-truths and half-truths, should we be surprised when elected officials, business leaders, or even families indulge?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Survey Says. . .

Thank you to all who took time to complete our latest survey. Your knife is in the mail - if you were one of the first 500.

You shared and we listened. We already have started discussions on how we can implement the ideas, suggestions and findings into our eNews, BLOG, Bible studies and website. You gave us much to work on,

Some interesting results:

Over 64% of respondents indicated that you read it every week and over 26% occasionally - thank you.
Over 37% would like to see more graphics - we will work on that one.
Only 38% of you have ever forwarded it on to a friend. Challenge: What would it take for you to forward it on?

Bible study session:
Over 66% of you reported that your study group ranges from 6-20 men. Challenge: What would it take to have all of your study group registered to receive the eNews?

Bible Study Suggestions:
The winner: "Is This the Time to go Beyond the Ballot Box?"
Close second: "Just these 66?" or "the Gospel of Judas and Other Books that Began the Tournament But Didn't Play on Sunday"

Website (
Best value: Baloney Shop with a 44% "Excellent" rating. Bible studies and Upcoming events followed.
Too Tame according to 57% - comments indicated we should get out there with hard hitting, no-holds barred, take a stand website that tells it the way it is and challenges men

Cool Insight: Over 23% responded that their group attracted new members because of the Men's NetWork activities. That is awesome! Challenge: How can you attract even more new members to your groups Men's NetWork activities?

Cool Insight 2: Over 66% of the men responding to the survey are between the ages of 35-64. This was younger than expected! Challenge: How can you invite more pof this age group to participate in your Men's NetWork group?

Cool Insight 3: Over 97% of the respondents indicated they are on Facebook. Challenge: Become a Men's NetWork Facebook page fan and contribute to the page - pictures, comments, etc. are welcomed.

We pray that you will be continued to be blessed to be a blessing as you use the Men's NetWork.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I have something to admit: I don't know everything. I know this disclosure will upset some, but I must confess there are things in this world I ponder over and just can't understand. Here are a couple of enigmas, for example:

The Hand Dryer
After washing my hands in the restroom at the local mall, I went to grab a paper towel from the dispenser. The dispenser was empty -- as were the other two down the aisle. I had to resort to one of those reverse vacuum hose electrical dryers that take time, peel the skin off my hands, and really don't work that well. As I was rubbing my hands gently under the airflow, I read the sign posted next to it -- "Go Green, Reduce, Reuse, Renew." The implication was this air hand dryer would protect the earth and its resources for future generations.

I don't get it. How can using an electrical device be better for the environment than using paper products? Paper products are made from trees that grow again and again. Trees are a renewable resource. Throw a paper towel in the dump and soon you will have -- compost. That's not too shabby. Throw an electrical hand dryer in the dump and you will have -- an electrical hand dryer. Trees versus electricity.

Where I live, electricity is made from coal. A byproduct of this process is mercury, dust, smoke, and pollution. So, I need to save the earth by using more electricity? I don't get it. (Although the electrical hand dryer does move air around, which can be a good thing in a men's restroom.)

Nope. I don't mean the Canadian Football League, even though I will never understand Canadian football. Compact fluorescent lamps are supposed to save us energy and be good for the earth. Again, I'm all for saving the environment, but I wonder how using a mercury-filled light that works awkwardly in light fixtures and costs from three to ten times more than regular lights, is something we should be forced to use.

I'm not ready to return to whale blubber oil lamps, bee's wax candles, or kerosene lanterns for nocturnal indoor lighting -- although the romantic ambience is sometimes a boon. I'm just mystified at the wisdom of replacing what we have with something that is arguably not a whole lot better.

Lest one should get the wrong idea, I'm all for progress, convenience, and the wise use of our limited natural resources. As a Christian and a responsible citizen, I have a double desire to use what we have to the best of our ability. Truth be told, I think we need the old-fashioned cloth towels to dry our hands and I'd be happy to just light the house by the glow of the TV set. Alas, that wouldn't be prudent or responsible.

I write this to get you thinking about your use of God's gifts. When given a choice, I will always try to err on the side of responsible use of resources -- even if I have to stand in line in the men's room to dry my hands or figure out how to screw in a funny looking CFL.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's in Your Bucket List?

As teenagers, lots of us start making "bucket lists" -- dream lists of items we want to accomplish before we "kick the bucket." Somewhere in our early 20s we may even write one out and stick it in our wallet. You're probably cranked out just such a list. These lists detail the great things we're going to accomplish, the exciting places we're going to visit and how, in a nutshell, we're going to be living large.

All too often though we end up like George Bailey from It's A Wonderful Life -- lots of dreams, too much responsibility, and zero travel. That can be a good thing showing that we're men of integrity who stay true to our responsibilities. However, sometimes we look at our lives and wish for something more. We think about skydiving, traveling on a safari, flying a plane, shooting a deer, gliding underwater in a submarine, scuba diving, or some other bucket list desire.

And there you go. We can get caught in the trap of living for ourselves or living for others. Do we buy that expensive toy for us or put food on the table for the family? Do we chuck it all and go on a solitary vacation or do we hang out at the park with the kids? Do we eat exotic and expensive food or is it popcorn at the movies with the little lady?

I confess I am very satisfied with my life -- my responsibilities. But that's easy for me. I feel I've accomplished most of my bucket list. Still, there are a few items left to be crossed off. The last item on my list has to do with being remembered as a man of God who made a positive difference. Selfishly, I will wait much longer to fulfill that one.

