Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I like the game of golf. I am not very good at it, but I like it anyway. My main function in a foursome is to provide comic relief and buy beer. That's not to say I don't savor the challenge of the game however. I enjoy the hunt as I look for errant balls in the rough or the woods. I am thrilled when I actually land a ball on the fairway, especially if it's the fairway for my particular hole. If I use a ball with a Christian message, I feel somewhat better when I lose it. Who knows, somebody might find it and learn more about Jesus because of my strategic slice into the woods!

The best part of the game for me are the memories -- for I always have that one good shot that will keep me coming back for more. It could be the drive that landed farther than anyone else's, the chip into the hole, the putt drained from 40 feet --- these are all things memories are made of. Due to my selective memory, I tend to forget the double and triple bogeys, for those are routine. But it's that one outstanding shot that I replay over and over again that brings me back. I figure if I can do it once, I can do it again.

The other best part of the game is the "mulligan." A mulligan, most simply put, is a do-over. Hit a bad shot? Take a mulligan and replay that stroke. Mulligans are most often employed during friendly rounds with golf buddies or during charity events or tournaments where these valuable scoring commodities are sometimes sold. Yes, I love the mulligan. It's the chance to try again, improve my shot and do better.

As we enter 2011, many around the world engage in a ritual mulligan called the "New Year's Resolution." These resolutions usually involve a do-over in the areas of physical health, mental health, financial health, spiritual health or a myriad of other health-oriented revisions to one's life. The purpose of the resolution is to acknowledge the past as something less than perfect and to amend one's habits to improve the quality of life in the future. The resolution may be to spend more time with the family, exercise, lose weight, quit smoking, enjoy life, quit drinking, get out of debt, learn something new, help others, get organized, pray more and, well, you get the picture.

No matter what the resolution, the one common bond tying them all together is they are usually broken and forgotten by the end of January. Oh, the occasional exception happens, but just as the mulligan really doesn't make one a better golfer, so to the resolution doesn't make one a better person. (Okay, we can argue that point, if you like. My contention here is it is the doing and not the resolving that makes the difference.)

What if this year we don't make a formal resolution that gets broken by the end of January? What if this year we just do it? If we trip up and forget our intentions or get sidetracked or derailed somehow, we just get back on the saddle and keep after it. No questions asked. No self-condemnation over blowing it.

What if we begin these efforts today and get a jump start on the New Year? It's an amazing thing what one guy can do when he sets his mind to it.

All the best to each of you throughout the New Year as you strengthen your commitment to God and His work by, well, by just doing it.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Reason for the Season

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:1-20).


This oft-heard narrative is so familiar to most of us we sometimes forget what it is telling us. The heavy irons of our sin that were slowly dragging us under have been completely broken. The power of the enemy, Satan himself, has been destroyed, and he withers before that glorious Form born in a Bethlehem manger.

In a word, there is hope! In God's Word, there is Jesus.

Two thousand years ago, His birth changed everything. His life changed everything. And His death and resurrection most certainly changed everything.

May each of you know the new and forgiven life that is yours through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

From our homes to yours, we at the Men's NetWork pray you have a joy-filled celebration of our Lord's birth.

God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Trip

Soon it will be time for loading up the family vehicle, strapping in the kids, and heading over to grandma's house for the family Christmas celebration. Some of you are fortunate enough that your trip will be short and your children's entertainment requirements will be minimal. Ah, but some of you brave souls will have longer journeys ahead of you.

The excitement of the journey will soon give way to the monotony of wheels droning over the highway and these two classic questions: "Are we there yet?" and "How much longer?" If your kids are older and unencumbered by child car seats, you might get to savor these joyous refrains: "He's touching me!", "Mom, tell him to stop bothering me!" or the ever-golden nugget -- "Dad, tell her to stop looking at me!" Oh, the joys of that young child's precious little voice. One thing's for sure though, the shrieks from the back seat might just be the thing that keeps you awake and alert on the road, but I digress.

Many a father has threatened his brood with the ominous, "Do you want me to stop the car?" (Actually they do, but not right then.) There's also the wonderfully effective, "Cut it out!" -- often delivered at a decibel level that would drown out an airplane engine. In lieu of threats and loud noises, some fathers have tried to quiet their offspring with games. One such favorite is "The Quiet Game." The winner is the last one to utter a noise. Most children will sacrifice their bragging rights and take one for the team by speaking first. As a result, the game will work just so far. "Alphabet games," "I spy" and other favorites seem to work, too, but just a little.

Today, tech-savvy dads are aware of such devices as individual DVD players, PS2 game systems, iPods, and other such devices built to entertain children and insure road safety. I'm a big fan of such survival tools and believe every dad packing his kids for a trip longer than five minutes should get a DVD player, an iPod, and anything else necessary to minimize behavioral problems.

This year when you go "over the river and through the woods" armed with gadgets enough to make James Bond envious, I'd suggest you use these tools to share your faith. That's right. Christian videos, Christian music and even audio Bible stories can go a long way to reinforce your faith teachings and help your child grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord.

Think peace, safety and quiet as you put your Christmas road trip together. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7, 1941

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese air attack on the U.S. naval fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was a moment that will long be remembered as the event that catapulted the United States into World War II. From that date forward, the world was forever changed. As we pause to remember this day, let us also reflect on some other dates that have forever changed our world.

On August 6, 1945, the United States military dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. From that day forward, war changed. The monstrosity of that bomb and the one that obliterated Nagasaki three days later made real to the world that man's destructive powers were beyond all imagination. No longer was war relegated to intense fighting of a more-or-less confined geographic nature. All hell had broke loose. Razing a bunker or a building became small potatoes. In the crosshairs now were entire cities. And in man's ultimate aim to end war and find peace, he would destroy and kill whatever was necessary to achieve it -- even if it took an atomic fireball and the lives of tens of thousands.

Sure, bombs had dropped before, but nothing like "Little Boy" and "Fat Man." And as the killing potential of bombs increased, these "weapons of mass destruction" became weighty leverage in the foreign policy of nations possessing them.

The world once again changed on September 11, 2001, as commercial airliners were hijacked and turned into missiles leveled at financial and political targets along our East Coast. The fallout from this act has, in part, fueled retaliatory measures and military campaigns that have spread from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan. The consequence is that today lives the world over are impacted to varying degrees by these hostilities -- whether on battlefields abroad or here in the states -- whether in the desolate foothills of some Afghan province or waiting to clear ever-tightening airport security measures enroute to Memphis. No one escapes the consequences of today's warfare.

Today -- and every day -- it is fitting to remember the sacrifices of our military and those of our servicemen and women who lay their lives on the line. Each individual member of the military is trained and prepared to offer up his or her life so others can live. Each and every member of the military leaves behind a loved one, a family, a parent or a friend as he or she is posted to duty. Each and every member of the military experiences loneliness, frustration and anxiety as he or she faces another day, another posting or another critical order.

As we pause to reflect on our military and its courageous service people, let us also remember those who have stayed at home: the wives, the husbands and the children. They, too, experience stress, loneliness and anxiety with each passing day, every worrisome news report and every upcoming deployment. Men of the Men's NetWork can be there for these families left behind. Men, we can seek out and walk beside those who wait for their loved one to return to their family table. We can pray, listen and provide real help. We can hang Christmas lights, shovel driveways, sweep sidewalks or fix a military family a meal. And then when the day's over, we can pray some more.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we can offer words of comfort, arms of strength and deeds of kindness to those separated from their loved ones by war or military service.

"Uno Ab Alto" "Semper Fidelis" "Semper Paratus" "Non Sibi Sed Patriae!"
"Per Ardua Ad Astra" "Pro Patria" "Je me souviens" "Acer Ducimus"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Gift

I know it's probably way too early to talk about getting that perfect Christmas gift for your wife, fiancée, or girlfriend but, guys, it is time. That's right; gone are the days when a pink ice scraper or a handy, six-pack of 10W-30 from the nearest gas station still qualify as a "thoughtful gift." Sadly, today's woman just doesn't appreciate these things as did the dames of days gone by. That being the case, we might want to reconsider our notion of what a gift is.

First of all, it should be something she wouldn't normally get herself. Women are capable of spoiling themselves, of course, so this will take some thought. You must find that special something she truly desires, yet considers an indulgence.

It must also be something she has only thought about, not actually spoken aloud. This then will require some sleuthing; becoming a Columbo, however, won't be necessary. Be on the lookout for subtle hints -- an open Macy's catalogue with an item circled in lipstick; the coy and subtle, "Let's look at the jewelry counter for a moment"; or a 50% Off! coupon that keeps reappearing alongside your wallet.

Guys, if she actually does mention she would like something, be sure to seize the moment and get it. Or, more to the point, drop everything and go and get it! Why? Chances are she will not mention it again and should this gift not appear on schedule, she will remember she told you.

And one more thing, neglect not the presentation. As odd as it might sound, women do not consider Sunday comics an appropriate gift wrapping. The temptation will be to use the store bag to conceal the gift since most stores at this time have some holiday theme printed on the side but, trust me, this really isn't a good idea either. Here you may have to pony up some coins for something a little more appropriate. Hint: the gift wrap table at the mall is a good place to start. If it's a table operated by some charity, even better. You get a custom-wrapped gift, help out a good cause, and won't look like a buffoon to that sweetheart in your life -- all for the cost of a few singles. Indeed, it's a small price to pay.

