Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Olympics

Soon the world will turn its attention to the activities of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. For a few weeks, tens of millions will watch Olympians competing to be the best in the world. Champions from over 95 countries will put aside national differences and politics in order to participate as peers focused on one thing -- being the absolute best they can be.

I like the Olympics. For one thing, the games are so unpredictable. One tiny flaw, one small misstep, and it's the difference between standing on the podium and watching from the stands. Upsets happen; unknowns beat popular favorites, and sometimes even the underdog takes the gold.

I like the Olympics for its strict code of athletic competition, which is only rarely violated. These athletes try to be honest in following the rules. A lifetime of training, discipline, conditioning, and practice is what the world sees -- not performances artificially enhanced by chemicals or medals obtained by the use of drugs.

I like to watch the Olympics, especially when the athletes mess up. Slip-ups are common in skating, skiing, and almost every winter event. The dignity, grace, and calmness displayed by these athletes after a tumble can be truly inspirational. For example, a figure skater will fall, recover, and complete her routine without any noticeable show of emotion. That is indeed impressive. Here is a person who has spent thousands of hours honing a complex and grueling routine. Now, at long last she's on stage -- front and center -- performing intricate movements before a global audience of millions and, because of one slip, one blunder, one blown move -- gone is the gold. Yet, she picks herself up and finishes her routine. That is a profile in courage I admire.

The next time I make a mistake, I can confidently say it won't be in front of millions of people, filmed for replay and exhaustive commentary, and discussed over and over again. There will be no microphones in front of me with reporters asking, "How does it feel to have let the medal get away?"

So, the next time I miss my step, I'll try to react like an Olympian: I'll pick myself up and press on, determined to finish what I've started. I'll pay the consequences for my mistake just like an Olympian does, but I won't dwell on it, I'll learn from it.

Is there any unfinished business you have to complete?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


The earthquake in Haiti once again reminds us how urgent it is to share the Gospel -- today -- for we never know what the tomorrow will bring.

President Gerald Kieschnick shares: "We praise God that our missionaries in Haiti are confirmed to be safe. In addition to an LCMS World Mission GEO (Globally Engaged in Outreach) missionary and family stationed in Haiti, there are at least three short-term mission teams in the country from LCMS congregations and mission organizations from Nebraska, New York, and Wisconsin. We are working to confirm the safety of pastors and others in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH), which has been a partner church of the Missouri Synod's since 2001. While communications are still sketchy, we believe Rev. Marky Kessa, president of the ELCH, is safe. We are continuing our efforts to reach our other dear brothers and sisters in Christ in Haiti."

Robert Bugbee, Lutheran Church-Canada president, called Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake "catastrophic" and said the synod forwarded funds Wednesday to Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR).

"On behalf of Lutheran Church-Canada pastors and people across our country, I express the sorrow and horror our members feel at the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti," said Bugbee. "The basic needs of all Haitians -- regardless of their religious affiliation -- are a serious matter and need to be addressed immediately. We encourage LCC congregations and members to donate generously to the relief effort. Please do so without delay!"

Orphan Grain Train, a Christian humanitarian relief organization headquartered in Norfolk, Nebraska, in cooperation with LCMS World Relief and Human Care will ship 513,216 "Kids Against Hunger" meals (two semi-loads) to Haiti during the week of January 17. Orphan Grain Train is shipping to Haiti both by air and by sea. Other relief shipments are in the planning stages. A semi-load relief shipment sent to Haiti last month arrived January 6 and is now being used to respond to the disaster. Each semi-load contains 256,608 meals. Volunteers in Lincoln, Hastings, and Norfolk, Nebraska prepared the "Kids Against Hunger" meal packets. Food distributions are intended for all people in need, regardless of church affiliation.
What can a man do other than offer prayers? At this time the best way we can help is to give money to those on the ground in the country helping people. You can click on these links to learn more about donating:

LCMS World Relief and Human Care Disaster Response

Canadian Lutheran World Relief

Orphan Grain Train

Fathers, this is a great teaching opportunity to educate your children about living the Christian faith -- sharing not only prayers, but also money.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Say it ain't so, Joe"

On September 28, 1920, "Shoeless Joe" Jackson left a Chicago court house after testifying to a grand jury about his involvement in fixing the 1919 World Series. As he walked away from the building, a young boy is said to have begged Joe to, "Say it ain't so, Joe." Joe made no comment. He was found innocent by the court, but banned for life from baseball for bringing shame to the sport.

