Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Distracted Driving

With the coming of cell phones much has been written and discussed about distracted driving. Most of us have had the experience of the car next to us drifting into our lane, causing us to honk, brake, swerve and comment sharply on the driver's erratic moves, only to discover he or she was looking down at a cell phone -- presumably texting. This would be classified as distracted driving.

We have also likely witnessed the driver in front of us engaged in an animated conversation on the phone, gesticulating passionately about the call. Soon the car seems to be following the gestures: weaving, bobbing and faking like an NBA guard. This weaving, however, may have more disastrous consequences than anything in the NBA. This too would be classified as distracted driving.

As most parents can attest, distracted driving isn't always due to texting or a phone call; it can result from some altercation involving siblings. One of the more common squabbles involves personal space and the other sibling's invasion of it. Most of the time the dispute ends with an ear-splitting, high-decibel screaming of the word, "Daaaaad!"

This sudden noise will make all but the most hardened road warriors jolt. With that jolt the vehicle often makes a sudden swerve out of its traffic lane. This, too, qualifies as distracted driving.

Not long ago I experienced a different kind of distracted driving. I was on a long road trip and purchased an audio book to listen to for the drive. I was so engrossed in the book I failed to notice my gas gauge. When I finally did I pulled into the nearest gas station and put 11.49 gallons into a tank that holds 11.5. That was distracted driving.

Men, we all know what it's like to witness others who are driving while distracted, but we must confess we have often driven that way ourselves. We prove that it isn't always possible to give our full attention to two tasks at one time.

Thus I am advocating we give our full attention to the most important tasks at hand, especially those that involve our family.

When the woman in our life desires a conversation, it's not enough to mute the TV. Instead, we need to turn it off and give her our complete -- and undivided -- attention.

When our child asks for help with homework, we need to detach ourselves from our preoccupations and give him or her our full consideration.

I know first-hand how hard it is to give one's full concentration to two different tasks. Let's show the people who are most important to us how much we value them as we give them our full attention.

Your focus on the ones you journey with makes the road you travel that much smoother. Take it from one who knows.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Love You

There's an old joke about a wife who complained to her husband of 35 years that he never tells her he loves her. He replied that he told her he loved her the day they were married and if it ever changes, he'll let her know.

Thankfully, men today don't have quite the issues telling those he loves that he loves them -- but do you go beyond the words?

In other words, how do you show your love for others by your actions?

My wife grew up not receiving many gifts; her family had lots of children and little resources, so presents were a rare thing in her growing-up years. Today I tell her I love her, and show her by giving her a gift. Now lest one get the impression it is about the presents, gifts for her can range from a bar of soap from the hotel I stayed in to a fairly expensive piece of jewelry. For her the gift isn't measured by the amount of money, but by the fact I thought of her and went out of my way to give her a gift tailored to her tastes. For example, there's a bar of soap from one hotel chain that's always a winner, while soap from another wouldn't be quite the hit.

There are some people who really don't care about gifts, no matter what the cost. For them the best way to say "I love you" is to spend time with them. A day, a weekend, a week, the more time spent the better. They enjoy the company of the other person -- so much so that they want to be with them. If you are married to a person who values time together, it may seem as if they are smothering you, but all they are saying is "I want to be with you because I love you."

The best way someone can show their live to me is through touch. I value holding hands with my wife, hugging my children, and getting a good pat on the back from my friends. (Okay, sometimes I enjoy a "man hug" from my best buddy.) My dad and mom often showed their love for one another by holding hands, sometimes even in church. That was imprinted on me as a way to show a spouse she was loved.

For children love can be expressed through actions involving trust -- like my dad saying he loved me as he gave me the keys to the family car for the evening. He trusted me to be safe, treat the car with care, and bring it back with gas in the tank. His trust was something I never wanted to lose.

There are numerous ways to show others your love for them without actually saying it.

How do you show, "I love you"?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What Would You Not Do?

Not too long ago a little girl who is very near and dear to my heart whispered to me what she really, really wanted for her birthday: "a pair of blue binoculars with white snowflakes on them. I don't want a toy one; I want a really real one that I can use to see things far away. I want to see princes and caribou and snow monsters far away from me."

Being very much in love with this little girl I set out on a quest to find "really real," blue binoculars with white snowflakes on them.

Needless to say, there are not many choices for such items. So I did what any guy would do when faced with a challenge: I improvised.

An inexpensive pair of black binoculars, some blue paint, and a sticker book, along with hours of detailing were all that were needed to fulfill this precious girl's wish. That's what guys do.

I can't think of much I wouldn't do for those I love and those who love me.

I have been known to give up watching football to sit for hours and hours at a dance recital -- just to glimpse three minutes of a little angel dressed in pink gauze flit across the stage.

I have given up working in the yard to sit in a crowded schoolroom to witness a nervous boy take his turn spelling words in the classroom spelling bee.