Perhaps, as a cautionary tale, it would be helpful to share with you a few gifts that weren't well received: vinyl rain gear and galoshes; a Big Bertha driver and three dozen golf balls (make sure she plays golf first); an adjustable wrench set; and a high octane, propane-injected, flesh-roasting barbecue grill. Learn from your comrades' mistakes and save yourself from these embarrassments. You'll only have to return them anyway.

Now, on to the important stuff. There is one gift that will always bring a smile to her lips and maybe even a tear to her eyes. It will require a great sacrifice on your part, but it will be worth it. It is a gift given rarely and hence all the more appreciated: a love letter. Yes, take the time and write her a poem, a story, or a letter that tells her how special she is, how beautiful she is, how cherished she is and how awesome she is. I know, this endeavor is way out of our comfort zone, but she will save the letter in her special dresser drawer and when she is feeling down, she will bring it out, read it and she will know she is a special, gifted and treasured person.

You can do it. After all, you asked her out, proposed to her, and married her (or possibly are giving it some serious thought). She has to be beautiful, prized and totally awesome!

Go get her, Tiger!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Tree

Soon men all over the world will embark on that glorious and venerated tradition of picking the "perfect Christmas tree" for their living room or den. These 21st-century pioneers will blaze trails through forests of live trees armed with a razor-sharp hatchet or enough chainsaw horsepower to carve their way through the Amazon Rainforest. Others will wander through cut-tree corrals that have sprung up, almost magically, on church parking lots or vacant corner properties where convenience stores used to be. The quest for the perfect tree has brought weak men to their knees and strong men to tears, for (as every man knows) there is no perfect tree. Oh, there are stories told of men who have come close, beaming before their doting wives and bug-eyed offspring with their tree-selecting prowess (only to be disappointed once the tree has been erected by an unseen bare spot or a knotted trunk that won't set right in the stand). Sadly, in the end, many have come to believe the perfect tree is an urban myth foisted with subtle, cornpone deception by tree lot operators and tree nursery owners across this great land of ours.

And here's the reason why. The perfect tree must be tall enough to satisfy the children, whose self-esteem can be crushed by having too small a tree, but small enough to stand in the room. The perfect tree must be wide enough to accommodate every ornament, but not so wide as to impede movement through the living room. The perfect tree must have full and symmetrical branches, but must have openings to frame each and every ornament in order to maximize the wow factor. The perfect tree must have long enough needles to last throughout the season, in spite of a lack of water. For these reasons and others, some men have opted out for the artificial tree as a way to minimize squabbles at the tree farm and to preserve domestic tranquility. But, alas, even manmade trees fall short of perfect tree requirements, leading men to ask the universal question, "Why do I do this?"

Men, the tree season is upon us. Older men, it is time to step back and watch the younger men approach the task with naïve joy, leading their families into the wilds of the forest or tree corral determined that they will not only find -- but also obtain -- the perfect Christmas tree. Older men, let them be! They need to learn for themselves what took decades of tree expeditions and countless living room debates to achieve -- the perfect tree is in the eyes of the beholder.

Yes, that is the secret older men have guarded throughout the centuries. The perfect tree does exist -- in the eyes of the beholder. One man's perfect tree may be another man's third choice, but that is okay. For you know you made the perfect pick when you gather the family around the tree, throw the switch, and watch their faces light up. After a collective gasp, the room falls silent as they gawk and wonder how they ever doubted your selection. And then the smiles form, your wife reaches out her hand and you know... this is a perfect tree.

Well done, good and faithful tree picker-outer. This Christmas is for you and all those like you.

May your tree be perfect this year!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Of Veterans and Days

Last week America and Canada paused to remember and honor their veterans -- the brave men and women of the armed forces. There were special ceremonies, parades, speeches and moments of silence throughout North America paying tribute to servicemen and women. November 11 was chosen for this special day of recognition in commemoration of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918 -- the hour, month and day that hostilities ended in "The Great War" or "the war to end all wars." Up until that date, the world had not witnessed such devastation and human impact from war. The entire world was altered in a way unparalleled before that conflict. WW I saw the utilization of killing methods and machines far beyond the imagination of the common man: poison gas, flame throwers, heavily armored tanks, machine guns, long-range cannons and bomb-dropping airplanes maimed and killed combatants and civilians alike on a scale never before seen.

In spite of this death and destruction -- and the unmistakable alarm that such unrestrained hostility should have sounded -- the world was by no means finished with war. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the conflict in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan have each taken their deadly human toll around the globe. And there appears to be no end in sight when it comes to a lasting and reasonable peace either. Mankind's sinister appetite for war and political dominance show little chance of subsiding. And with each new or resurrected conflict there is always the need for soldiers and their willpower to fight. Those men and women who march into battle are the true backbone and muscle of any military.

As we move past our nation's special day of remembrance, let us not forget to honor and affirm the veterans of our country. Like all of us, men and women in uniform knew the stresses of ordinary, daily life. More significantly, however, they also knew that at any time they may be called upon to fight and even lay down their lives for the sake of the greater good. Those who paid the ultimate price in service to this country hold a special place in our national and personal memories, as do those soldiers who have returned from service. Together they have created -- and now share -- a valorous tradition that endures for the ages.

As we move forward, let us seek out the brothers and sisters among us who have worn the uniform. Let us thank and walk beside them for their considerable sacrifices on our behalf. Let us seek ways to support and befriend them and the military. This can be anything from sending care packages to active duty troops to sitting and listening to stories of World War II, Korea, Vietnam or other conflicts. Let us never take for granted the courage it requires to put on the uniform. Let us be outspoken in our honor. Let us remember that though Veterans Day has passed, we can still count every day as a day to honor our nation's soldiers.

Thank you, veterans, for going above and beyond.

The service standard you have set empowers us all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Holiday Traditions

It's upon us: Thanksgiving and Christmas have arrived. No longer do the stores wait until the morning of the day after Thanksgiving to start their Christmas sales barrage. Now we can get "Black Friday sales" every day. Isn't that awesome? The best part is we don't even have to leave the cozy comfort of our favorite recliner to get these breathtaking deals. The retail world is more than happy to accept our credit cards over a secure server in order to bring the store to our front door! The days of running to a nearby convenience store on Christmas Eve for those last-minute gifts is so passé. Now guys can shop online during commercials or -- if they want to get all their Christmas shopping done -- can take care of it during halftime. What a brave new world we live in!

When I think about it, it's probably even archaic to refer to the upcoming days as "Thanksgiving" and "Christmas." It seems more correct to refer to this time of the year as the "holiday season," so as not to offend any with the word: "Christmas." But forsooth, I digress. For the purpose of this brief missive, let's agree that "holiday season" refers to the weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas -- with a few days tossed in after Christmas for good measure.

So, what holiday traditions do you celebrate? Does the family gather at grandma's house for turkey, dressing, and mincemeat pie on Thanksgiving? Does your family have other chosen foods and time-honored festivities planned for this special day of thanks? After the feast, do the kids go outside and toss a football around, while the adults slowly drop like flies, surrendering to tryptophan-induced comas? Do the board games come out of the closet? And what about Friday, the day after? Is everybody off to the mall to cash in on the bargains?

What about Christmas? Do you have a real tree, an artificial one, or is the picture of the tree on the calendar good enough? Do you open presents Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, or whenever you see one with your name on it? Will a visit from St. Nick be a part of the tradition? Will he find cookies and milk waiting for him when he hauls in his cache of presents for family members -- every one of whom, remarkably, has been very good this year? Will there be events outside of the home that take place during Christmas? Will caroling, a bonfire in the country, or a family visit to a nursing home, homeless shelter, or hospice house be part of your plans?

Guys, traditions play an important part in our families. I remember fondly my Dad's role as "turkey carver," and I will always remember when that baton was passed to me. I remember the kids in their PJs waking us up Christmas morning to open up presents. I remember the warm glow and smell of candles on Christmas Eve. Growing up, my family's traditions grounded me and I looked forward to Christmas unlike any other time of the year. These fun and familiar routines let me know there was a constant in the world. Even when I was out in the deep end for a while, the traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas wrapped their arms around me and tugged at my heart. In the end, they made a huge difference in my perspective.

Gents, I would suggest you continue or start two traditions this year. At Thanksgiving have each member of the family share (aloud) a blessing he or she is thankful for, and at Christmas gather the family together and read the Christmas story (aloud) from Luke 2.

You might just find this year's "holiday season" takes on a whole new meaning.

If it does, drop us a line and tell us your story. You can be an inspiration to others.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dad's Arms

I can still feel my Dad's arms as he gave me a bear hug when I left home. He and I both knew from that day forward our relationship would be changing: I was getting married and would no longer be under his roof. Oh, we would visit, of course, and there would still be times when we'd reflect back on how it used to be, but life was going to be different. He had strong arms and his hug spoke volumes to me. In his strength I knew he would always be there for me; he would support me, and he would still be Dad. That's just the way it was.

Over the years I've reflected on how Dad's arms were so important to me. I look at pictures of when he held me after I came home from the hospital, his arms holding me next to his chest. I remember how his arms steadied my bicycle as I wobbled forward in a quest to ride a two-wheeler. I can see his bare arms on the shovel as he dug a foundation for the porch. I smile as I recall the weight of his arm as he put it around me as I sat in church. And then there was fishing. His arms would swing in a great, fluid movement as he snapped a lure across the lake -- dropping it into the widening circles where the fish had just broke water.