But seriously, when it comes right down to it that is the most important item on my list. All other accomplishments pale in comparison. So, having crossed off my submarine ride, piloting an airplane, and scuba diving, I still want to work on being a man of integrity, and of course, "being remembered as a man of God who made a positive difference."

What's in your bucket list?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is It Time To Laugh Yet?

Okay, admit it. You've been stressed -- the economy, the political situation, world unrest, and TV reruns are depressing. So what is a guy supposed to do?

I see a couple of roads to travel:

1. Continue to stress out, get angry, drive up your blood pressure, maybe even get a heart attack. Doesn't sound too attractive, does it?

2. Ignore reality. Go golfing and fishing -- tempting but probably not practical.

3. Work honest. Do what is possible and take time to laugh.

Yep, take time for a good belly laugh -- a small teeter, a guffaw, or maybe just a pleasant smile. So what's funny? Whenever I am looking for something that tickles me, I usually look in the mirror. I am known to do or say things that others -- okay, even me -- find humorous. In the hope I am not the only person in the world who messes up, I would like to challenge you. I will share something about me and then you can share something about you in the comment section. That way my self-esteem will increase knowing I am not the only one out there. Also, we can all get a good laugh -- at least a smile -- and my children can feel their Dad isn't totally bonkers. Deal?

Here's mine:

I worked for Jewell Tea Company as a stock handler in their home goods division. One perk I had was being able to shop in their employee store. One day after work I went to the store and found a great looking trench coat. It was black, had two rows of buttons, and fit like a glove. I drove home thinking of all the girls that would turn their heads when I walked into the room wearing my sunglasses and trench coat. I was "Bond -- James Bond."

I got home and proudly wore my new coat into the house. I saw Mom in the kitchen and asked her how she liked it. She turned and looked. Soon a smile crept across her face. I announced I was, "Bond -- James Bond." Her smile grew. Then she giggled. Then she was laughing.

I was only 15, but I sensed something amiss. Since I wasn't very observant and only had brothers, she put her arm on my shoulder and gently gave me a lesson on how girl's and boy's coats buttoned. She wiped her tears and explained that men and women clothes are also sized differently. Although I was a nice size two, I should probably not go to the school dance wearing a woman's coat. (I did get a nice man's trench coat for Christmas that year.)

Okay. Your turn.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Guest Rant - Man and Church

Twenty-five years ago Jack Lemmon starred as Father Tim Farley, beloved priest and pastor of St. Francis parish, in the movie Mass Appeal. He was assigned a deacon, Mark Dolson, who questions the system, demands explanations, and sincerely wants the people of the parish to grow. The conflict is that Father Farley wants nothing more than to be liked by the people. He will go to great lengths to appease his congregation, heeding the words of one parishioner: "I don't want to be preached to."

Interaction between the beloved Father Farley and the hot-tempered Deacon Dolson is brought to a head when Mark confronts Father Farley saying, "Do we go to church to be told what we want to hear or are we there to hear God's Truth?" That was 25 years ago. Has anything changed?

It is my opinion we must strike a balance between the positions of Father Farley and Deacon Dolson. I believe we must stand firm on the Scripture as the unerring, eternal Word of God. There is only one God in three persons. We cannot save ourselves from hell, but Christ paid our price and we have the free gift of eternal life in heaven. Nothing we can say or do will save us. Our creeds and confessions drawn from Scripture must never be compromised. And the list goes on.

However, the way we proclaim these eternal truths, the methods we use, and the settings we are in should reflect the best way to reach today's society. I believe we can still preserve the sacred while using PowerPoint. We can recite the Apostles' Creed while we worship outdoors. We can praise God with a pipe organ or bagpipes, a dulcimer or a drum, a Psalm or a praise song. We can design a service that will be sensitive to male needs and limitations.

Men, it is time for us to take charge of the Church. Instead of complaining the Church is too feminine, we need to fill the pews, meeting halls, and parking lots, and demand a change. Instead of sleeping in, we need to be stepping out -- to church. Instead of sitting and letting women run the thing, we need to step up and reassume the leadership role we've abdicated. If we want the Church to be interested in us, we must be interested in Church. Who knows, perhaps if we strengthen the Church, we just might impact our community, our neighborhood, our world, and our families.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Men and Mentors

Ask a successful man the reason for his success and most likely he will point to another man who helped him along the way -- a "mentor" if you will. Captain James T. Kirk had Captain Christopher Pike, Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Robin had Batman. Cal Ripken, Jr. had his dad, George W. Bush had his dad, and I had my Dad. Bob Dylan had Woody Guthrie; Martin Luther had Johann von Staupitz, and Hugo Chavez had Fidel Castro.

While dads are not always that person, many times they are. My Dad is the one who taught, guided, and encouraged me. From lessons on throwing a baseball to running beside my bicycle, from driving a golf ball to driving a nail to driving a manual transmission, from tying a tie to drawing an inside straight, and from knowing when to run and when to fight -- that was my Dad. He's gone now but his lessons remain, and I can't remember the last day he didn't cross my mind.

Perhaps, for you, it wasn't your dad, but I suspect there was some other guy -- your own Mr. Miyagi, who was there for you. You know, like the karate teacher for Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid movies. These guys choose us. They see something in us we don't, and they fan into flame the spark inside. These guys help us navigate life; they are honest and accept no excuses for a second-rate effort. They judge impartially and somehow hold us accountable by pointing out weaknesses and errors. I suspect these guys get a great sense of satisfaction when their student surpasses them. These guys teach not only with their words, but also by example.

