Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Go Harry, It's Your Birthday, Go Harry...

Every morning, my wife wakes me up just before she leaves so that I don't oversleep. But I can't help but think she likes to wake me up because I get to sleep longer than her because she has to be on the job an hour before me. So about 6:30 every morning, I hear the sweet words, "I'm leaving." It is at this moment that I am roused to my feet by the loving, and deeply romantic, "Can you hold the dog?" When the fragrance of these words from my lover maranade my ears, I get up, give her a kiss goodbye, then I feed and restrain our 75 pound Retriever so that he doesn't knock her over, out of love of course...

After she leaves, I head back to the bedroom and turn on the TV. It's at this point in time when Will normally wakes up and we watch a show together. But not just any show... we watch a new kids show called Hip-Hop Harry. At first, I was intrigued by the name of the show. The words 'Hip' and 'Hop' conjure up tons of images in my mind. Everything from fashion shows to rabbits spring around inside of my head, but these are both wrong. This Hip-Hop is referring to the urban music/dance/culture that has sprung up around dancing and rap music in the past 20 years or so. For me, every time I hear "Hip-Hop" I immediately think of MC Hammer rapping "You can't touch this", shaking and gyrating his body, and all the while shuffling his feet side to side like a crab, before jumping up and down, spinning, stomping... well you get the point.

Anyway, Hip-Hop Harry is a fairly new show and it's actually pretty good. It teaches kids things like how to deal with each other's personalities, sharing, and also how to get along. My favorite part is when they sing a song called I love to learn and then have a little show and tell session with an "Expert" in some particular field. For example, one day they had a woman on the show from a zoo that taught the kids about birds. It was actually interesting and even I learned something! But then again, I know I'm not smarter than a 5th grader so big shock!

So, if you come across Hip-Hop Harry, watch it and don't be afraid to let your kids watch it. I warn you though: At one point they sing the "Do the Harry" song where all the kids get to show off their different dance moves. My little boy likes to dance along, but his favorite part is when they are singing the song and Harry says, "SOMEBODY SCREAM!!!" At that moment, my little boy lets out a blood-curdling scream that I'm sure could wake the dead. It used to scare me when I would hear it because I would normally be in the shower and come running through the house soaking wet, soap dripping to the floor, just to make sure he wasn't hurt. Other than that, I give Hip-Hop Harry a big thumbs up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

He Sucks the Life Out of Me...

I need your prayers... I REALLY need them with regards to a certain someone that I deal with on the job. Actually, I need to be in praying about this more and more because I am slowly being transformed into the guy at the right every time I lay eyes on this person. I've got a real problem and I'm afraid it's putting distance between myself and God.

About two years ago, I had a run in with this individual over something that had happened where we work. He came to me and asked where I stood with regard to a choice he had made regarding our place of work and benefits he felt were owed to him. What strained our relationship was the fact that when I am asked for my opinion, I give it. I don't hold back because my opinion is simply that: Mine. So I went on to tell this person that I didn't appreciate the fact that he had brought suit against the company that employs him, feeds his family, and pays him really well. I also told him that his entitlement attitude sucks and is a perfect snapshot of whats wrong with our part of the country. Obviously, he didn't want to hear this so since that day, our run-ins are a bit strained. But was I wrong? Was giving an opinion bad in this case?

I talked with someone I admire about this, and was shocked to hear that he feels the same way about this person. In fact, my friend told me, "Every time I see (that person) coming my way, I can feel the life being sucked out of me." I went on to tell him of our exchange and asked if he'd had a similar one. He told me no and went on to say that it's just because the guy is always on a soapbox about something, and 99% of the time, he's wrong about his facts, but he keeps going because he doesn't know any better or is not smart enough to realize it.

When I step back and look at this through human eyes, I'm kind of relieved that I am not the only person who has a hard time with this person. In fact, its comforting to know that someone I admire feels the same way, and with totally unrelated circumstances. That gives me some hope...

