Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stand Up

Soon the United States of America will celebrate Independence Day. The Fourth of July typically finds its citizens enjoying cookouts, parades, family gatherings and spectacular fireworks displays. As we pause this year for our celebrations, permit me to offer a leadership suggestion for all men: stand up. Yes, stand up.

There was a time in our country's history when a lady entered a room, all the men who were seated would stand. The court official today still announces the arrival of the judge with the words, "All rise!" When the president of the United States enters a room, even his most outspoken detractors get to their feet.

And why do we stand? It is a sign of respect. A man shows his deference for a lady by standing. Those in a courtroom rise to accord the judge his due. When the president arrives, those in attendance stand up, honoring the office and the individual. No matter how much our culture changes, the custom of standing to show respect is still proper and appropriate.

There was a time in the not so distant past when the U.S. flag passed in a parade, people on the sidelines -- all the people on the sidelines -- would stand and place their hands over their hearts. To rise as the flag passes was -- and is -- considered a sign of deep respect for this venerated national symbol and the country it represents.

Men, recent observations have indicated the practice of standing for the flag is becoming passé.

The flag is much more than just a powerful emblem of our country. It represents the hopes and dreams of all those who have fought for, bled for and died to protect it -- and our nation -- from all enemies. Their sacrifices are the blood-stained threads that hold the flag together -- flying high and proud.

So men, let's start standing up when honor is due. We can stand up for our lady; we can stand up for the judge, and we can stand up for our flag!

May she ever fly free!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The B-25

The North American B-25 Mitchell was a twin-engine, medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. It was used by many Allied Air Forces as well as many other air forces after the war ended. Remarkably, it saw service across four decades. The B-25 was named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. Armed with up to ten, 50-calibere machine guns and capable of dropping more than 3,000 pounds of bombs, the B-25 saw action in every World War II Theater.

This past weekend I was privileged to tour an original B-25. Standing next to the nose turret I could imagine the gunner and bombardier riding out front, exposed and alone as he took aim through his bomb site. I was able to stand on the ladder the pilot and co-pilot used to ascend to their seats. I looked into the bomb bay and marveled at the narrow space left along the fuselage for the tail gunner to crawl into position. I could imagine the roar of the engines and the explosive pops of the guns as they spit out their deadly fire. I touched the now silent machine guns and envisioned the explosive force the aircraft could deliver.

Then it struck me: these war machines were no better or worse than the men who manned them. It was their bravery and skill that made the B-25 such an awesome fighting craft. The young men who risked their lives every time they flew a mission were the real force of the plane.

So it is today. It is not about the armaments; it is about the heart of the men. Since the time of the B-25, man has developed weapons that can now inflict damage never before seen in history. But it is still the man behind the weapon that remains the most vital part.

Today, I am thankful for the men who flew and fought in the B-25.

I am also thankful for the men and women today who risk their lives in the daily fight that allows me to live in a land of freedom, which remains the envy of the world. They serve in police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and as first-responders to disasters. They are deployed in dangerous situations across oceans and continents far from home. They work on military bases throughout the world.

At home here in the United States, these men and women carry these traditions forward. They live lives of simple honesty and persistent courage -- faithfully raising their children, assisting their communities, and giving their best to their employers.

I pray we all may be found so willing to make this country the best that it can be.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What We Wear Can Make a Difference

Men, as you're probably aware by now, we typically take a backseat to women when it comes to how we look. For us comfort outweighs looking good. Broke-in shoes, well worn slacks and a mostly clean shirt suffice for all but the most formal of occasions. We judge other men on how they perform, not how they look, especially on the athletic field. The man wearing shorts and tennis shoes who can sink a twenty-foot putt is respected more than the dude who looks like he came out of a Nike catalogue and two-putts from six inches. Guys generally don't notice what other guys are wearing.

But sometimes what we wear is very important. For example, you wouldn't think of wearing only camouflage when walking in the woods during deer season; at the very least, a bright orange hat would be a good idea. Likewise, running at night would seem to make a chartreuse or neon-colored vest a sensible addition to one's attire, especially when hoofing it next to a highway. At a wedding, it's the suit and shirt and tie that make an impression; at a funeral, donning black is the standard outfit.

One wardrobe item we can all relate to is the cap we wear. We proclaim our loyalties on the front of our hats. From John Deere to NASCAR to B.A.S.S.to the Cubs, we wear them with pride. We wear foam rubber head cheese, hard hats with cup holders, and are passionate about the brands we sport.

As for me, I prefer logo shirts. Whenever I travel I try to wear a Men's NetWork shirt. This past weekend I was winding my way through a long security line at the airport. I took off my shoes, emptied my pockets and, with all my liquids in a Ziploc bag, was ready to pass through the magnetometer. There was no beep, and the TSA man waved me through. I was good to go -- or so I thought.

But then the TSA agent stopped me. Now I'm thinking the machine didn't beep, so what's the deal? I was smart enough to keep quiet and listen.

He asked me, "The Men's NetWork ... what is that about?" He pointed to the logo on my shirt.

I gave him a quick explanation. Then he smiled and said, "I like that. I will check it out. Have a great flight!"

Funny -- but just wearing a Men's NetWork shirt gave me the chance to share some Men's NetWork opportunities with this TSA agent.

And I think the guy behind me heard too.

So there you have it: sometimes what we wear does make a difference.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Mine for a Little While"

Every dad understands that one of life's biggest joys is when he holds his child for the first time. It is then when you look into the face of pure innocence, complete trust and love, and life is changed -- forever. You are holding the promise of the future, and the future is nothing but secure, knowing your child is in the world. Your mind fills with peace and the prospect of a lifetime of father-child activities, and then your little one lets forth with a mighty cry. You stand helpless, wondering how such a tiny human being can produce ear-splitting sounds, without the aid of an amplifier. With this baby's cry, you immediately seek to comfort, protect and quiet your child. Thus begins your life with your child. It will be filled with times of wonderment, as you walk that fine line between giving your child freedom, without losing control, so no harm befalls him or her.

One of the biggest trials of fatherhood is letting your child go. From your son's first day of kindergarten to the day your daughter gets married and then begins having her own children, each milestone brings a parting -- a bittersweet separation. Such separations are good and right, but they still leave a scar on the heart.

Difficult as the above events are in the lives of fathers, none is so devastating as the death of a child.

This past week I stood alongside a close friend as we celebrated his daughter's heavenly reunion. Being there I could only imagine his pain, his overwhelming hurt. We sat together and talked about many things and yet nothing in particular -- afraid a prolonged silence might sharpen the pain.

Many questions, too few answers, but one very important fact emerged: his daughter was at peace in heaven. He was comforted in a major way, knowing his daughter no longer faced her daily pain, no longer struggled with her cancer, no longer had to fight for life; she could literally rest in heavenly peace.

Men, I pray you never have to stand at the side of your child's grave but, if you do, I pray you know the comfort that your child rests in heaven.

Through the grief of losing his daughter, my friend summed up his situation in a powerful way: "I thank God she was mine for a little while. I thank God she is His forever."

Lutheran Hour Ministries offers resources for those who mourn: consider the Project Connect booklet, What Happens When I Die as well as others on this topic. You can check out the list at the Project Connect website. There's also a new Men's NetWork Bible study that addresses the end of life: Death ... Then What?.

These materials are free to those who need them. They offer words of encouragement and biblical insight when life deals its toughest blows. Both our topical booklets and Bible studies are excellent tools to share with those facing life-death issues.

Sometimes it's an opportune word from an unexpected source that can make all the difference.