Over the years Dad's arms grew weaker, yet they never quite lost their power to make a difference. He continued to offer his arms in the service of his church -- using them to count the offerings or do something needing to be done inside. He used his arms to dig garden beds for Mom. Her own diminished capabilities were the perfect opening for him to plant flowers that she could see from her favorite window. Though he was moving slower by this time, his arms were always in service for others.

This past weekend I listened to a sermon that considered Luther's view of vocation and how we all wear the masks of God. In other words, Luther was telling us we are the hands, feet, and arms of God in service to others. That struck me as I remembered how many times Dad used his arms -- his hands -- in service to others. As a consequence, he inspired me to continue the tradition of using my arms -- my hands -- in service to God.

I thank God for Dad's arms. They were there for me; they were there for others, and they were not idle.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's That Time of Year

You know the 2010 Election Day has to be close when you see back-to-back TV ads proclaiming candidates who will lower taxes, raise taxes, create more government, slash government, continue the great work of the incumbent party, reverse the unparallel disasters of the incumbent party, grow new jobs, slash jobs, build America, or tear down America. Yep, it's hard to tell the players based on the ads. Then again, the radio isn't much better; sometimes it's hard to catch the weather in between all the ads that tout the good qualities of the candidate while boldly proclaiming the terrible deeds of the opponent. As I listen to the ads I often ponder what a new immigrant to America must think of the politics of this country. I also wonder how much good could be done if the money used on all these ads might get directed toward social ministry -- but I digress.

What the party ads are designed to do is to capture your vote -- that all-important X next to the name of their candidate. When you go into the voting booth next Tuesday, candidates are counting on the fortunes spent for media exposure will help you decide to vote for that person. It is all about the X. Okay, the candidates have a whole other agenda and sincerely want to help America and the people they represent; I firmly believe every politician wants to do good for the country, state, county, or city in which they seek office. But I also believe that at this time of year, all the ads, the hype, the talk, and the buzz are geared with one thing in mind: get your vote.

So, do you vote?

I have voted in nearly every election in which I have been eligible. I have stood in line for long periods of time to cast my ballot in a hotly contested national election, and I have been one of a handful of voters casting votes in a local library bond issue. I believe I am one of the most privileged people in the world in that I have a vote. No one will keep me away from the polling place and no one will demand to know how I voted. I have the freedom, nay, the right, to vote a confidential ballot free from coercion, threat, or punishment. I take that right as a responsibility and I make every effort to cast my ballot every chance I get.

I think it is important for me to model what it means to be an active citizen in the election process. Hence my family, my neighbors, and my friends all know I have voted. I also believe it is an individual choice as to what candidates, issues, or party one chooses to support. Hence I do not share my vote lest my family, my neighbors, or my friends are swayed by my choices.

In this part of the country we keep hearing the phrase, "man up!" It means we have to step up and vote in this election.

I agree. Will you man up?

Your vote is important.

Don't waste it by missing out on this important opportunity to help shape America.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Strength of a Man

Many a boy has stood toe to toe with a classmate and uttered those famous words, "My dad can beat up your dad." Yep, boys take pride in the strength of their dads. The stronger one's dad was, the bigger the boy's swagger.

But how do we measure the strength of a man, especially today. I suspect we still put great stock in the amount of weight a man can press, curl, or lift with the larger the poundage, the greater the respect in the eyes of his fellow men. But I would postulate the strength of a man can be measured in other ways besides pounds lifted.

I would put forth that a man's strength can also be measured by his character. It is my opinion a man can be strong when he puts his faith above the assaults of the world. I believe it takes a strong man to buck the tide of peer pressure and uphold biblical truth. There are times when courage is required to state one's views in the face of a backlash from those who uphold political correctness in all instances. It takes a strong man to speak up for that which is moral and ethical in opposition to the majority. A strong man will not always be popular.

I would also venture an opinion that a man can show strength in tending to his family by putting his family first. I believe it takes a strong man to choose changing diapers over changing channels or shopping with the wife over drinking with the boys. A strong man takes care of his family first.

I think it is a strong man who takes responsibility for his actions -- even if those actions cause problems. A strong man is one who can say, "Yep. I did it." An even stronger man will then accept the consequences his actions might lead to, not trying to lay blame on others. It may not be easy, but it will -- ultimately -- make things better.

I think the strength of a man is measured in many ways with, perhaps, the greatest strength coming from living as a Christian -- forgiven and forgiving, trusting and trusted -- showing Christ in all that is done and said.

How strong are you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just Wait Until Your Dad Gets Home

There was a time in America that moms would stay at home and dads would go to work. The kids, especially in the summer, were fairly free to roam the neighborhood and do what kids do: have fun and sometimes get in trouble. Moms usually watched out for any kids that happened to be within watching distance. The mom network was a very tight-knit group and any transgression committed by a child was soon reported to the appropriate mother. The mother would then stand on the front stoop and call out her child's name in a voice that would stop any kid in his tracks within earshot. The unfortunate soul whose name was called had two options. He could run home and face the music (never the preferred choice) or he could bolt to the nearest pier looking for any ocean-going vessel needing a young deckhand.

In this instance (and because the nearest ocean was 1,500 miles away), the kid chose to face the consequences.

Upon entering the house, the door was closed, the child was ushered into a chair, and the charges were enumerated. If the transgression warranted a higher authority, the child was summarily dismissed to his bedroom with the ominous "Wait until your father comes home!" ringing in his ears. No greater foreboding was possessed by a young boy's mind than that which rattled his brain between mom's words and dad's footsteps through the front door.

Mom was tough, but dad was dreaded.

I recently overheard a new mom discussing how her daughter reacts to discipline. This young mom is the one who goes to work and dad is the one who stays home to raise their daughter. The mom was sharing how her 18-month-old daughter will seldom respond to mom's discipline efforts, but when dad speaks, the daughter jumps to obey. The mom thought this was not fair, but made the observation that in her upbringing, it was dad she feared, not mom. Mom would discipline, but dad would punish. She further observed that her dad's voice was what she feared. It was loud, deep, and authoritative. She laughed as she mentioned hearing stories from her mom telling how before any discipline took place her mom had to sit in the bedroom until dad returned from work. The young mom wondered why do children respond to dad more than mom?

As I overheard her talking I couldn't help but hear my confirmation pastor admonish his students: "You are to fear and love God." Maybe this is part of the answer -- I feared my dad; I loved my dad. Whether it's a more powerful, you've-got-my-full-attention-now voice or some other quality, part of who dads are produces both love and a healthy amount of fear in their children.

Perhaps fearing and loving my dad made it easier to understand how I was to fear and love God?

Now I wonder why that is?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let's Put the "Civil" Back into Civilization

Is it just me or is society a much colder and crueler place now than in years gone by? The recent report of a college student killing himself after a video of him in a compromising act became public is just one more example of how I think society is deteriorating. Increasingly, it seems more school children are reporting being bullied at school; more violent crimes are being committed and, evidently, disagreeing without resorting to angry taunts is a fast-fading social skill. Perhaps it is just me, but even driving on the highway seems to prompt confrontations over who has right of way, how long is a legal stop at a stop sign, and what exactly is a red light. One wouldn't have to wait very long in any city to hear horns blaring, see fingers flying, or watch a driver pounding his or her steering wheel while expressing a nasty opinion about the driver in front. Even churches have become the target of hate through vandalism or arson.

Religion, politics, and sexual orientation are hot buttons in today's world. I sometimes wonder about people's reactions to things. Economically, of course, times are tricky, but haven't we faced crushing financial crises in the past? Sure, there are terrorist freaks who threaten regional or global peace by appropriating religion as an excuse for their wanton bloodbaths, but haven't there always been zealous fanatics and related struggles in the past? And what of the proliferation of gratuitous sexual behavior and display of all types? Contemporary man has no corner on that market. Though, the worldwide visibility and access of it surely is beyond that known to earlier generations.

Is there no hope? Are we doomed to continue a headlong spiral down the porcelain convenience?

I think not. I think as guys we have the ability to change the downward societal spiral one person and one family at a time. Guys, we have influence, especially in our families. How we handle our finances, our anger, and our treatment of our neighbor does impact our families, our co-workers, and our communities. From which sports team we cheer for, to the type of car we drive, we influence the next generation. How often have you heard, "We are a Ford family" or "I will only drive a Chevy"? We even influence the drinks our family puts in the fridge. If we drink Coca-Cola, our children likely will too.

So perhaps it's as simple as each of us, individually, making a commitment to be civil to one another. We do not have to give up our religion or politics. We do not have to agree on everything, nor do we have to compromise. But maybe we just have to treat others with respect and dignity.

What do you think? (Don't you like it how I asked you for your opinion?)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who's Watching You?

I had gone through the buffet line and sat down to enjoy my meal. The restaurant was crowded and the only seat available was next to a family already eating. I put my food on the table, bowed my head and thanked God for the meal. I looked up and heard the young boy next to me say, "Dad, we forgot."

His Dad looked over and asked, "Forgot what?"

"To pray"

I silently said another prayer: "Thank You, God, for allowing me to be a witness."

It may be the kids, the neighbors, the people at work, or the dozens of nameless faces you pass by every day, but you are noticed. Your actions, big or little, can have an effect on theirs that you may never know. For example, you might be at the store, pay your bill, receive too much change, and return the overage. You may think nothing of it. It's just what you naturally do. But for the person in line behind you, your example may be just what they needed to see. Your action may have impacted their life, but you don't or won't know about it.