There are also those mentors who would be surprised to learn they mentored anyone at all. These mentors are the men we see and admire; we then pattern our life after their example. Often these mentors never even knew they were being observed, but they have a profound influence nonetheless. It's not unusual to combine the traits of men we have witnessed and roll them into our personalities, choosing characteristics we admire and making them ours. For example, I can admire the way my neighbor cares for his lawn, my co-worker plays golf, and how my barber interacts with his customers. I then do what I have seen.

Who was a mentor in your life? Was it your coach, your teacher, your friend, your neighbor, you dad, your boss, your brother, your pastor? Take the time now to e-mail, drop a line, text message, or call them. No gushing "thank you" is needed. Just say hi, and let them know that you remember them. They'll know why.

I also encourage you to be a mentor, especially to a young man in your church, your neighborhood, or your family circle who has no dad. Help him grow and hold him accountable; feed his self-esteem and challenge him to become a strong, confident man.

And here's a challenge that can make all the difference in the world: share Christ with the one you mentor. Teach him not only with your words, but also with your deeds. Live your life so others will want to model you. Be a strong man of Christ -- sinner, yet saint, not perfect, but forgiven -- depending on the grace of God for salvation and always filtering your actions through His Word.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Let's Talk Corruption

I just heard the federal government has a plan to tax the employer's share of my medical insurance payments. I also received word the Federal Emergency Management Agency redrew the maps of those requiring flood insurance -- moving my house from the "it will never flood" zone to the "pay lots of money to me" zone. My radio station wants me to write Congress so it won't pass the bill taxing radio stations. The national unemployment rate is headed north of 10 percent, and the current trade deficient is $29.2 billion. General Motors' stock is listed at $1 a share while Honda sells for $27.30.

On the state level, we follow corrupt governors as they're impeached, indicted, and imprisoned. Some states face either shutting down or raising taxes. I have even heard that some states are not processing state income tax refund checks until they get more money.

One wouldn't have to go too far from home to witness local graft and corruption. Police officers are accused of abusing their position; mayors are recalled, and local agencies take "fact-finding" missions to vacation resorts.

It is my opinion a root cause behind many of our woes -- economic, civil, and social -- comes down to one word: greed. Yep. It's just good, old-fashioned "I'm-gonna-get-everything-I-can-get" greed. Politicians figured out long ago they could get extra perks, loads of cash, or special considerations for passing certain bills or ignoring others. Lobbyists determined they could get money to influence government officials, workers strike for higher wages and lawyers sue for millions.

Meanwhile, the average Joe has to bear the brunt of everyone else's greed. The person at the bottom is stepped on by all. The person without a voice, who has no entitlement, and lacks the wherewithal to buy influence, ends up paying for the corruption caused by greed. But are we surprised at this? It's been the state of affairs for quite some time.

The Teacher writes to us in Ecclesiastes 5:8-9: "If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields."

In other words, where there is money, there is corruption. Perhaps the time is now that we, as Christian males and voters, step up and speak out against corruption. Maybe we need to live within our means and demand our government officials do the same. Maybe it's time for the Church to take over some of the social programs the government uses as a way to line greedy pockets. I don't know -- just musing out loud I guess.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Independence Day

Soon our country will be immersed in Independence Day -- fireworks, hot dos, sparklers, ball games, firecrackers, and picnics. Over the top pyrotechnics and loads of food seem to be the American way to celebrate freedom from tyranny. Parades featuring marching bands, veteran units, and lots of tractors will remind us that we are a free, democratic nation. July 4 will be the day when we as a collective nation will salute our military, our police, our firefighters, and our emergency medical response units as heroes. These people are instrumental in the freedoms we enjoy -- freedom from oppression, freedom from fear, freedom from destruction, and freedom from sickness. Yes, I will celebrate with everyone else this July 4th.

But I am getting older, more cynical. I stand on the side of the parade route and witness no one standing with their hand over their heart in salute to the flag. I see people cherishing the free candy tossed from the fire truck more than the firefighters. I see politicians extending a hand of welcome, in one of the only times they would be caught accessible in public. I witness a lack of concern for society's freedoms replaced by the idol of individual freedom. I see crowds mesmerized by explosions in the sky then swearing at the other drivers on the way home. I see beer sales climb on a hot day at the ballpark, only to see drunken men cussing each other over the umpire's call. What a great way we have developed of commemorating and celebrating the sacrifice of our founding fathers -- get drunk, blow something up, and become selfish. Now that is independence! Okay, enough cynicism.

I do enjoy the July 4th holiday and all the traditions. I enjoy the fireworks, the ball games, the food, and even the crowds. For where else but in America can we throw a national party such as this? All across America we have a connection -- we have a history of creating a democratic country. We had been tried, tested, and tempted as a country. We have survived. We still live in the world's greatest country -- no matter what our opinions are of today's society.

So whether you grab a sparkler, pop a can of root beer, head to the ballpark, watch some mega fireworks display, or just toss back a cold one -- may you always be involved in making America the best it can be.

Happy July 4th! See:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


If there is ever a question striking fear into the heart of man, it's this: "Can you forgive me?"
What usually precedes the question is something that was hurtful, mean, uncaring, thoughtless, or just plain irksome.