But when I look through spiritual eyes, I see that I have a serious heart problem that I must deal with and ask God to heal me. It's pretty obvious that even though this man is just one of those people that are hard to deal with, Jesus said to love them anyway. So my question is, "How do you love someone that sucks the life out of you?" Or even better, "What have I done wrong? All I did was give him my opinion." Those questions are where I need to start.
Obviously, those two questions are the usual line of defense/bull that most of us use to justify strained relationships with others. When we say things like, "I didn't do anything..." most likely, deep down in our heart, the Holy Spirit is probably prompting us to realize that yes we did. We may not have done something physically, but there is obviously something in the recesses of our minds that cleaves to the part of our selfish nature known as "The Grudge" that needs to be crucified. A grudge is a GINORMOUS toehold of the enemy that will breed bitterness in our hearts. Given the room to grow, grudges will grow in our hearts, smother out the good things of God, and distance us from His Holy communion.

That said, I've got some work to do. Actually, I've got some gardening to get busy on. Lots of digging, cutting, and replanting of new life...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gun Tube Humor...

"I tank, therefore I am"...

When I was in the Army, I was a crewman on an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. I got to drive, load, shoot, and command 60 tons of metal that is designed for one thing: destroying the enemy or anything else that gets in it's way.

I was looking through my pictures I snapped at Ft. Knox and came across this one from the Patton Museum. What you are looking at in this picture is the side view of an M1A1 Abrams' 120 millimeter gun tube and the words that some tanker lovingly stenciled onto it.

It is a military tradition to name your tank and stencil it onto the gun tube. However, many times this turns into some catchy slogan such as the one to the left, that proudly adorns this gun tube for all to see. In my time in the service I saw a little bit of everything painted on the tanks. My tank had "Iron Warrior" painted on it's gun tube (kinda generic). While others had things such as "Ragamuffin", "Deuces Wild", "Big Daddy", "Death Dealer", and a bunch of other names. Sadly, most of the names are much too obscene to write here.

In this particular instance, I find it extremely creative to use "Answer to This". Think about it this way: You are on a battle field, you look up, and there in front of you is this beast with it's main gun leveled at you, locked, cocked, and ready to rock 'n roll your world. What would you do? Running wouldn't work unless you can run faster than 55 mph. Hiding is out of the question because the Abrams has thermal sights that can see your body heat signature. Really, your only option would be to surrender, but the tankers I know would have already lit you up before you could have managed to think these options through. To put it lightly, you're screwed.

How many times do we feel this way in life? How many times do we get through one problem only to come face to face with an even bigger, more ominous one? The good news is that God is bigger than any problem you may have. And just like Paul wrote, His grace is sufficient for ANYTHING.

Although the Abrams is impressive, tough, and a beast of a battle machine, it is vulnerable and can be defeated. The tank is little match for fast moving aircraft that can fire missiles, bombs, and guns that will destroy it. So remember, next time you are faced with an M1 Abrams-Sized problem, don't think about your options to avoid the problem, just call for help. God is there and ready to send you all the close air support you may need by way of His grace. Always keep in mind that He hasn't brought you this far to leave you.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Excuse Me While I Whip This Out...

Today is Monday. More specifically, it's my lunch hour and I'm writing in my blog. Today, I'm a little sore, a tad tired, but happy to be plugging away at the daily grind. Now that I've written how I/Me/Myself feels, I've realized that it's time to focus and find what direction God is prompting me to go. I actually have no idea what the next few lines will be about but I realized a few minutes ago that I only have a short amount of time to whip out a blog post to satisfy my personal goal of writing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Maybe I should write about goals and schedules? What about not having enough time to do what I want to do? What about the latest book I'm reading? No, no, no.... I'm going to just write what He gives me. So, excuse me while I whip this out.

I played golf Saturday and Sunday, thus the soreness. But, it's a good kind of sore because I can truly say that I am obsessed with the game. So much so that if I were given the choice of playing a round or eating the finest steak dinner, I'd quickly tee up a Titleist and smack it down the fairway (and probably into the rough). But why this obsession? Is it the fact that I am a good golfer? Well I'm not. The reason I love golf is because that I am an average golfer with lots of room to improve. LOTS OF ROOM TO IMPROVE is what keeps me going to the range and hitting buckets of balls, putting in my living room each evening, and watching the golf channel late at night in hopes of finding the "Missing Link" in my swing. Golf is one game that you cannot reach a level where you have no room to improve. Even Tiger Woods takes lessons because he knows that to stay competitive and on top of his game, you have to be willing to learn.

