Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End Times

The end of December is traditionally the time to pause and take stock of the year just past. We soon will have an opportunity to watch highlight reels that feature the best of the year's events in sports, politics, economics and entertainment. We can relive the best and the worst that 2011 offered. Such is the nature of December, when we end one year and look forward to the start of another.

This past week, however, gave me pause to ponder a different slant on the end of the year. I received word my uncle had passed away. I attended the funeral and was struck by the realization that he was the last living member of my father's generation. When I returned home from his funeral I received word a good friend of ours was called home -- suddenly and unexpectedly. I was making plans to attend his funeral, when I was admitted into the hospital myself -- again very unexpected and sudden.

It was then I began to ponder how ready I was for the end times. What if I were to be called home right now? Have I provided for my family? Will there be funds to pay the bills? Have I made my wishes known about the disposition of my things? Will my heirs know what charities I want to support with my estate? Will my wife know my funeral wishes: hymns, scripture readings and such? Will someone have enough information to fill in the obituary items like my date of birth, place of birth, survivors, those that preceded me in death, final resting place, etc.? What will people remember about me?

I know it is not something guys -- or anybody for that matter -- like to think about, especially when we are younger, but it is something we should plan for now. Perhaps it's time to pause and take stock of your past and where your future may be going. Now is the time to attend those details that help and comfort your family.

One thought struck me as I lay in the hospital bed those lonely, early morning hours recently. Surely, the greatest comfort my family has is knowing the answer to the question of eternity about me; I am confident I will spend eternity in heaven.

As we look back over 2011, let's take time to look forward too. The future will be here before you know it.

Truly, the best is yet to come!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the Name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").

Matthew 1:18-23

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 13, 2011

Deck the House - and Lawn

Recently a few of my neighborhood friends and I were visiting out by the curb in front of my house. Among them was a first-time father of a baby boy. With his son content in his dad's arms, I was telling him how Christmas preparations are different pre- and post-child. He began to shake his head and commented, "I guess I will have to start putting up outdoor decorations now."

A few of us season-hardened dads nodded in agreement as we recalled those carefree days when "outdoor decorations" meant a wreath on the front door and a five-dollar bill in the mailbox for the postman. We started to trade stories of tangled wires, blown fuses and standing on non-OSHA-approved perches to reach the top of the house. Each man in turn offered the same advice: "Pick a warm day for your first go-round; you'll be out there awhile." One grey-haired, outdoor décor veteran offered his sage wisdom too: "Pick white lights, string them up and leave them in place year-round. Come next December, you'll be glad you did."

I could almost see the young father's eyes start to mist as he remembered the no-small spectacle of his dad's yearly lawn-ornament-and-light show. He recalled it with great satisfaction, detailing the effort his dad put into the display. It was as if the family's social rank was somehow tied to the lumens emitted from their residence. Also counting toward a family's neighborhood prestige was the number of plastic Santas, elves, reindeer and miscellaneous figures covering the roof and lawn. It suddenly dawned on him that he was now the dad who had to protect his son's social status among his diapered peers.

As we spoke, I imagined him strolling the Christmas aisles of Home Depot. Surveying this year's inventory of blinking TV cartoon characters, inflatable snow globes (complete with Santa in a bubble) and other yard bling, he must decide what message he will send as he adorns his property in radiant light. Will he choose eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient bulbs? Will he go high-tech and synchronize his halogen, high-beam lights to an upbeat Christmas melody blasted out on Dolby surround sound speakers? Or will he take an eclectic approach and mix it all up with a fan-animated Santa that bobs and weaves; blue, electric icicles hanging off the gutters; glowing candy canes on the roof marking out a landing strip for Santa's gift-laden chariot and other priceless kitsch.

As the older men pondered this young dad's pending dilemma, one grandpa shared his minimalist approach: "I just like to put out a Nativity set. It gives the best light of all."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Steer Into the Skid

For those who learned to drive in regions where snow and ice are commonplace, you learned the fundamental driving maneuver to compensate for a loss of traction when driving a rear-wheeled car: steer into the skid. For those of you who learned how to drive in areas without snow and ice, a skid happens when the front wheels and the back wheels head in opposite directions. For example, if I am travelling down a highway and wish to turn to the right, I would turn my steering clockwise with my front wheels following suit. This maneuver, ideally, means my car would turn to the right. However, if I am on a slippery surface like ice and snow, the back of the car continues forward without turning. This results in a skid, a fishtail effect that removes all control from my hands. This leaves the car sliding, following Newton's laws of motion. Uncorrected, the car threatens my safety and the safety of everyone in my path.

Thus, all drivers are taught defensive moves to regain control of a skidding car. The measures are summed up in this phrase: "steer into the skid." The driver is to remove his foot from the accelerator, slowly apply a light, pumping pressure to the brakes, and turn the steering wheel into the direction the back of the car is headed. If you watch enough high-speed car chases on TV, you will see this theory put into practice. If you live in a climate with ice or snow, you will test the theory yourself. Hence, all beginning drivers should be taught how to steer into the skid.

This concept can also be applied to guys as they live out their daily lives. Eventually, a man will fall into an unexpected, uncontrolled skid. This "skid" typically involves a situation where self-control and calm lose out to anger, frustration and other kneejerk reactions in the face of unexpected stress. For example, you may be cruising through your day when all of a sudden you're blindsided: you enter your house and are immediately hit with "You are late!" or "You forgot to call!" or "Why am I the last to know!" or something similar. We've all been there, haven't we? In those moments, we're turning one way when all of a sudden the traction of our emotions is gone, and we find ourselves skidding in a different direction -- into a sure and sudden confrontation.

It is then our defensive driving techniques can save us and the ones we're about to plow into. We can take our foot off the accelerator of our anger, slowly and gently pump the brakes of our listening skills, and head into the skid. We can then better maneuver our attitude, catch our breath and find out what really is the issue. By doing so, we reject the nasty impulse to continue our collision course, which would most likely begin with a glare and end with a heated remark. By ignoring every rash move that comes to mind and asking in a calm voice what the issue really is -- and then actually listening -- we can regain control and avoid the damage caused by an out-of-control skid of anger.

If you've ever experienced the relief of regaining control of a skidding car, you can appreciate that sometimes we have to ignore our first instincts and steer into the skid.

Watch out this Christmas season for unexpected places where you may have to apply this driving principle. Like holiday shoppers ... they're everywhere