What about how you handle anger? A driver cuts you off, and you blurt out hellfire phrase at them as the kids listen. Will what you say be a positive influence on the young minds alongside you or in the back seat? Will your reaction give them a quick-and-easy lesson in how not to keep their cool? Yep. Whether we like it or not, others are listening.

I recently took a flight on a small aircraft and sat in front of a father and his young son. The seats were so close that a private conversation was impossible. I put on my headphones and listened to the tunes for the flight, but the time came when I had to "turn off all electronic devices." I then heard the father talking to his son. He was explaining to him the mechanics of the landing -- how the flaps worked, the landing gear, and the brakes. That was a dad who was making a difference in his son's life; he talked with him.

Then there was the man who ran to the door ahead of a woman who had her hands full of packages. He opened the door for her and wished her a good day. He brought a smile to a stranger's lips and offered a model of behavior for others.

Guys, we are noticed by what we do and the words we speak. Let us always show others our best.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's On Your Mind?

Barna Group is a research and resource company located in Ventura, California. It focuses on gathering data and assessing the intersection of faith and culture. The Barna Group offers a range of customized research, resources, and training to serve churches, non-profits, businesses, and leaders. The Barna Group recently released its latest research on the issues Americans have on their minds today. Not surprisingly, they found there were differences among age groups, political groups, and churched groups. They did, however, find one issue on which 98 percent of those polled agreed: the economy.

It is indeed rare to have any single issue receive a majority on any poll, at any time. Therefore, the significance of 98 percent of those responding choosing the economy as their number-one issue today is significant. The respondents identified various parts of the economic picture as their priority. For some it was job creation. For others it was unemployment, financial hardship, the national debt, the recession, and tax worries. The common denominator was how those polled were all fixed on economic issues.

Perhaps you are one of the thousands who find themselves faced with unemployment or under-employment. All other issues fade as you struggle to provide food, clothing, and a roof for your family. Perhaps you are one of the thousands who are retiring or are retired and are faced with increased healthcare costs while struggling with a fixed budget. Perhaps you are a newly minted college graduate faced with competing with a glut of applicants vying for a limited number of jobs. Perhaps you are looking at your monthly expenses and wondering how to pay rising utility and rent bills while facing increased tax obligations from city, state, and federal governments trolling for more revenue. Perhaps you are personally secure but lose sleep each night over the financial future our children and grandchildren will inherit. Yes, it is easy to see why 98 percent of those polled agree that financially related issues are today's number-one concern.

I struggle with the issue of finances along with everyone else. As a man I am troubled since there is nothing I can do to fix it. As a man I have problems with asking people for a handout or a hand up. As a man I find it difficult sharing my anxieties with my wife, my pastor, or my friend. I do not want them thinking less of me because I'm grappling with an issue I should supposedly have control over.

But as guys maybe that is just what we need to do -- share what's on our mind with our spouse, our pastor, or our friend. And while we're doing that, let's not forget to share our mind with our Heavenly Father. He knows our every distress -- financial and otherwise. He understands every unspoken fear we have in our hearts. And He is there -- ready and willing -- to listen.

We live in demanding times to be sure, but our God is greater than any problems we may face.

What's on your mind? Would a consultation with Him over the matter be of great value to you?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are You Ready For Some Football?

The first weekend of the NFL is in the books. Empties have been put in the recycle bin, nacho cheese drippings have been cleaned from coffee tables, and sports DJs have enough to keep them talking until next weekend. Fantasy football team rosters are being scrutinized with an eye out for trades to improve the lineup. From now until the Super Bowl XLV, men will argue with the TV, second guess coaches, and insert themselves onto the field.

One reason guys watch sports like football is because it gives us an opportunity to vicariously live out a life of action while comfortably loafing in our "man caves." We imagine ourselves in the line stopping the opposing forces from sacking our QB. It's about using muscle and brain power. We have to outwit, outmaneuver, and win the battle of the line. Sure, some of us relate to the QB, the receivers, or the running backs, but for many of us the action on the line is what gets our heart fired up.

What is even more fun for many of us is to second guess the coaches. When they agree with us, they're brilliant. When they make a boneheaded decision, they should be banished to coach a farm club or, better yet, booted from the league altogether. Then there are the referees. Don't get us started on bad calls, missed penalties, or the horror of impacting the outcome of a game (always erroneously, of course) by throwing a flag. C'mon! No one person should be able to determine the outcome of a game in the final two minutes for an infraction like "holding." Hey, let the guys play!

Men get passionate about football. But perhaps it's time we get as passionate about our role as Christian men. What if we would invite the boy with the absent dad over to watch some football or get outside and toss a few bombs to the neighborhood kids? Wouldn't that give us a chance to get to know and encourage them through friendship and a relevant witness? What if we would spend as much time memorizing our Bible as we do memorizing team stats and player salaries? Wouldn't that make a difference in how we live? What if we set aside the same amount of time to be with our wife as we do for football? Watch out on that one! It might just enrich your marriage more than you can handle.

There will always be another thing coming down the line to preoccupy us.

The puck drops on preseason games September 21!

See what I mean?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day

Did you grill hot dogs and burgers? Did you go camping? Did you winterize your cabin? Did you cut the grass and wash the windows? Did you watch football and go to church? If you have a family, perhaps it was a weekend to make memories for the kids that will last a lifetime. No matter how you celebrated the three-day Labor Day holiday, I pray it was relaxing and rewarding.

We celebrate Labor Day as a way to honor the working man with a three-day weekend and to give him -- or her -- a break from the day-to-day routine of working. This weekend is the unofficial end to the summer holiday. Starting the Tuesday after Labor Day, students return to class, stores gear up for Halloween sales, and resorts begin to change their signs to announce "off-season" rates. Labor Day marks the end of one season and the start of another.

As we stop and reflect on the role of work and rest in our lives, it's appropriate to remember the importance we put on earning a living. I would guess many of you reading this can say with pride you've had a job ever since you were a boy: pedaling newspapers, cutting grass, bagging groceries -- each providing a first entry into the working world. From there we took jobs that -- at one time or another -- distinguished themselves for how lousy they truly were. Surely each of us can remember the day we left a particularly dismal job and rejoiced in knowing we would never have to do that again!

There are other low points that go with working that can pass our way too. A few of us can remember the day we were called into the boss's office and asked to sit down. We listened and were stunned when we were told our services were no longer needed. Coming in very high on the emotional Richter scale is job termination for most people -- a veritable kick in the head that rattles one's confidence and sense of self-worth. With losing a job, we go through the stages of grief in the same way we would if a family member dies. Without a doubt money is important, but be sure to see your value beyond your job and paycheck -- even in these demanding times.

There is more to our existence than our occupations. We have a vocation - "a calling," if you will -- from God. We are called to be men of God, deeply committed to His Word and sharing His truths whenever possible. We are also called to be husbands, fathers, as well as Christian leaders in our family, our community, and our church. We do not find our worth in our paycheck, but in God's priceless Word.

As we come away from the celebration of our occupation, let us never tire of the joy of our vocation.

(For more about this topic check out Working For The Man Upstairs - Your Job... Your Calling... Your Life! from the Men's NetWork.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mountain Men

Mountains -- we sing about them; we write about them; we long to be in them. Mountains have held men's fascination throughout history. Names like Jim Bridger, Buffalo Bill Cody, Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith, and Zebulon Pike fill us with daydreams of conquering a vast, uncharted wilderness. Daniel Boon may have conquered the Appalachians, but Lewis and Clark pried open a window of knowledge about how immeasurable our world really is. The Mountain Men -- fur-trappers and pelt traders -- opened the routes to the fertile valleys of the West as they crossed the snow-capped peaks. Collectively, they came to know every river valley, safe passage route, teeming stream, mountain pass, fresh water source, and barren stretch of plain. They also knew the best hunting and wild game areas and, of course, Indian territory.

If you ever take time to explore mountains, it doesn't take long to picture a small log cabin next to a stream, stocked with enough provisions to hole up for the winter. We can picture times spent in the primeval forests tracking game, armed with only a trusty long rifle, hunting knife, and a hard-won knowledge of the woods. It doesn't take long for us to get in touch with that spark within us that longs to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-assured. Standing on the top of a mountain looking down into a valley filled with verdant trees, gurgling streams, and plentiful game reminds us that there was a time when men didn't have to sit in a cubicle, surrounded by artificial light facing deadlines instead of danger. Breathing pine-scented air contrasts with the car exhaust we have grown used to. Rousing from a heavy slumber to cool air washing over our faces gives us a peace in our heart and mind that we may rarely feel and often can't find even if we wanted to.

Men, we can't all live in the mountains. We can't all be self-reliant trappers living off the land. We live in the valleys; we live in the cities; we live in the towns; we live in the plains, and we live in the fields and farms. That's life in the 21st century.

But we can be "Mountain Men" no matter where we live. We can be the leaders, the explorers, the men who provide for their families and for their communities. We may not stalk game in the woods, but we can put food on the table. We may not blaze new trails through rugged canyon passes, but we can find new ways to do our work. We may not be fiercely individualistic, but we can stand apart from the crowd.

Collectively, we can seek out and know the dangers of the world. Together we can know how to fight these dangers as we arm ourselves with the power of God's relentless Word. We can lead our families and our communities to this knowledge too. And in this pursuit I say, let us all be Mountain Men.