How do we keep this same hunger to learn in our Christian lives? Or let me ask it this way: Given the choice between learning more about Jesus and how to share him, or eating the finest steak dinner, which would you choose? Sadly, I would probably be eating the steak, along with many, many other Christians that have been Christians long enough to think they know it all and there's not much else to learn. It seems like many of us grow stagnant in our faith, and tend to get stuck in a rut or what I like to call "Spiritually Dry". I've been there, and if you hang around long enough, you probably will too. A friend of mine told me that spiritual dryness is cyclical and unavoidable, but I don't agree. I have to believe that we grow complacent by human nature, but that the enemy is always there waiting for any opportunity to distract us and turn our eyes off God and onto other interests.

Today, I've got some really good news for anyone going through a dry spell:

YOU DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT GOD

You may find yourself bored with the Sunday message. Or, you may be tired of going to Sunday school and find it somewhat painful to sit through. But whatever it is, here's the diagnosis for spiritual dryness, from personal experience of course: The most oft heard words from a "Dry Person" are 'I'm just not getting fed spiritually'. I'm sure you've heard this said. Heck, I've said these words myself. But since I realized that there is always something new to learn, it has turned into a struggle with my own self allowing ME to learn/listen. I guess pride keeps us from admitting we don't know everything, while our own flesh puts on a false self to make us appear that we do.

So, get over yourself! Get out your Bible but don't open it until you've prayed for God to reveal something new to you. Then open it up and read for depth not for distance. I know I need to do this myself and as a matter of fact, I'm going to reach over and get my brand new Golfer's Bible while I still have a few minutes. I'll close for now so excuse me while I whip out the word of God.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Drumroll Please......

TAH DAH!!! It's official. Yesterday, Marci and I went to the Doctor and had it confirmed that yes, there is a baby "In the Oven". God's blessing us one more time with a child and I have to say that I am excited!


Yesterday, the Doctor told us the due date was March 5th but I asked him to schedule it for February 29th so that our child could be a leap-year baby. Is this weird? Will this mess up my kid? Do I only have to buy birthday presents once every four years? Oh well...
So, even though it's hard to tell what you are looking at, trust me, there is a baby with a head, arms, legs, and a little heartbeat being formed by His hand right now! How humbled, excited, and thankful I am...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I Cried. Then I Cried Some More...

11:30 PM Monday night, as my wife and son were asleep next to me, I cried. Not loud but soft as tears ran down my face. In fact, I cried myself to sleep. The tears came after I read the last sentence and closed the cover of the book 'Caddy for Life : The Bruce Edwards Story'. You're probably asking why I was crying over a book about golf. Well it's pretty simple: Bruce Edwards was Tom Watson's (my childhood golf hero) Caddy and this book is the story of his life and how he died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Although I was a huge Tom Watson fan, I have to be honest that I never knew the name of his caddy, let alone know that he died. I was out of golf for the past few years and Bruce wasn't diagnosed until 2003 and died in 2004. During that period of time, I had become a father, lost my job, lost my home, and finally launched into a new career in early 2004. So as you can imagine, golf was the last thing I was concerned with. It was a real surprise when my boss told me about this book and how I needed to read it. After completing it, I am glad I did and although it's full of heartbreak, it's also an incredible story about two men with a 'David and Jonathon' type friendship. Pick it up and read it if you can, it's a good break from the constant stream of Christian books I had been reading.

Can we read too many Christian books? Personally, I think we all need a break from time to time to clean our reading glasses, clear our mind, and return with a new set of eyes. About two years ago, I realized that all I had been reading and writing was Christian in nature. I actually started to feel some burnout and that scared me. At the behest of my wife, she suggested I take a break and read something for fun that is outside of the "Christian Ghetto". What would I read for fun? I had already read all the Bill Bryson books, so I turned to my two life-long loves: Baseball and the New York Yankees. As fate would have it, the next morning, there was a special on the Today Show about a new book about the life and death of Lou Gehrig called 'The Luckiest Man'. I was excited about the interview with the author, so that night I picked up a copy and didn't set it down for a month as I read, re-read and took in every word. When I finished it, I realized that it was fun to read a non-Christian book and it also made me more, MUCH MORE, aware of the horrible disease ALS that is forever linked to the Yankee legend. I have even done my own research about treatments and charities that support finding a cure.