In 2004, Pete Rose admitted he made bets on his team when he played. This came after years of public denial. His status as being permanently ineligible from baseball will ban him from ever being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

January 11, 2010, will be remembered as the day Mark McGwire admitted he used steroids. With his stellar batting accomplishments tainted by a decade of steroid use, his confession in making wrong choices will probably keep him, too, from the Hall of Fame. He joins the ranks of Canseco, A-Rod, Palmeiro, and Bonds -- men who knew better and still made bad choices -- all for personal gain.

Not that baseball has an exclusive hold on role models with feet of clay -- golf, bicycling, and the Olympics can each point to their own athletes who cheated to gain an advantage. I wish we all could "Say in ain't so," but it clearly appears that greed and power are hard to resist.

Having spent the last few days visiting my father-in-law in an intensive care unit, it dawned on me that men of integrity are the men to model. Dad lived his life honestly, giving his family a home and security. He is generous, often providing food anonymously to families in need. He is a man of faith, always striving to learn more about his Savior and God. He is a man of action -- doing -- not talking. He is a man loved and respected by all who know him. He may never hit a home run, win a race, wear a bowl ring, or accept accolades on a podium, but he is a hero to his family and a role model for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

How wonderful if it were so with all men.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Calendar Pages

I'll admit it. I like new calendars. There's something about a blank calendar that sits on my desk that offers an opportunity for me to start fresh, to avoid all the mistakes of the past year. No longer do I have to look at coffee cup stains, crossed-out dates, mysterious phone numbers, or missed appointments. Gone are the doodles of long phone conversations and the torn pages.

The blank page awaits my input: birthdays, wedding anniversary, and vacation days get entered first. Next come doctor's appointments, dentist visits, and other important personal days that need a reminder. Last, I can enter the dates I know about for work: meetings, appointments, conferences, important phone calls, and deadlines to meet are all entered neatly and legibly.

As you can tell, I have a paper calendar. I like to use one with the comics on each day. That way I can start the day with a laugh. Also, for me there is something symbolic about tearing off the previous day and getting a new page. I know, I know, there's a paperless way to do this. I also have electronic calendars -- on my computer and on my phone. I like the beeps and sounds of each, but I still like paper calendars.

As I look forward to 2010 I see several events I need to remember. A few I must remember (i.e. wedding anniversary and family birthdays, for instance), and a whole bunch will be filled in later. It is those days that hold the most promise. What will 2010 bring?

I pray that 2010 will be filled with days of opportunities to share my faith with other men. Perhaps that opportunity will come on the golf course. Perhaps it will be when shoulder to shoulder on a work project. Then again, it might just happen when playing cards. Whatever the occasion, I look forward to those times when I can share what God has done in my life and hearing how He's at work in my brother's life.

I pray that 2010 will be filled with days of productive work. I am blessed to be able to work for a ministry, not a paycheck. I pray God will continue to bless this work. I pray that each of you see your work as a ministry and not merely a paycheck -- regardless of your occupation or title.

I pray that 2010 will be filled with days of family activities. I enjoy sitting around the dinner table remembering family stories, sharing family histories, and hearing how each generation fashions its own view of family. Family times are good times.

As you stare at blank calendar pages, empty Outlook boxes, or blank lines on your PDA, I pray your days are filled with activities, ministry, family and, above all else, God's abiding love.