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.