As of today, there is no cure for ALS and if you are diagnosed, you are told that no matter what you do, you have 1 to 5 years to live. But it's not that you will be fine and then just drop over dead in that time period. Actually, you will slowly waste away and loose the ability to speak, walk, use the bathroom, swallow, and eventually stop breathing. And, everyone around will watch you slowly die.

My father in law died in a similar manner but his disease was called AMYLOIDOSIS. His dieses also kills the body slowly much like ALS. But instead of attacking nerves, amyloidosis is a blood disorder in which you cannot rid your system of proteins and your body has no other choice than to deposit them in organs such as the kidneys, heart, and brain until it smothers our their proper function. Like ALS, my father in law's disease was hard on the family because all of us watched him waste away little by little. There were a few glimmers of hope, but nothing that lasted more than a day or so.

In closing, this life is tough and you can count on one thing: You will die one day. I am being drawn to supporting research for finding a cure for ALS and Amyloidosis and plan to become more involved in charities for both. But I am always reminded that on that fateful day, be it a heart attack, an accident, or heaven forbid a terrible disease such as ALS or amyloidosis, when we die there is really only one thing that matters and that is your relationship with God. No amount of money, research, snake oil, or stuff can change the fact that you will "Meet Your Maker" one day and be judged. Have you accepted or rejected Him? This is THE question you must researh and have an answer to before you die...


Monday, August 6, 2007

Let's Have a Battle...

"The human race was saved from destruction today by a joint task force of warriors led by their commander Optimus Prime and assisted by the Power Rangers, Luke Skywalker, the Ninja Turtles, and several nameless green army men..."

Will's arm in a cast has forced Marci and I to alter our normal weekend plans. Our default weekend activities used to be centered around the pool we belong to, and my personal favorite, golf. Well, all that changed when I (ACCIDENTALLY) broke/dislocated Will's arm and it was placed in a cast. And speaking of that cast, it's big and red so I am reminded of what I did every time I look at him... So, this weekend, we spent the majority of our time indoors, but did venture out for Chuck E Cheese and Build a Bear Saturday (more guilty shopping). And followed by Church and lunch on Sunday.

So, what do you do to keep a four year old occupied and not bored all weekend? Easy, you have a battle. But not just any battle:

A full scale, non-conventional, all out free for all war, that will decide thefate of the entire human race and the galaxy for that matter!!!

In the past few weeks, Will has acquired a huge amount of toys. In fact, it's as if he's had some sort of mid-year Christmas type influx of everything from Transformers to little green army men. He usually played with his toys very selectively. What I mean is, he would play with only one group such as Transformers only, Power Rangers only, or Army Men only. Last week, however, I asked him, "Wanna' see how I used to play with my army guys when I was little?" That was the question that changed everything in his play habits, because I proceeded to show him how I would put all my toys together and then divide them into two forces of joint combat teams, then set them up, and fight it out to death, of course. I did however, leave out how I incorporated the use of firecrackers in my battles, but we'll save that for much, much later.

Isn't this a great snapshot of not only the warrior nature of our God, but also, the very fact that no matter how young you are, there is always a battle to be fought. But not just any battle... this battle is for our very soul and rages around us at all times with one common theme:
Good verses Evil
And, it's to the death. Although we cannot see this battle in real life, it's there and snapshots of it can be seen in news stories from war zones, public trials of murders, and every other evil thing not of God. The battle is real, dynamic, and deadly and I hope that I am not the first one to tell you that you are smack dab in the middle of it. The battle will end when we die or when Christ returns, but until that time, it's up to us to stay strong, courageous, and protect ourselves by putting on the full armor of God, DAILY.
Yesterday, Will and I had a battle of epic proportions in his room. He was the leader of the good guys, and his side was comprised of the green army men, the Autobot Transformers, four little dogs, two M1 Abrams, one Apache helicopter, Aslan from Narnia, the Power Rangers, and the Ninja Turtles. Obviously I got the shaft on this one because I was manned with the tan army men, four stormtroopers, Darth Vader and two planes. My objective was to take the good guy's castle, that was guarded by a dragon. Long story short, I lost, he won, and the world that is his room is restored because of the bravery of his warriors. But to come to think of it, isn't this how
the Book ends?