For example, the wife comes home with a JCPenny bag filled with clothes -- blouses, skirts, etc. Just because the clothes in her closet are outdated, out of fashion, or tight doesn't mean she has a right to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes, does it? So, the husband, of course, points that out and, naturally, the wife is despondent and begins to get emotional. She says she'll take it all back; the husband tells her to keep it, and then someone ends up saying, "Can you forgive me?"

Or how about that call teenagers sometimes make: "Dad, I'm sorry. The car is totaled. I'm okay. Can you forgive me?" Dad says, "yes" -- all the time feeling guilty for being upset his car is totaled.

Then there are times of betrayal or a lack of trust: "I want a divorce!" "You're fired!" "I don't have confidence in you anymore." All these wreak havoc for a man. Then after a time, there may come the question: "Can you forgive me?"

And forgiveness can be a contingent thing, too. For some, it equates to permission giving. If I ask for forgiveness and you forgive me, it's okay. For some, forgiveness is forgetting. If I ask for forgiveness and you forgive me, you can never speak of the event again. For some, forgiveness is a tacit approval of future action. "Hey, I asked for forgiveness once, and you gave it to me. Why are you now hassling me about it again?"

Sometimes it's easier for a man to withhold forgiveness instead of trying to figure it what is meant. Sometimes a man has problems with forgiveness, since he himself often commits greater misdeeds. But that is not healthy.

We forgive because Christ forgives us. We follow His example. He paid the price for our sins. He instructs us to sin no more. He instructs us and reminds us of what forgiveness costs. He keeps on forgiving -- persistently forgiving. He offers His forgiveness freely and without any strings attached. It is a gift. Let us strive to forgive, even as Christ forgives us.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trust Me

It seems the older I get, the more cynical I become. For example, if someone says to me, "Trust me," I probably won't. I wasn't always that way.

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher asked for and received my trust. When I was in grade school my parents asked for and received my trust. So when did I become cynical?

For me it was a long, slow process of having been taken advantage of, lied to, and conned. First I began to mistrust the government with corrupt, elected officials lining their pockets with my money. Then it was salespeople who offered great deals and delivered shoddy merchandise. Along the way, I met my share of people who would promise and not deliver. Self-absorption and self-promotion became the norm. The Internet allows people to misrepresent the truth, lie, and cheat. People everywhere are offered "make-thousands-of-dollars-at-home" schemes. E-mails blitz our in-boxes proclaiming us winners of a multi-million dollar lottery or asking us to launder a million-dollar inheritance.

The freefall of the auto industry, the dismal failure of financial institutions, and the imposed redistribution of wealth have me doubting anyone and everyone who wants to work for "my good" and the future. Even something as innocuous as the wise use of natural resources has me gritting my teeth wondering what agenda is being foisted on me and for whose gain. I do not trust. That is sad.

That being said, however, I must retract, at least on one count, my last words -- for I do trust. I trust in God. In a day when it is not popular or prudent to proclaim a trust or a faith in God, I do and I will. God is the constant, the very help in the day of trouble, the One who is with me always. He is the powerful Creator, the Sustainer of the Universe, and the One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the power to overcome sin, Satan, and the world's headlong trip to hell. He has saved me and all believers. In Him, do I trust.

I will live my life confidant in His unchanging grace. I will ask no man to trust me, but live my days so all men can. I will beg no man to trust God, but live my life as an example of that trust. When I fail, I trust God and His promises. Jesus Christ can and does forgive, for it is not about me -- but always about Him.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Friend in Need

Before "play dates," Mister Rogers and Barney, boys often made friends the old-fashion way --they'd meet, have a disagreement, fight with each other, brush the dust off from their "discussion" and become fast friends. I know it may not be politically correct to report that sort of friendship building nowadays, but that's the way it happened. These friends were and still are friends for life.

A friend is the person one could "hang with," get in trouble with, depend on, and would know -- without having to be told -- what was the matter. Boys growing up need at least one good friend -- someone who will not find fault in the clothes his mother makes him wear, someone who will choose him first for a teammate, someone who will stand shoulder to shoulder against perceived injustice, and someone who has no qualms about sharing a hot dog and coke.

A growing boy needs a friend, and a grown man needs a friend, too. A man needs another man to hang with, depend on, share problems, help move furniture, or just plain listen. No body understands the issues a man faces like another man, especially when that issue involves fun, family, and faith.

Guys do understand fun -- sports, bars, hunting, fishing, working on cars and, in general, anything involving risk, speed, and technology. A friend is someone that shares the passion, shares the activity, and shares the fun.

Guys try to understand family. However, relationships with wives, mothers, in-laws, children, and all the variations of family - remain -- for the most part, a mystery to men. A man needs another man to help him talk through and suggest tactics for dealing with the family -- if for no other reason than to have someone to blame when things go wrong.

Guys struggle to understand faith, too. Believing in Someone bigger than oneself, giving up control, confessing weakness -- these are not easy things. A man needs another man to help him see the Jesus of the Scriptures -- the powerful, all mighty Savior who is a Friend to all. A friend is a man who can share the greatest Friend one will ever have -- Jesus -- no matter what the circumstances.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Do Guys Need Encouragement?

The ending of every "Lone Ranger" TV episode was identical -- someone asking, "Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him." The Lone Ranger rode out of town knowing he saved the day, but he needed no thanks.

Bruce Wayne as Batman runs away at the end of the movie "The Dark Knight" knowing he will never receive recognition or thanks for the good he did for Gotham City.

