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.)