See you over the next ridge.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School

Ahh, it's that time of the year again. Stores hawk their "back-to-school" wares in bold print; children are drug into fitting rooms to get sized for clothes they can grow into; bus drivers learn new routes and consider the challenges ahead; teachers staple colorful rules and pictures to bulletin boards, and parent's everywhere are preoccupied with their own back-to-school rituals.

For some parents the first day of school is the first day of significant separation from their child. Mothers will anxiously part from their precious little angels and stifle a tear as their child bounds forward into the wonderful world of education. These women will encourage, uplift, and sustain each other until school dismisses, and their child is safely back in the fold. Veteran school moms will view their sisters with a twinge of envy as they remember their own first-partings, but they will smile the smile of the insider, knowing their child will be cared for, loved, entertained and, with a little luck, will even learn a thing or two along the way.

For some moms, the first day of school will hit them hard as their "baby" will be leaving the house. She will come face to face with her own mortality as she sees a foreshadowing of a later empty nest. She will return to a quieter house, fewer demands on her time and, maybe, be able to watch the TV shows of her own choosing. The emptier house will remind her that her job as mom has now moved to a different level. Her child is growing up, and she must now let her young one flex the wings she tried so hard to fashion over the years.

Guys, we need to know about this. The annual back-to-school thing is a big deal for the women in our lives. Men, we have a tendency to see the rites of passage for our children in a different way. We may get stoked about the first fish our child caught, or the first basket made, or the first touchdown scored, or the first trophy awarded and -- dare we say it -- we might even get emotional at the first speeding ticket. But let's face it guys, we are not all that in tune with the whole school process.

Guys, we really do need to be involved in our child's education. We need to be there at Parent's Day, PTA meetings, field trips, and homework. Men, we need to spend as much time with our kid's academics as we do with their sports; the benefits last a lifetime.
Guys, not only do we need to get involved in our child's education, we need to be active learners ourselves. We need to read, go to seminars, read, attend lectures, read, and even attend some classes. Our world is constantly changing, and nothing prepares us for the future like being a lifelong learner.

Welcome back to school!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Celebration of Fathers

Recently I was privileged to attend a birthday party for Lewis. Lewis celebrated his two-year milestone with a huge gathering in the park. Over 80 people were on hand to sing "Happy Birthday" to Lewis for this was a very special day. Lewis was born premature and his chance of survival was very low. After months in the neo-natal intensive care unit, followed by more than a year of intensive therapy, hospital visits, and surgeries, Lewis became two.

In his short life Lewis has developed certain likes and dislikes. For instance, he likes trains; he dislikes sitting still. He likes "Curious George" the monkey; he dislikes getting his face washed. He likes trucks; he dislikes taking a nap. He likes the TV remote; he dislikes "time outs." He likes "Frosty," the pet dog; he dislikes being cuddled. He is a typical boy. He still faces an uphill health battle in that he has never developed the ability to eat or drink on his own. All of his nourishment is delivered via a feeding tube inserted into his stomach. He carries around a small backpack that contains his food and the pump that provides his life-giving liquid. This backpack slows Lewis down, the weight keeping him from all-out running. Oh, that reminds me, he likes to run; he dislikes walking.

Lewis's mom and dad, grandpas and grandmas pulled all the stops for this special celebration of life. There were the obligatory balloons, presents, and cake. In honor of the birthday boy, a train was there for rides, and the cake was a "Thomas the Train" cake. But, perhaps best of all, Lewis was free of his backpack for the afternoon. He was in his glory! He ran, he laughed, he chased, he rode, he laughed, and he played.

As I watched, I noticed an interesting thing: Lewis's dad was always nearby. He hovered just far enough to give Lewis his freedom, but close enough to be there if something would go wrong. Whenever dad was called away for a chore, one of the grandpas took his place. There was always a dad nearby -- just in case. Sitting on the outside of the shelter was the patriarch of the family -- Lewis' great-grandfather. He watched over his clan with eyes that had watched over many a child through the years. He smiled as he saw the torch passed to the younger dads.

Dads, no matter what our personal life is like, our family is job one. We watch over them, giving them the freedom to falter, but we are always there to build up. What a joy that is! Let us never tire of that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Of Monkeys and Traditions

I just read an interesting story about how traditions begin. It seems as if some scientists wanted to conduct an experiment to see if they could determine behavior. They placed five monkeys in a closed cage with a set of steps in the middle. They hung a banana from the top of the cage that was only accessible by climbing the steps. As soon as the first monkey started up the steps, they drenched the other four monkeys with cold water. They kept repeating this procedure. Each time a monkey climbed the steps to retrieve the banana they hosed the other monkeys with cold water. The results of the experiment were fascinating.

At first the monkeys that did not climb the stairs would run for cover as soon as one of the monkeys ascended the first step. But they could not escape the cold water. They then started violently beating any monkey that started to climb up the steps. The scientists stopped spraying them with cold water when this happened. Soon no monkey would try to climb the steps; instead, they would sit and ignore the food.

Then the scientists removed one monkey from the group and replaced it with a monkey that had never experienced the cold water. Soon that monkey would start up the steps and get thrashed for the effort. The scientists then removed another of the original monkeys and watched as this monkey tried to climb the stairs to the banana. The other monkeys would beat the newcomer, even the monkey that was not part of the original group learned to beat any monkey that dared climb the stairs in spit eof never experiencing the cold water.

The scientists eventually replaced all five of the original monkeys with monkeys that never experienced the cold water. All five would just sit and ignore the banana, refusing to climb the stairs, even though they had no first-hand experience as to why stair climbing led to beatings. They learned and practiced tradition over first-hand experience.

Men, how many of us are like those replacement monkeys, blindly following traditions without knowing -- or caring to know -- the reason behind the traditions? Have we been so conditioned by society that we blindly follow others' orders and adjust our typical way of doing things without questioning why? Have we been so conditioned by traditions and the "We've always done it that way," mentality that we are blind to all non-traditional methods and procedures?

Men, I am going to challenge you to forget your comfort zone of easy excuses and step up to be a leader in your family. Be a leader that prays out loud -- daily, sings out loud -- in church, and is seen to be a lifelong learner -- by actually reading a book.

It's my guess that not too many of us do all three. Why? We have never done it that way before.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Here We Go Again

We are just about in the middle of primary season -- the time when local politicians try to convince the voters that "all politics are local." We are bombarded by TV ads, radio spots, yard signs, and newspaper editorials; blogs and phone calls tout the merits of each candidate while putting down the qualifications of opponents. I find it amusing that if we really believed all the pre-ballot hyperbole every candidate should not be elected at best or put in jail at worst.

Former President Bill Clinton summed up the political process in a 1992 speech to the Detroit Economic Club, "No wonder Americans hate politics when, year in and year out, they hear politicians make promises that won't come true because they don't even mean them -- campaign fantasies that win elections but don't get nations moving again." He certainly is qualified to make that statement.

So what is a guy supposed to do? It's easy to say politicians are self-serving, putting their personal interest above the good of the whole. It's easy to say most national politicians have saddled our future generations with a debt seemingly impossible to repay. It's easy to say local politicians are following the lead of the national trend to taxation and slim majority legislation. It's easy to become apathetic and callous to all the campaign hype. It's easy to be cynical, critical, and sarcastic.

What is hard is to actually care -- to examine what office seekers write, say, and do. What is hard is to try and make a difference with your ballot. What is hard is to support the will of the majority. What is hard is to vote for the pro-life candidate, even if they want to raise taxes.

What is even harder is to get involved to the point that you would run for office. We have many Christians running for election this primary season. Perhaps we need to seek them out, support them, work for them and, most of all . . . pray for them.

In fact, why don't we pray for all of them -- even the non-Christians?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Economy and Our Country

Let's face it, no matter what you've heard on the news, read on the Internet, or picked up at your local watering hole, the American economy is in tough straits. It has been rather lousy for some time now and looks as if it will stay bad for awhile. But what are the long-term effects on our country and its populace?

According to a report from the Barna Group issued July 26, 2010, the weakened economy seriously impacts what Americans consider to be their priorities in life. In the face of a continued lackluster marketplace, many Americans have focused on surviving and thriving. When asked to identify their priorities in life, Americans increasingly mention issues of health, leisure, personal comfort, and lifestyle balance. These priorities have grown from 13 percent in 2006 to 20 percent in 2010. Today
Americans are more concerned wealth, finances, and paying the bills, too. These categories have climbed among respondents from 9 percent in 2006 to 17 percent today.

With Americans progressively leaning toward finances and health concerns as top issues, fewer of them are prioritizing issues along family and faith lines. While 51 percent of Americans mentioned family as a top priority in 2006, today 45 percent give family the same position. Likewise, fewer adults said their top priority was faith as that category decreased from 16 percent in 2006 to 12 percent today.

So what does all this mean for the future of America? With ever more people de-prioritizing the import of faith and family, it would seem that America will increase as a country with a "me-first" mentality. We are in danger of creating a society, in which voters will vote not for the most qualified candidate, but rather the one that will put more emphasis on the pressing needs of the present. It is my observation that this premise is supported by a front page article in USA Today from July 22, 2010. This article reports that hundreds of thousands of Americans who are on welfare are now registering to vote at their local welfare office. The article goes on to claim that this will increase support for the current administration, since people with an income of under $20,000 see the current legislation designed to give them more while taking away from the wealthy.