James Ryan in "Saving Private Ryan" stands at the French graveside of his fallen compatriots and ponders if he truly earned the sacrifice it took to save him.

Ever since the formation of America, the American male has been portrayed as the strong, silent man of action. He will start nothing but finish everything. He will protect and uphold the weak. He has contempt for the self-righteous and cannot abide in wrongdoing. A whole cadre of male movie actors reinforce this stereotype - Audie Murphy, James Arness, Gene Autry, William Boyd, Gary Cooper, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, and John Wayne.

A boy growing up in America is surrounded by the historical and contemporary concept that he needs to be manly, to be strong, to take action, and to act without expectation of reward, recognition, or respect. To "do the right thing" is reward itself. But do we men need reward, recognition, and respect? Is it enough to know we are doing the right thing? Do we need encouragement? Do we need the "atta boy"? Are we weak when we crave a "thank you" for a job well done? Are we unmanly to expect a monetary reward for going above and beyond the expectations of our job, our position, or our assignment?

I'm just asking. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Would You Die For?

Our military are trained for one thing and one thing only -- protect our nation from all dangers. Often that means mortal combat and soldiers will lose their lives. Our fallen combatants understood they might have to offer their lives, and still they went into battle.

The first responders of this nation are often called upon to put themselves in harms way -- knowing they may have to pay the ultimate price for their service. Still, they enter burning buildings, speed down highways enroute to disasters, and brave hazardous conditions to rescue strangers.

Our police officers carry firearms as a standard part of their uniform. They know that at any moment, with any traffic stop, with any domestic disturbance call, they may be called on to use deadly force to serve and protect. Officers willing to use deadly force understand they, too, are in danger and may be called upon to offer their lives.

First-century Christians worshipped Christ -- often at the risk of their own lives. They devised an elaborate system to stay under the radar of the Roman government. They knew Rome wanted to exterminate the Christian faith, and the only way to accomplish this was the annihilation of its believers. The choice was to deny Christ or face death. They followed Christ.

Our military, the first responders, our police officers, and first-century Christians all belong to a community that understands men who are called upon to offer their lives need to be surrounded by men who encourage, support, and are willing to make ultimate sacrifices themselves. A band of brothers -- united together and all called upon equally to offer the same sacrifices -- help each other face the future with bravery.

Many of us in North America do not know what it means to face the threat of death in our job or our faith life. Most of our occupations do not place us in mortal danger, nor do we face death to worship, pray, and witness openly to Christ.

Do we take advantage of this freedom? Do we share Christ? Do our lives witness to our words? We may not be called upon to die for our faith, but are we willing to suffer some embarrassment or ridicule to share our faith? Are we willing to risk being made fun of as we pray in restaurants, thanking God for His blessings, or share words of witness with another? Are we willing to stand apart from the world around us and speak against injustice, immorality, and sin? I confess I miss opportunities.

I need encouragement from my brothers in the faith who will strengthen me with their resolve, support me in my trials, and willingly stand with me in a common fight. How about you?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Guest Rant

I may not go to church on Father's Day. I've been a father for 31 years and, frankly, I haven't been at very many Father's Day worship services that I much appreciated. That will probably raise the hackles on the necks of some of the pastors and others out there. But it's the truth. I don't like going to church on Father's Day. And I just might not go this year.

And this will probably further aggravate you-the primary reason I may not go to church is the sermon. I'm pretty sure what it will be. It will be about how fathers shirk their duties and really need to step up to the plate and be the fathers God calls them to be. I know that, because that's what it is always about. You see, in my experience, Father's Day in church is the exact opposite of Mother's Day in church-and it's not just because the sexes are different. On Mother's Day we get a sermon about how valuable mothers are in the lives of their children. We may hear about Timothy's mother and how she provided spiritual nourishment for him. We might hear about Mary under the cross, her heart breaking over her Son's death. But, you can rest assured that we'll hear about the value of mothers and how wonderful they are. And I don't disagree with that at all.

But, in my 31 years as a father, I can't remember a single Father's Day sermon that treated dads the way we treat moms on Mother's Day. I have left church every single time feeling beaten up and condemned because I couldn't live up to the standards given in those Father's Day messages.

I'll go to church 51 Sundays a year, sing the songs with gusto, revel in the forgiveness secured for me by my Savior, commune with His joy and peace in my heart, and leave uplifted, restored, and encouraged. But on this one Sunday, I really don't want to be there-don't want to get spiritually flogged one more time. Yes, curiosity and commitment will probably get the best of me and on June 21 I'll probably be in church-though I won't want to be there. I guess I'm daring my pastor to surprise me. Let me know my service as a father has been a valuable service. Remind me my own heavenly Father forgives, encourages, and empowers. Help me feel good about this important role God has me play in the lives of others. For those of us who have taken up the mantle of fatherhood and done the best we can, tell us about it. Go ahead! I dare you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lessons Learned Fishing With My Dad

All the talk about a fishing tournament got me to thinking about my dad. My dad is in heaven now, but he's still nearby in my thoughts. He would have been one of the first to register for the fishing tournament because he loved to fish. He would go alone, with his friends, with his sister-in-law, with his dad, with his children, just about anybody except mom. Mom would eat the fish, but never catch them.

