Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What Will You Be Remembered For?

If it hasn't happened yet, there will come a time when you gather together with family and friends after a funeral service and reminisce about someone who has just died. Often the discussion starts out with the retelling of an incident familiar to many of those in attendance. Heads nod and people smile as they muse over the incident, recalling what it means to them. Then the discussion tends toward the personal, with each in turn recounting how he or she remembers the departed in some one-on-one situation.

Sometimes I picture how the conversation will go after I am gone. A few beers will be raised, and a soft voice will break through with a hymn of praise. Well, actually, that will probably not happen as I am not really known for my hymn-singing prowess. Still, it would be a nice way to be remembered.

More likely, someone, probably a family member, will offer some holiday yarns about how I embarrassed myself. Depending on the age of the teller and the power of recollection, these stories may go on for three or four beers.

Once these tales have been told, it would be my wish for someone to recount how I was kind to them. It would also be very nice to be remembered as a man who walked his talk -- who did what he said he would. I would also hope my children will comment on how good a dad I was. I would like to have someone share a story about how I really loved God and witnessed to Him with my life.

As a man, it's easy to get caught in the trap of wanting to be remembered for one's money, achievements, or even position. Isn't it evident, however, that even those things -- wealth, accomplishments, respect -- while noteworthy and marking us as a certain kind of man still don't provide the whole story?

In the long run, the most significant thing we will pass on to the next generation (and be remembered for) will be our love of God. It's that attribute that should permeate all we say and do as children of God.

So, if there is one thing I want said at my funeral other than "Look! He's still alive!" it would be "He was a faithful follower of Christ."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Read a Good Book Lately?

It has been estimated the average person reads about nine books a year. It has also been forecasted this number will rise over the coming years due to the popularity of the Kindle, Nook, and other e-book readers. With the appropriate app, every iPad, Tablet, smartphone, or laptop can deliver books on demand. This convenience offers the opportunity to have one's favorite piece of writing immediately available, which, of course, can come in handy when trapped in the mall, waiting for the women to return.

With John Grisham, Tom Clancy and Stephen King available alongside our favorite non-fiction authors, we can experience all the benefits of a well-read man: sharper intelligence, reduced stress, improved analytical thinking skills, expanded vocabulary, enhanced grammatical comprehension and a more retentive memory. Now those are benefits well worth the effort! E-readers make books easy for men to get to, opening up the world of reading without the need for a physical book.

But a physical book an e-reader ain't! A physical book is a tactile, textured, savor-it-with-your-hands-and-eyes material object with hard covers, pages that turn and colorful pictures. In short, it's a child's wonderland.

There is nothing quite like the time spent reading with a child by your side. Psychologists and other academics have studied the benefits of reading to a child. They have found that reading to a child improves speech and communication skills, logical thinking, concentration and vocabulary.

But they neglect to point out the most important benefits reading to a child brings: laughter, bonding and lasting memories. It only takes a few pages of the Dr. Seuss' classic, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and the child is caught up in the story's fun. A well-placed "tickle fish" will bring on peals of laughter that can melt away the day's stress and insure mom will have a challenge calming her little one down for bed.

The time spent reading one-on-one with kids is prime time, if there ever was such a thing. It's a perfect opportunity for questions, teaching, stories and family history. The book Where the Wild Things Are can lead into the story of how dad was like Max and ran away from home, only to find out that life with mom and dad was really the best after all. Some of life's coolest, teachable moments take place over the vibrantly creative pages of a bedtime book.

The reason why a guy should read with kids is one of life's true no-brainers. We've got everything to gain from doing it. Think about it. We get to act out the story; we get to dazzle our kids with our humor and theatrical mastery; we get to share principles and ideals through the story's narrative and, best of all, we get to be their hero -- the one who took the time to read with them.

Read a good book lately?

If not, try dusting off the cover and get your kids ready to Hop on Pop.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Unexpected Benefits of Fishing

In the vast arena of athletic contests, there are purists who insist an activity can only be termed a "sport" if it involves the use of a ball. There are some who expand this definition to any competition that generates a score, regardless of the equipment used. Others would go so far as to include under the sports umbrella those activities that can be performed while enjoying a favorite libation: bowling and billiards, to name a couple. That being said, fishing remains one activity many still exclude from the category of sports altogether (though its relationship to libations is the stuff of legend).

Making this prohibition, I would submit, is detrimental to the truest definition of a sport. It would label as "non-sportsmen" that legion of individuals yearly plying the fresh waters of this great continent in search of big game fish. In fact, I make the case (based on considerable first-hand evidence) that fishing is not only a sport, it is crucial for the sound development of one's personality, psyche and -- depending on the species sought -- physique.

Long hours spent in silence on the bank of a river or in the back of a boat, casting a baited line into the watery lair of a finny opponent can and does give a person patience. Patience, in turn, can clear the mind of the fast-paced whirl of the world, replacing it with a sense of calm and tranquilitude (so much so that new words even begin to form in one's mind). An internal peace settles in the body and arranges one's constituent parts in such a way that out-of-whack skeletal structures realign, the mind renews and worn muscles take on a health and vigor unseen for decades. These muscles will, of course, be summoned to produce the effort needed to reel in lunkers. And landing lunkers naturally leads to peer accolades, which, in turn, boosts self-esteem and, in the long run, produces an overall better human being.

As you can see, patience won from fishing translates into a richer, fuller life. It's that simple.

Here's an example that might make the point more clearly: a man heading out on vacation with his family, who is stuck in city traffic, and who lacks patience will feel his blood pressure spike, his temples throb, his attitude sour, and his stomach grind. On the other hand, a man in similar circumstances armed with fishing-produced patience will experience only minimal elevation in blood pressure, a slight disruption to his frame of mind, an ability to make light of the situation, and an unflappable constitution.

Now do we see why fishing is so important?

I rest my tackle box.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fish Don't Care

A man may walk down the street and judge other men as they pass by. A man may see a person and make assumptions about education, wealth and social status based on outward appearances. A man may purchase clothes, drive cars and acquire homes -- all based on social norms or status. A man may be enticed to a career path solely for economic gain. A man judges others, but fish don't care.

When a fish is swimming in a lake, stream or river, the only thing that matters is the bait. The fish doesn't care how much the rod costs that casts the bait. The fish doesn't care if the person cranking the bait is male or female, young or old, rich or poor, educated or illiterate. The fish doesn't even care what language the person speaks. All the fish sees is the bait.

Likewise on lakes, rivers or streams, people who are fishing see each other pretty much like the fish does. It's not about the person standing alongside them or those fishing in the boat at the other end of the cove. It's not about wealth, status, age, gender or any other distinction that separates people. Differences among fishermen are suspended when the quest for fish is on. The goal overrides the need to make distinctions between ourselves and those around us. It's all about fishing.

Those who are fishing are just glad to be there, and they're glad others are getting a chance to fish too.

Wouldn't it be a good thing if we all could view each other as fellow fishermen?