Men, is it time to stand up for faith and family?

Is there something we can do that puts our faith in God and our love for our families back among our top priorities?

Is it time to put God first?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Man Up" for Christ

I consider my marriage a good one. She makes all the little decisions; I make all the big ones. She decides things like what's for supper, where we go on vacation, how to discipline the kids, when we clean the house -- you know -- the small stuff. I, on the other hand, get to make the big decisions: how can we fix the economy, are we or are we not in favor of the euro, is terrace farming the best choice for agriculture in Southeast Asia. You see the kinds of issues I have to grapple with? Okay, so I exaggerate, but the point is this: together my wife and I make all kinds of decisions every day. Some she makes; some I make; some we make.

When it comes to our faith life -- how we show the world Christ -- I try to make the decisions. The rule is if we are together at home, I will start the prayers -- both at meal time and in the evening. If we are apart, we pray individually for meals. She, however, starts prayers when we're on the phone. After I pray, she adds her special heart concerns. After she prays, I add mine. By listening to each other's heartfelt prayers, we learn more about each other and grow in our understanding and love for one another.

We attend worship services together whenever possible. We sit and listen as God's Word is conveyed to us through the liturgy, hymns, and sermon. We sometimes hear God's Word shared through praise songs -- some of which cause conversation as we discuss the meaning of the words. All of this brings us closer to each other as we discuss, debate, and decide how best to live out God's Word by being His children on earth.

I also decide on how our offerings are given -- to whom, for what, and for how much. She has veto power, but she has never used it. I try to get us involved with service projects, impact events, or mission trips as much as possible, but alas, not often enough. I insisted we have a mission statement for our marriage. It is this: to see us is to see Christ.

Men, I have taken the lead on this. I can say it is an awesome responsibility. It is not to be taken lightly, nor should it be taken too gravely either. The emphasis is always on Christ, not me, not her. In respect to all of this, let me state the obvious: Men, it is a good thing to step up and take the leadership in your household, especially if you have children. Men, be the person you can and should be and give your children a clear and unmistakable example of how Christians embrace their faith, stand up for their beliefs, and witness to the truth of the Gospel.

Think for a moment on a person (child or adult) close to you. How can you go beyond your routine of service and care and leave a lasting impression with him or her of Christ working in your life?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Cleveland, I feel your pain. The whole country heard the news that your city -- and your team -- just don't measure up to Miami. Granted, LeBron James' exodus to the Sunshine State doesn't rate as high on the disaster scale as the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis, but it's still embarrassing to have your city slammed to a national audience.

So I ask the question, what would motivate a leading sports figure to move from one city to another? Putting the best (if not somewhat far-fetched) construction on everything, one might assume a marquis player would move to a different team so his abilities could be maximized to strengthen and complement players' abilities on the new squad.

Then again, it could be as simple as the new team offered more money and a way better deal?

I believe in this instance it's the latter reason.

Okay, that was an easy shot. Hey, he's a big boy, he can take it.

Let's move on, shall we? Let's consider those extraordinary men and women who do what they do not for fame or fortune but for ideals and their fellow man. I'm humbled when I remember our troops who volunteer every day to lay their lives on the line fighting for others and putting themselves second. Our military volunteer corps left their homes, their families, and their safety -- not for a monster salary and out-of-this-world perks -- but for more noble reasons: duty, honor, and country.

For sacrificing so others won't have to, I honor our troops and thank them.

Making millions doing whatever is one of the great opportunities individuals have in this country. Laying down our lives in selfless service is another.

Men, when we make our decisions, what is our motive?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Future?

World leaders bent on total domination have been in the business of shaping the future from the time of the first Pharaoh. Nebuchadnezzar, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse-tung, and virtually every other political leader -- elected or self-appointed -- have fought for their version of a future world. Some leaders want a unified world with themselves at the helm; some just want to get re-elected; some want to free their people; others want to subjugate and terrorize their populations.

Politicians constantly manipulate opinions in order to gain power and prestige. Some politicians go so far as to predict dire consequences for our future using scientific jargon and inflammatory language designed to browbeat others, win recognition, and thus secure their personal financial future.

It seems as if we have always been fascinated by the concept of the future. From Doris Day singing "Que Sera Sera" to Zager and Evans predictions in "2525," song artists have shared their vision of the future. Futurologists like Carl Sagan and John Naisbitt shared their take on the future -- even proclaiming to have the definite answers. Writers such as George Orwell (1984 and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World offered opposing views of the future in their books. Orwell feared those who would withhold information; Huxley predicted we would get so much information we wouldn't care. Orwell wrote that truth would be hidden from us; Huxley felt that truth would become irrelevant, succumbing to platitudes and slogans. Orwell envisioned people controlled by their pain; Huxley feared people would be controlled by giving them their desires -- with no consequences. Orwell gave us "Big Brother"; Huxley gave us mind-altering drugs.

I look around and see the Internet which puts forth so much information I can't process it. I see truth reduced to slogans and sound bites. I see actions without consequences. I see Big Brother issuing speeding tickets using a remote camera. I see a multinational, billion-dollar industry thriving on the sale and distribution of illegal, mind-altering drugs. I see world leaders posturing for global domination. I have even lived long enough to see public schools handing out birth-control measures designed to remove the guilt and consequences of casual sex. Around the world, governments of all types generate enormous wealth -- often with the stated intention of helping those in need and less fortunate -- yet always, or so it seems, end up taking more for themselves and their cronies.

This may all seem obvious, but there is a reason why I mention it. Is our society at a place where we need strong men to stand up for Christ? Is it time for men of God to oppose any religion that would destroy Christ? Is it time for men to work to reclaim Christian values in our society, among our elected officials, and in our laws? Is it time we become true stewards of the land -- as well as the possessions and the intellect we have been entrusted with? Is it time to match action with words?

Just wondering . . .

So what is our future?


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Freedom Is Not Free

This Fourth of July I will fly the stars and stripes -- proudly. I am thrilled to be a citizen of a country that welcomes opposing viewpoints, that encourages open and rational debates, and that protects those who are different. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that offers abundant opportunities for its citizens to make the most out of their lives.

This Fourth of July I will honor the Triune God without fear of retribution, reprisal, or rebuke. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that permits -- and protects -- my choice of worship. I will remember -- as I hope I do every day -- that what we have in the United States is a way of life that is the absolute envy of the world.

This Fourth of July I will eat hot dogs and drink the beverage of my choice, as I get together with my family and cherish our time together. I am proud to be a citizen of a country where my family can freely congregate, partaking in one another's company, and practicing our family traditions without fear of arrest.

This Fourth of July I will join with my fellow citizens and watch the night sky explode with sound and color. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that honors its past and the veterans -- both men and women -- who gave their time, their energy, and often their very lives to secure the freedoms we currently enjoy.

Make no mistake on this one: freedom is not free -- never was, never will be. It was with the sacrifice of blood that our founding fathers forged this magnificent nation. Each succeeding generation has paid a heavy price for our freedoms to continue. And though the blood of countless citizens has been shed to win and preserve our freedom, there's more to it than that. There's a home front that must be minded as well. Ensuring our freedoms continue requires the hard work and diligent perseverance on this side of the battlefield. Bob Dylan sums it up when he says, "I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom."

I am honored to do my part in this demanding and necessary work. I will be an informed voter. I will speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I will support those fighting overseas to ferret out and eliminate those whose perverse ambition is to terrorize anyone who doesn't conform to their totalitarian agenda. I will honor those who safeguard our country's future. I will support those who likewise serve and protect us here at home. I will work for justice and freedom to the best of my ability, and I will pray that God's will be done in our nation and in my heart.

Will you take 15 minutes this Fourth of July and remember the cost of your freedom?

God bless America.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lessons Learned From Dad

My Dad was a great teacher. Over the years he taught me many valuable and useful lessons. I can still remember the day he taught me how to drive a manual transmission car, which led to another lesson: how to use creative language to describe one's feelings when grinding down second gear. I can also remember the day he taught me "Bier auf Wein, das lass sein; Wein auf Bier, das rat' ich dir." (Loosely translated this means "Don't drink wine then beer, beer first.") This gem, in turn, led me to another great lesson: aspirin in the morning will help. And how can I forget the day he schooled me on roofing? The lesson learned here was that it is better (as in much) to be the boss sitting in the shade then the one hammering on the hot roof.

This Father's Day I will reflect on all the lessons Dad taught me over the years. From how to tie a hook onto the fishing line to how to shine my shoes, Dad was always teaching. He enjoyed sharing his wisdom with his children, and his children enjoyed the time they spent learning together. It really didn't matter that most of his lessons revolved around some form of manual labor -- cutting grass, pulling weeds, planting flowers, hanging screens, chopping wood, and the like -- it was good to be with him.

But he taught me more than just how to use my hands; he taught me how to use my mind. He challenged me to read, to memorize poetry, to add numbers in my head, and to play with words. He would play word games with me, encouraging me to learn new words and new meanings for old ones. He would play spelling games with me on long car rides and rejoice when I beat him.

He taught me history by taking trips to visit sites. He taught me beauty by walks through the forest. He taught me wonder by laying still on summer nights -- watching for falling stars. He taught me good humor with bad jokes. He taught me honesty and hard work through his example. He taught me to love as I watched him with my Mom.

He taught me the Bible and the catechism. He took me to church and taught me to sing loud. He taught me reverence and awe as he knelt to pray.