I still can hear the birds singing as dad and I sat on the banks of the channel waiting for the bobber to go under. I can smell the water and feel the sun on the back of my neck, as dad sat next to me and taught me fishing lessons:

1. Be patient - not every cast will catch a fish.
2. Be kind to the environment - pack out your trash.
3. Storms are okay - fish will bite in the rain.
4. Use the right bait - if fish are biting worms, don't give them minnows.
5. Plain poles can catch just as many fish as fancy ones.
6. If the fish don't bite - don't blame the fish.
7. Speak softly - loud noises can scare fish away.
8. Casting across the channel doesn't always guarantee more fish - sometimes the best cast is the one that lands closest to you.
9. Don't rock the boat - you could fall in.
10. Sit down, be quiet, and pass the worms - you need bait to catch fish.
11. Not every fish caught is a "keeper" - sometimes you have to throw them back to let them grow.
12. If you cut yourself, pour some beer on it - the alcohol will sting, but it will be better for you in the long run.

The older I got, the more dad shared different things. He offered advice about dating, job interviews, how to double clutch a manual transmission, what to look for in a used car, how to apply for a loan, and why church is important. Today I may not fish with my dad, but his lessons have worked well for me. In fact, I find it interesting that most of his lessons applied to so much more than fishing. I think he had a plan.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why I Don't Have A Fish On My Truck

In ancient Rome, it was against the law to openly declare oneself a Christian. So the practice developed of scratching a fish symbol in the dirt to indicate one followed Christ. Even today the fish symbol is displayed to indicate that one is a Christian.

When I purchased my pick-up truck, I thought for a while about putting a fish symbol on the back to tell the world I am a Christian. I soon abandoned the idea.

I am the type of person who has no patience with rude drivers -- ones that tailgate, cut me off, or stay in the far left lane when they should be merging. I have been known to be "hot on my brakes" when a driver is too close. As you might imagine, I love the smell of burning tires. I have been known to salute the driver who cuts me off. I have also been known to practice the "box-out" theory to prevent a rude driver from getting ahead of me after I have waited in line.

As you can tell, I really don't have much patience with rude drivers -- the ones who think their time is more valuable, the ones who like to put others at risk in order to gain one car length, the ones that swerve from lane to lane in order to get to their destinations five minutes earlier. So, I opted not to put a fish symbol on my truck. I probably wouldn't make a real good witness for Christ.

But then it hit me the other day! Since when does being a Christian mean giving up all rights and power? Is Christianity all about being a doormat for others to just walk over and take advantage of? To my memory, I have always had justification to be upset at rude drivers, Why shouldn't I declare to the world Christians have power? They have rights, and they can show righteous anger!

What do you think? Should I put a fish symbol on my truck or just keep my American flag?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Three shots. Three dead pirates. Freedom for the captain. For Captain Phillips, on that day, in those circumstances, those three shots were the best sounds he could hear! The bad guys lay dead; the good guy gets to go home to his family.

It was time to take decisive action. The pirates had threatened a life. Their actions could no longer be tolerated. The command was given, and the Navy SEALs performed flawlessly.

I know this could have happened on any day, but it happened on Easter. Perhaps I am reading more into the significance of the day than I should, but it certainly caught my attention.

What an example for us as Christian men! In today's world, our beliefs, values, and freedoms are being taken hostage by evil forces bent on silencing Christian voices everywhere. Yes, Satan is pulling out all of the stops. He's using every means possible to turn us from God, cause us ignore Him, and to follow the desires of our sinful heart. Satan holds our tongue hostage and declares, "Don't speak out for Christ or I will make sure you are ridiculed." He binds our hands and whispers, "If you show acts of Christian compassion, I will make sure you are taken advantage of." He holds our actions hostage and proclaims, "Go anywhere you want; do anything you want. No one can take that from you. Hey, if you want to golf instead of go to church, go for it!"

It's time for the shots to ring out. It's time for us to stand up and silence Satan. It's time to speak up for Christ. It's time to not only proclaim our faith, but to show our faith by deeds. It's to remind Satan -- the filthy liar -- that he's lost the battle on Easter morning and is going to lose the war.

We know how this story ends...

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Talk

Okay, it's time for the "talk" -- you know the one -- the one you've been dreading since your kid had his or her first crush on some kid in their first-grade class. Yep, the sex talk is enough to make your stomach turn. But don't worry....

The good news is your kids are getting plenty of education on the subject -- TV, movies, the Internet, music, and their friends provide a continual stream of education. Yep, no need to have the talk about sex. They got it covered. They are doing a great job, too. The kids are learning lifelong patterns of behavior.

Let's see -- sextexting, sending nude pictures of oneself is now getting to be a socially accepted form of dating etiquette. According to a study by Teenage Research Unlimited, 22 percent of teenage girls and 18 percent of boys have taken nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and sent them to someone or posted them online.

And what about abortions? In the United States there are about 3,700 abortions performed each day with 52 percent of the females obtaining these abortions younger than age 25. Women aged 20-24 obtain 32 percent of all abortions; teenagers obtain 20 percent and girls under age 15 account for 1.2 percent. That means that every day there are 44 girls under the age of 15 having an abortion.

Hmmm. And what about STDs? At least one-in-four teenage girls nationwide has a sexually transmitted disease, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's more than 3 million teens, aged 14 to 19, infected.

Okay, Dads. As Nike® says, "just do it." Take time to talk to your sons and daughters about sex. Yes, it will be weird. Yes, you'll probably hate it and, yes, you may even stumble for words, but your kids -- in the short and long run -- will be better off for it. And, who knows? They may even thank you for it someday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Men and Women are Different

How is that for stating the obvious? Despite all of the books, articles, movies, TV shows, and parental advice, couples still have trouble with one major part of their marriage - communication.