I have forfeited a night out with the boys to take my wife to the latest must-see (hers, not mine) romantic comedy. (I must confess the lack of car chases put me on the nods, and the only "body count" was how many women's hearts the male lead had broken.)

But, of course, these examples pale against a display of the truest kind of love.

It may have been in a Sunday school class or a Bible study where we first encountered this love. It may have been grasped in a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend or through the inspired teaching of a godly man. Then again, it may have taken all these connections and more for God's love to break through.

But when He did, we knew there wasn't a thing He would not do for us.

Confirming this fact once more will be the victorious words you'll hear this coming Easter Sunday in church. As you celebrate this awesome day, take time to reflect on the Resurrection story; it's a story about new beginnings for each of us.

A blessed Easter to you from the Men's NetWork!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

So What?

Over the years I have become fairly cynical about what I read, watch and hear. I do not believe there is such a thing as "unbiased" media. In today's world most media conveys a specific point of view, agenda, or call to action. The same "news" story reported on five different channels will offer five different conclusions. Corporations and governments alike employ a cadre of media specialists to provide "spin," so their point of view is portrayed as fact.

Over the years I have looked for the "So what?" in what I hear, see or read, especially in the media.

I define the "So what?" as an action or attitude that the author wishes me to adopt.

For example, when watching a car commercial, the "So what?" is that I be moved to purchase that vehicle. Those "So whats?" are easy to spot.

When I watch a movie or TV show, the "So what?" may be a little harder to find, but it's still there. For example, any TV show that involves "ordinary" people singing, dancing or performing has the "So what?" that each of us are talented, capable and have an opportunity to win millions of dollars.

Ads promoting the lottery offer the "So what?" that you will be a hero to school kids as you spend your money on the lottery, which funds education. Some of these ads leave me feeling as if I am a terrible person who hates kids if I don't plunk down my dollars for them -- at least once in a while.

Now some of you may be saying to yourself, "So what?"

The "So what?" I want you to think about is to become a critical consumer of media. Too often we accept everything we hear or read without thinking objectively about it. We buy into the adage that "If it's on the Internet, on the national news, or in the newspaper, then it must be true ... at least mostly." This also applies to hearing it from "live" sources as when we wholesale accept something because we heard it from a friend or family member. Suffice it to say, critical thinking should accompany us wherever we go.

As for me, I read the fine print, look for the angles, and will not send money to Africa because someone died and named me in his will.

This whole critical-thinking thing is something worthwhile to pass along to the next generation too. The world's awash in hyperbole and trivial nonsense, and it's targeted (as it has been for years) at the very young as well. For impressionable, young minds the world is full of choices like never before. Some are of value; many are not, and it's a huge help if by our input and experience we can help them see the difference.

As any guy knows, one priceless benefit that comes with age are the lessons gained from our hard-won experience. But let's not let these life-changing gems remain with us. Be sure to pass them on when you get a chance, but do so tactfully, in small, steady doses. As we all know, it's good medicine for those who hear it, but for some it may be hard to swallow.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Archery Contest

The other day I was with 30 guys at a day-long seminar dedicated to giving men info, tips and inspiration on being a strong male influence in the lives of those around them: family, friends, peers, co-workers, neighbors, and the like. The speaker challenged us to be spiritual fathers, to find a band of brothers, and to love the church. He showed video clips, used humor, and challenged us to do one thing different the next day, based on the teachings we heard.

Now all of that was well and good but, for me the best learning occurred during the archery contest. We all went to a large building that had an indoor archery range set up with five targets at one end and a rack of compound bows and quivers of arrows at the other.

We divided into teams and each man had the opportunity to hear some instruction and then draw back and let fly with some "practice" arrows. It was fun being the "arrow spotter" (no, not catcher) and then tell the shooter where on the target his arrow hit. This would allow him to adjust his stance, grip, sight, and zero in on the bull's eye.

Most of the spotters had an easy time as we called out, "Hit the floor, 20 feet short!" "Missed target, 15 feet high!" And then there was my favorite: "I never saw anyone hit the ceiling before!"

Once we practiced, we began our competition in earnest. Each man's competitive spirit kicked in, and out of the 31 guys shooting arrows I placed in the top five. Well, I was fifth.

The two hours we spent shooting arrows bonded us together. Those who weren't shooting made fun of those who were; those who did shoot took pride in how they competed but, more importantly, we were able to talk to each other about issues, as we stood and watched the arrows fly.

We talked about careers, kids, sports, money, politics and, most of all, our faith. We talked about how we can be a better man in today's world through the camaraderie we experienced as a special band of brothers. One man put it this way: "We may not be the best, but we are a merry band of brothers."

I think for me the best takeaway from this event was that a little, friendly competition may be just the ticket to cross generational and occupational lines and to bond with some brothers who will "have your back."

Now I may not be in a bow-and-arrow fight anytime soon, but when it comes to somebody having my back, I'm going for the guy who put the arrow in the bull (bull's eye) -- three times!