My Dad taught me that there is no greater gift a man can give the next generation then the gift of himself -- pouring out on the next generation all of his accumulated skills, knowledge, and values. I will remember my Dad this Father's Day and pray I can teach the next generation as well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We Need A Good Cause -- Not A Slogan

This week we commemorated the anniversary of D-Day -- the Allied invasion of Europe. This invasion launched the liberation of Europe from the stranglehold of Nazi Germany. The world was allied around the cause of freedom from tyranny. World War II united people from different countries and cultures -- each person giving his or her all to achieve this important victory. Never since then have so many different countries and cultures been united in a single cause.

Although the world may be divided, every nation has had its share of unifying causes. For America, the last one came to an end in July 1969 with a footprint on the moon. That singular event brought to conclusion the last cause that Americans far and wide supported with great enthusiasm. Not since then have Americans united behind a national objective with such fervor.

These days what have replaced causes are slogans. Slogans serve to unite factions of the populace. They offer a rallying cry, a chant often devoid of substance. The American presidential campaigns have given us some examples of slogans trotted out to promote a cause -- most of them vowing to influence society: "America Needs a Change"; "A Kinder, Gentler Nation"; Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow"; "The Better Man For A Better America"; "Yes, America Can!"; Yes We Can!"; and the ever popular, "Change We Need." It seems as if every campaign pitches rhetoric out in an attempt to rally voters around a slogan filled with empty promises and undeliverable -- if not simply unbelievable -- goals.

Today's fragmented culture reflects our lack of unifying causes. Each cause becomes equal to the next. Here we have saving the environment equal to stopping the war equal to treating animals humanely equal to providing food for the homeless equal to preventing the murder of children equal to universal health care and on the litany goes. One's personal cause is determined by preferences, peer pressure, propaganda, personal values, and sometimes just plain misinformation. Today's world would have us rally around the serious and the frivolous -- giving equal weight and attention to both.

Men, we need to rally around a cause -- not a slogan. We need substance, not smoke. We need a unifying cause that can ultimately change the world -- one person at a time. I would suggest we take up the cause of living out our God-given roles as spiritual leaders and eliminate slogans altogether. If we do, we just might, by God's grace, change the world for the better -- one man at a time.

Is that a cause worth working for?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Time For Everything

There's a pretty good chance you're reading this after enjoying a bit of rest from your daily labors over the Memorial Day weekend that just ended. This past weekend is considered by many the start of the summer vacation season. School children are on vacation; workers plan for vacations; regions depending on tourist income are opening doors long closed for winter, and bank accounts are being emptied -- rapidly. I personally believe in the regenerative power of a retreat, vacation, or some other designated time to break away from the daily routine. I have already booked my summer plans for a weeklong visit to Alaska -- taking my wife and father-in-law to celebrate his birthday.

But as a man, I have a hard time living with the guilt of not being at work. As a man I often define my place on this earth first in terms of how I make a living. If someone asks me, "Who are you?" my initial impulse may not be to give my name but rather describe my job title and what I do. How common is that?

So I have to listen to the writer of Ecclesiastes when he writes, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Yes, there is a time for vacations. I consider a vacation absolutely necessary for me to be my most productive. The experiences I encounter, the memories I accumulate, the time I spend with family and friends, and the opportunities I have to experience new cultures, customs, and cuisine -- all help me mature and keep my mind active and sharp.

But not all my brothers are taking time away from the job. One in four Americans receive no paid vacation time, one in three employees doesn't take all the vacation time he is due, and one in five Americans cancels a vacation because of work. Men, you need to take care of your family and yourselves. You need to take a break and renew. You need to kick back and take your wife on a picnic, take the kids to a park, or visit a zoo with your grandchildren. You need to drive a back road without a map and without a destination for a whole day, eat ice cream cones at the beach, or park at the "cell phone lot" and watch the jets land. You need to lay on your back and show your kids the stars, walk hand in hand with your beloved through a wooded path, or find a waterfall and listen to its roar. You need to write a letter to your mom, visit Alaska and - maybe -- even take time off from work to go to Cleveland, New Orleans, or any other work/service project you've got a hankering to tackle. Not surprisingly, time spent helping others is often the best way to help oneself.

What are you doing for your summer vacation?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

War - What Is It Good For?

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. This Memorial Day I will remember my Father, a teenager in December, 1941, who grew up to be a man in Europe as he joined his brothers in the fight against Hitler and his regime of oppression. I will remember my former co-worker who shivered in Korea as he fought his way through the mountain passes to turn back the Communist tide. I will remember my high school friend who went to the jungles of Vietnam and lost his life in the battle for freedom in Southeast Asia. I will remember my friend who served in an armored division whose task it was to flank Iraqi forces and try to capture Saddam Hussein. I will remember my former student who served in Bosnia as a Ranger. I will remember my brother-in-law who is on his second tour to the Mideast and is currently serving in Afghanistan.

I will remember the sacrifices each man made for his country -- my country -- and the time away from family, the hardships of battle and, in one case, the loss of life these sacrifices entailed. I will also pause to honor all the military personnel from around the world who selflessly gave their lives in battling oppression, fighting tyranny, and insuring freedom.

What is war good for? The song, of course, would answer this with, "absolutely nothing!" Yet, what would our world be like if there were not men and women who fought against Hitler, communism, dictatorships, and oppressive rulers? I thank the brave men and women of the military -- from all of the free world -- for their willingness to take up arms and put themselves in harm's way -- all for the fight for freedom.

This Memorial Day I will fly my flag, I will sit on my porch, and I will pray. I will pray for the men and women who are engaged in battles around the world. I will pray for the men and women who patrol borders and coastal waters vigilantly watching and defending against possible hostile action. I will pray for families who are separated by miles and time. I will pray for a time when all military members are united with their families -- never again having to take up arms. I will pray that war will become obsolete -- knowing in my heart that this will never happen this side of heaven.

God bless all our military members.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Perhaps you have been there -- you are driving along, watching carefully for obstacles, impediments, and the proverbial speed trap and bam! -- your blood pressure goes through the roof. Some careless driver, frequently talking on a cell phone, texting, or otherwise driving distracted enters your space and you trade paint, stories with the patrolman, and insurance information. You were helpless to avoid an accident, but thankful it was only the car damaged. Okay, the checkbook took a hit, but no one was hurt.

Sometimes I listen to the news, read a blog, or catch some thread of discussion from a friend and a helpless feeling overtakes me. I can't do anything about the weather: thunderstorms will ruin the best-laid golf plans. I can't do anything about the floods: my long anticipated vacation to Nashville has to be redesigned. I can't do anything about the economy: as I review my 401k; it reminds me of an iceberg, more under water than above. I can't do anything about the government: it appears as if elected officials stay awake at night thinking up ways to reward bad behavior at my expense. I can't do anything about the media: Hollywood continues to shape the thinking of a new generation, chipping away at an already eroded moral base while increasing its assault on God's Word. I can't do anything about the pace of technology: my computer, phone, DVD player, and television set all seem obsolete by the time I bring them home from the store.

Yes, I could succumb to a helpless feeling quite easily.

I may be helpless, but I am not hopeless. I am a Christian man who has the hope of heaven. I know for a fact that this earth will pass away, and I will be part of a new earth. I am a Christian man who belongs to a church. I know for a fact that no matter what the devil, the world, and sinful flesh can hurl at the walls of the church -- it will not fall. I am a Christian man who has power and influence over my family, friends, and neighbors. I know for a fact that when I speak the words of eternal life, they have power and can change lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. I am a Christian man who will continue to trust in an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, and eternal Lord.

My hopefulness replaces my helplessness. Men, let's show the world our hopefulness.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Of Cities and Cultures

Can you name this ancient city?
1. It had a major stadium that was often filled to capacity.
2. It boasted lots of worship venues where major world religions and beliefs were represented.
3. It had a market place where citizens gathered to shop, talk, and share ideas.
4. Its theater entertained while trying to shape a pro-government, liberal viewpoint.
5. Major government offices were in operation there.
6. It had a thriving "red-light" district.
7. There were places where men gathered to drink, discuss, and argue the issues of the day.

Did you name ancient Athens? How about ancient Corinth or Ephesus? Actually, there were many cities of the Roman Empire with the features above. I find it interesting there is so much similarity between today's modern cities with those of antiquity. It's almost as if the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Twenty-first century culture shares many parallels with those of the past. The citizens of the ancient world were taught to be tolerant of all people with, perhaps, one exception -- Christians. The citizens of the ancient world packed stadiums and theaters seeking entertainment and escape from the tedium of life. The government was thought to be the only force that could keep order, peace, and bring prosperity. Government officials were placed above the law or, as was often the case, positioned themselves above the law.

So what to do? The Christian men of the ancient world banned together and worshiped a living Savior. They boldly proclaimed Christ regardless of the consequences. They could witness because they knew Christ; they studied the Word, listened to teachings, and shared this knowledge with their family and friends. They were willing to live -- and to die -- for their faith.

Men, we need to do the same. We need to read and study the Scriptures, listen to its teachings, and share this knowledge with our family and friends. We may not have to die for our faith, but let us live boldly and courageously -- sharing the hope we have in our living Lord and Savior Jesus.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Of Relics and Righteousness

Much has been made of Pope Benedict XVI's recent excursion to view the famous "Shroud of Turin" in the Italian city of that name. Calling it an "icon written in blood, he spoke of how the fabric's visible markings corresponded to the Gospel description of Christ's crucifixion.
According to a Rome news service, Father Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, suggested why the Pope presented the cloth as an "icon."