A good friend recently sent me an article from Preaching Today. It suggested, "men are computers and women are cell phones." Now that is an interesting proposition. It would also explain why often I hear but don't listen to my wife - I am in screen-saver mode. Literally, the lights are on, but no one is paying attention.

The cell phone analogy also fits, for she talks until I answer. Hmmm, I wonder if I can download a different ring tone?

Dr. James Dobson in his book, Love for a Lifetime, observes that women have been blessed by God with 50,000 words a day while men get 25,000. That means by the time I get home from work I have used all my words, but my wife still has plenty to spare.

So what does one do? Quite possibly, recognizing the problem is the first step. Men and women are wired differently, which is a real good thing. Then, couples can work on their communication connection - he saving some words for her, she letting go of some for him.

The best communication help I have found is at the end of the day when I turn off the TV, turn off the lights and hold my wife's hand. Then I pray for her, for me, for us, for the children, for our brothers and sisters, for work concerns, and so on - aloud. She, in turn, prays - aloud - for all that is on her heart. These words spoken to our heavenly Father are the best times of communication we have. Perhaps it also works because she can send messages from her cell phone to my computer?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter Joy to You

All of us at the LHM Men's NetWork pray that you each have a joyous celebration of Easter.

The decorated eggs, white lilies, and new clothes only add color to the day. Martin Luther sums up the meaning of the day in the explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed:

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also
true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord. Who has redeemed me, a lost and
condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from
the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and
with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in
His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and
blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This
is most certainly true.

He is Risen!

The Men's NetWork Team

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Much Do You Hate?

Penn Jillette is an outspoken atheist, libertarian, and skeptic. He is most noted for his role in the Penn & Teller illusionist act. After one of his performances, a man gave him a copy of the book of Psalms. Jillette speaks about this experience in a YouTube video. (http://

Jillette asks the question, "How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?" Now that's a question to think about!

Jillette concludes his observation by telling us that he will not change his beliefs, but that he admired the Christian who shared the Scripture.

That got me a-thinking - what motivates me to not share? I run through all the reasons:
I don't know what to say. I don't have time. They will laugh at me. I will see them again. I don't have the gift of evangelism. I don't know any unchurched people. I don't want people to lump me in with all those religious "kooks." Nothing I say will make a difference anyway.

As I review each reason, they seem shallow, unfounded, and just plain wrong. I do know what to say, "We all sin. The wages of sin is death. We deserve to die. God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the price of our sins. Our sins are forgiven. We will live forever in heaven because of this."

Perhaps, it is time for me to "walk the talk," and step up with the Good News. I can proclaim it to my family, my friends, those I know at work, those I meet during the day and even send a letter of encouragement, a copy of the Good News, and some prayer to politicians.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Should Happen to Executives?

A recent headline read, "Senator suggests AIG execs should kill themselves." Now that is an attention grabber, so I read the story. Basically, Senator Grassley from Iowa suggested that AIG executives who received billions in federal bailout money and then awarded themselves $165 million in executive bonuses should follow the Japanese example and come before the American people, take a deep bow, say, "I'm sorry," and then either resign or commit suicide.

It seems to me the senator has some passion about his feelings towards the executives who accepted American taxpayer funds to reward themselves. Perhaps, some would say they deserve the bonuses. After all, they did find the money to bail out their companies. Don't they deserve it?

I am curious as to why anyone might be surprised at the actions of these executives. For is that not the nature of what they do? Are not they rewarded for successfully creating a profit for their company? This sort of reminds me of the fable of the Scorpian and the Frog. Scorpions will do what scorpions do (it's their nature) and people will do what people do.

So what can we do? Is there anything we can do? Are we powerless against greed, corruption, dirty politics, broken promises, and the like?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Protecting the Future

Much has been said about the economic stimulus package. Just over half of the American voters made it possible, while just under half of the American voters would not approve of it. Are we a country divided? Controversy swirls around us as bills are passed, predictions made, and the stock market reacts. America is facing the highest unemployment levels in recent memory and more lay-offs are projected. Our news outlets report doom and gloom while conservatives and liberals face off for debate. Everyone wants to secure our future.

But what future will be secure when 1 in 50 of our children are homeless? Yes, according to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness issued March 10, 2009, there were 1.5 million homeless children in 2005-2006, and that number is rising.

It is interesting to note the study mentioned many homeless children come from families who lost their house, but the parents are working. Minimum wage jobs will not provide enough income for food, clothing, house, and other necessities. The report also states homeless children are far more likely than other children to experience hunger, suffer chronic health problems, repeat a grade in school, and eventually drop out of high school altogether.

So while politicians are busy giving themselves billions of dollars in earmarks, Wall Street brokers cry because their million-dollar bonuses are curtailed, union leaders push back, and bankers buy jets -- we are putting our children out on the streets.

What future will that insure?

Is it time for churches to step up and open free shelters, free education, free day care?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Love the Child - Hate the Deed

Okay. I admit it. The first time I changed my son's diaper I messed up. Well, actually, he messed up. I laid him on his back, took off his diaper, and leaned over. I had to find a towel to dry off. I loved my son, but hated the deed. I also learned to put the washcloth over him when changing his diaper.

So, he grows and starts climbing. He scales up the kitchen table and destroys your tax return, which was left there after an all-night session. You love your son, but really hate the deed.

He gets a little bigger and goes to school. He gets into a fight and gives another boy a black eye. You love your son and hate the deed (but maybe not so much).

Then, you give him the keys to the car and wham! He isn't hurt, but the car is totaled. You thank God he wasn't hurt, but . . .

We love our children, but we hate those deeds based on bad decisions. The older the child, the more costly the bad decisions - especially when they involve relationships. Cars are relatively inexpensive to fix when compared to a baby born out of wedlock.

So what can a Dad do? We need to be a role model of good decisions. We need to have our child sit next to us in church. We need to lead our little ones in prayer and family devotion. We need to train our children to filter out the world. We need to stand up to evil. We need to let the child push back, but we need to remain firm. We need to learn the word, "no" (especially when our daughters start out with, "Daddy, I loooove you"). We need to pray for and with our children - aloud. We need to be involved in their lives. We need to be strong in the Lord. We need to love their mother. We need to keep our word. We need to let them trust us.

At the end of the day, we need to let them go and trust God.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stop the Exodus of Men from Church

Eddie Morris wrote this week's message. He is a DCE/Family Life Director at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He shares with us his design for and implementation of a men's ministry at his congregation. He writes:

"After reading the book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, I believe author David Murrow hits the nail on the head. We have designed our churches for women and not for men. If you have a manufacturing plant designed to put bumpers on cars upside down then you will get cars with their bumpers on upside down. The most interesting thing Murrow points out is that women will be happy with a church that is designed for men, but men will not be happy with a church designed for women.

My "Men's Weekends" changed drastically and were better attended when I began designing them for the men. Please notice I don't call these weekends, "retreats." Men, especially military men, have a negative connotation of the word "retreat." Both in promoting the event and informing others about it the elements of adventure mixed with just a little danger are highlighted. While this has caused a few older gentlemen to drop out, the younger guys involved has risen dramatically. Bible study is one main element of the weekend, but two things that have made the biggest difference are the "Group Initiative Challenge Course" and the "Walk with God."

On the challenge course, the participant is harnessed and involved in doing some risky activities - both physically and mentally. Complementing this is the Walk with God session, where the participant risks himself on an emotional level and comes to better understand that God can and does see the deepest part of him. The evaluations from those attending these weekends have consistently shown these two features have made the greatest impact on the men at my church."

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Of Gran Torinos and Aging Backwards

We don't do movie reviews. But I'm going to do a movie review anyway. Take the money you were planning to spend to see Timothy Buttons (or whatever his name is) grow younger for three hours that seems like a week and spend it on watching Clint Eastwood mumble and snarl his way through Gran Torino. My wife and I saw the Buttons thing last Friday night and, about 45 minutes into the movie, he was still an old man. About an hour in, I found myself hoping he would die soon or at least that there would be a car chase or some kind of action. Unfortunately, it would take another two hours for him to regress to infancy and finally die backwards. Okay -- so that might be a spoiler. You knew he was going to die, though, didn't you? And I really don't think it is possible to spoil that movie.

On the other hand, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino is a gem -- a must see for guys and my wife even liked it. Now I have to warn you, his character is a foul-mouthed bigot. In fact, the R rating comes mostly from some really bad language in the movie -- evidently crusty old war veterans, Hispanic, Black and Hmong street gangs don't say, "Doggone it!" very much at all. Don't take your kids! However, if there ever were some claim that a film required bad language to be taken seriously, it would probably be legit here. Street gangs don't talk nice. At least they didn't when I was accosted by a gang selling drugs back in the late 60s, and I don't think they've cleaned up their act a whole lot since.

I digress. Disclaimers due to bad language aside, there is much to value in this movie. You have a war vet curmudgeon who hates the fact that his neighborhood is changing, that his neighbors are Hmong, and that he has lost his wife. You have a very young priest trying to minister to a guy who doesn't want any part of his ministry. And you have an immigrant family trying to make it in a new world. And you have conversions -- maybe not conversions to Christianity but conversions in the way people think and view each other. And finally -- and I've saved the best for last -- you have some pretty interesting Christian imagery/symbolism. I'm not going to do a spoiler here, but I think your men's group could talk about the end of the movie for a long time -- especially as it relates to Christianity and being a man.

A movie with Clint Eastwood and a shiny, classic Ford Gran Torino has to be a guys' movie! And the bonus -- it's not set in LA or New York!

Have you seen it? What do you think?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Steroids - What Does It Matter?

Is anybody surprised about Alex Rodriguez' steroid revelation? Not me....

While I don't think any individual player was the problem, they were just doing everything possible to win and that is what they are paid to do. Was it stupid? Sure. As far as I am concerned, somebody at the league office was asleep at the switch. I mean, come on! Do you remember the homerun derby between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa? McGwire looked like a superhero and Sosa wasn't far behind? Where were all the league officials when these comic-book superhero characters showed up on the field? Someone surely noticed.

I am in the camp that would like to put an asterisk on these records - denoting these guys were juiced up. The real casualty is the integrity of the game and - to a certain extent - the integrity of the player. I still think old Hammerin' Hank and Roger Maris are the men to beat.

So, these players went to extreme measures to perform at the highest level; they bent rules and probably damaged their body permanently. These guys are easy to criticize, but isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?

I bet every guy has bent the rules at some point to get the edge.