"More than the mysterious origin of this image, what attracts is the impressive way in which it corresponds, in very numerous details, with the account of the passion of Christ in the Gospels: the wounds, the bloodshed, the wounds of the crown of thorns, the beatings of the flagellation. And, in the center, the solemn face of the crucified, a face that corresponds with the most ancient sketches of Christian iconography, which in turn confirms and inspires it."
For centuries the authenticity of the shroud has been fiercely debated among scholars, scientists, and religious leaders. Found in Troyes, France, in 1453, it was moved to Turin in 1578. It became the property of the Holy See of the Catholic Church in 1983. Radiocarbon testing has been applied to the shroud, as well as high-definition digital camera examinations, color pigment tests, chemical and biological analyses, medical forensic studies, and dirt particle evaluations.

And the verdict?

The jury is still out.

And will remain so, we reckon, for as long as the shroud is left to be examined. Though a source of inspiration and for some, even confirmation, of Christ's death and resurrection, this most famous of grave linens will forever remain mute concerning the exact individual around whom it was wrapped.

A fantastic curiosity to be sure, and as such it got me thinking. So what if this shroud was actually wrapped around Jesus? Or what if we had -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- Jesus' clothing or his carpenter tools? What if -- somehow -- we even had the dried remains of His blood -- verifiable as residue on the bottom of some first-century Roman pot?

These would confirm that He lived, but they would not prove He rose from the dead.
Nothing can prove that. Only faith can believe it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What If. . .

Did you ever play the game called, "What if?"? You know the one -- you imagine a scenario and play it out to its natural conclusion. For example, many of us in America have already been playing the what if game: What if Congress passes a law demanding everyone in America should have health care and the government will pay for it? Now that's an interesting what if game, don't you think?

Now there are other what if games too. For instance, what if there is no money left in my retirement fund when I retire? What if the football team I follow makes a bad draft choice? What if my house doesn't sell? What if the Colorado Rockies has the only pitcher that can throw a no-hitter?

We can also play this game: what if we can't worship God? Now some of you might be thinking, here we go again, bringing out the ole' we-are-headed-down-the-Socialism-path again shtick. Well, I'm not really talking about the government taking away our right to worship God -- although that is always a possibility. Just ask the Russians, the Germans, or Christians in Africa. We are really only a dictator away from having our ability to openly worship God taken away.

No, what I am talking about is this: what if there is an earthquake and we are trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building? What if we are trapped in our car due to a bridge collapsing? What if we are on top of a roof with floodwaters rising around us? What if we are in a shelter because the mine caved in?

There may come a time when we need to quote Bible passages of comfort, sing an inspiring hymn, or turn to a prayer of hope and find we have no access to a Bible, a hymnal, or a devotion book. Then what will we do?

Men, I suggest we use our powers of memorization for more than sports stats, barbecue recipes, or even our kid's birthday dates. Yes, we have a powerful mind capable of holding millions of pieces of information. We can drive a route once and return years later and know just where to go; we can remember where every lure is on our tackle box; we can even sing our favorite song -- word for word.

I challenge you to memorize Bible passages, memorize hymns, memorize devotions, and memorize prayers. There will come a time when the words of Scripture we quote will inspire, calm, encourage, and liberate. There will be phrases of joy, peace, and hope in hymns and spiritual songs we recite. People will strain to hear us as we quote a devotion, or a prayer. Men, we are leaders! When we find ourselves with an opportunity to give words of comfort, peace, and hope -- let us do so with boldness!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reasonable Laws -- Reasonable Enforcement

How many mine safety regulations need to be violated before something gets done? In other words, how many laws do we need in order to prevent the recent tragedy befalling miners who lost their lives in West Virginia?

Would it be reasonable to assume that if ten safety violations occurred, corrective action should be taken to protect mine workers? If not ten, then how about 50? If not 50, then how about 500? If not 500, then how about 1,400? Yes, according to published reports, there were over 1,400 regulations violated and still the miners were allowed to work. How many workers had to die before the safety regulations were taken seriously?

The mine industry is not the only industry guilty of violating regulations and laws -- bankers, lawyers, stock investors, state governors, sports heroes, even national politicians -- routinely break laws and regulations for personal profit and gain. Each evening on the nightly news we hear about someone else breaking a law or regulation. Sometimes it's someone doing something that's not considered illegal but still puts people in harm's way. When that happens, the government rushes forward to pass legislation to protect us from this new threat. How high would this mountain of laws, regulations, and ordinances be if we stacked up all of the legislation that governs our behavior? But, of course, it doesn't stop there. Every day there are new laws, new regulations to enforce. Every legislative body seems to have only a two-item agenda: get re-elected and pass laws.

It is my opinion we have plenty of laws and more than enough regulations in our society. We may even have too many. It seems to me we also have laws and regulations that are under-enforced and laws that are over-enforced. It would be my opinion that all we really need are reasonable laws with reasonable enforcement. For example, if the laws say a mine must be in total compliance with all safety requirements and upon inspection that mine isn't -- well -- then it's pretty much a no-brainer: MINE CLOSED. Sorry for the inconvenience. It will reopen when all safety requirements have been met.

And what about those hamburger laws and regulations? From the time a young calf is born until the time that calf's meat is served to you as hamburger, there are upwards of 72,000 laws and regulations that must be enforced. Even now, the United States government is asking for more regulatory laws over the banking system, which would only add to the pile of rules and laws already affecting our quality of life!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Of Speed Traps and Fast Cars

We've all seen them -- multiple police cruisers lined up on the side of the road, each with flashing lights, each with an unhappy motorist parked in front. Yep, from the time of the first radar gun, law enforcement has employed the speed trap as a way to increase the safety of the motoring public by slowing down the average speed of traffic. A more cynical person than me -- alright, it's me -- might speculate that certain municipalities have a less-than-altruistic motive for speed traps: i.e. raising revenue. Many motorists paying fines is certainly a way to generate revenue.

Okay, guys, fess up. We like fast cars. Something in our blood demands us to red line the tachometer as we shift through the gears -- hitting zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds. The throaty roar of a hemi accelerating past us on the Interstate creates envy. Driving through Indy in the family sedan evokes daydreams of left-hand speed turns and brick straightaways. We are attracted to fast cars like a moth to the flame.

And therein is the problem. There are more cars on the road each day; municipalities are downsizing law enforcement to save funds, which creates more danger as drivers push down the accelerator. Our need for speed has been checked by the threat of the random speed stop, but no more. (Now we even have unmanned speed cameras.) So what to do?

Posted speed limit signs just might be the answer. (I know it's a radical idea.) How about we all make a pact that says we will travel at the posted speed (or no more than five miles over any posted speed limit sign)? Perhaps, this will balance the urge to burn out the carbon while maintaining what some engineers believe to be a safe speed for the highway. If we all travel at the same speed, accidents will be reduced as we will not have to slow down for slower drivers.

And as long as I am on a soapbox what about those jokers that speed up to cut off the waiting cars in a construction zone or bolt across three lanes to exit the Interstate? These tactics serve no one's best interests except the mechanic who's repairing dents and dings. Let's face it -- these guys cause accidents and are dangerous to everyone.

What do you think? Can you gimme a high five?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Earthquakes - upheavals -- and other disasters

It happened at night. I was sleeping peacefully on the fifth floor of the hotel. It took awhile for me to register the fact that I was experiencing an earthquake. The bed bounced, the window rattled, and the car alarm blared. Fortunately, it was a minor earth shake, strong enough to wake, but not strong enough to damage. I did experience the utterly helpless feeling of having the whole earth out of control -- not a good feeling. I could empathize with those families tossed around in Haiti, Chile, and now, Northern Mexico, as earthquakes rocked the very foundations of their buildings, bridges, and bodies. I can empathize. I cannot fully grasp the horror and despair they had as they watched buildings collapse on loved ones, tearing apart families, but I can empathize. However moved I feel about their situation, I can never fully understand their sorrow as life as they knew it was changed forever.

As I watched the reports about the Northern Mexico earthquake, I was alerted to the fact that Tiger Woods would give his "come back" news conference in Augusta. Television reporters promised we would hear the whole story about Woods and how his infidelities rocked the world of golf. A select group of reporters from around the world were allowed to ask him questions in hopes he would be candid and reveal the details of his sins. After the news conference one reporter commented, "I was looking forward to a steak dinner and all I got was a bit of fluff."

Woods' news conference happened the same day a coal mine explosion in West Virginia killed at least 25 miners. In one instant, families were torn apart, the life of a town forever changed. As long as people live in Montcoal, West Virginia, April 5, 2010, will be a day that marks disaster.

All this happened to the backdrop of the Butler Bulldogs losing to the Duke Blue Devils after a buzzer beater three-pointer rattled off the rim.

Each story was reported more passionately than the last -- each event portrayed as the most important news story of this decade. Then, I thought, how can that be? Tiger Woods is a sinful man. He messed up. But are his sins as newsworthy as an underdog basketball team almost upsetting the established giant? I think not.

But then neither story has the impact that a mine explosion or earthquake has: people died. Guys, what is happening in our world when sports stories are on an equal footing with earthquakes and mine explosions? What does it say about our priorities? What does it say about those who put out the news? Do they report the news or do they make the news? What does it say about what our society values?