Friday, August 3, 2007

New Bibles...

I bought a new Bible. Not just any Bible, but 'The Golfers Bible'. Since I rediscovered my passion for the game and became obsessed with golf two years ago, I've been eyeing this Bible but would not purchase it, simply because of the work that's involved...

Did I say "WORK"?

Yes, sadly, I saw the act of buying a new version of His Holy Word as an extra amount of work that would be required of me. So I've resisted buying, even though I've had a burning desire to do so. This work that I'm talking about is transferring all of my notes I've taken over the past five years in my handy little pocket sized Bible. You see, I believe in jotting down thoughts, quotes, and message themes next to key verses. I also underline, highlight, and draw little figures on the pages in a sort of code language, short hand derivative that only I can understand. And as you can imagine, five years of this adds up to quite a few squiggly lines and strange characters.

But, when I was at the mall the other night, buying toys for Will (out of guilt over the broken arm ordeal), I came across one copy of the Golfers Bible in Borders. At that moment, I felt so prompted to buy it that I couldn't resist. I grabbed it from the bottom shelf and bought it. When I got home that night, I couldn't wait to see what made this Bible different from the others. I just knew that this Bible had to have some special quality or feature that would speak to me AND maybe even help my golf game too.

I opened the package and removed the bible. The first thing I noticed is the fact that it has a very nice leather shell with a flap to keep it closed. I guess this is to keep your bulletin from falling out as you walk down the fairways or practice on the chipping green. Next, I noticed that it's a different translation. I'm used to the NIV and this one is the Holman Christian Standard. SO, I turned to John 3:16 and made sure it was OK, and it was.

My lingering question was still, "What makes this a 'Golfers Bible'?" Is it the fact that it has a cool little logo of a golf ball and clubs on the front? Or maybe it's the fact that it has about ten or so devotions with great golf course pictures throughout the chapters? Maybe it's because it has a fill in the blank page titled "Golf Record" on the second page where most Bibles have 'Marriage/Birth/Death Records'. Really, none of this makes it a golf specific bible. Sure it has some golf related items in it, but you could easily glue some devotionals into the Bible you carry now and get the same effect.

What struck me was the fact that the Bible is for everyone. Whether you are a golfer, soccer player, sheep shearer, or underwater basket weaver, The Holy Bible is the Word of God and is His love letter to you. And no matter how it's packaged, it is specifically designed for you and is unchanging, infallible, and perfect. So no matter how you package it, it's still the Holy Word.

I really do like this Bible and I'm actually through Psalms in the transferring of my notes. The funny thing is, I've been thoroughly enjoying re-reading my notes, revisiting sermons I've heard in the past, and most of all getting into His Word and letting God show me a few things I may have forgotten/missed. Obviously, this was the reason He prompted me to buy this Bible. As you may remember, I wrote the other day about a need to get back into studying and this is a great way to do it. Thanks for making me study God.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Own Spiritual Cast...

Well, I feel like crap! Monday's visit to an Orthopedic Specialist gave us three options: Surgery and a cast, an MRI and a cast, or simply a cast to be removed in three weeks at the follow up visit. Obviously, we choose the last option. So, summer by the pool is out, golfing, baseball, pretty much anything that has to do with our favorite outdoor activities is a no-no until the end of August. Oh well, it could be worse.

Will's arm in a cast has made me think about rest and renewal spiritually. In the same way that his arm is set in place to be able to heal and avoid any further injury, we need seasons where we can be put into traction, so to speak, so that God can renew and heal us of our spiritual wounds. I know that lately I've seemed to develop a bit of distance between God and myself. I'm not angry at Him or anything, it's just that I've fallen away from my devotional life, and even worse, my prayer life is not where it needs to be. But, I've put a plan into motion to get back to where I need to be.

Just as Will's arm is in a cast for three weeks, I am placing myself in a sort of spiritual cast for the next three weeks. Someone suggested I fast, but I have decided to feast. But not upon food, chocolate, etc.... I'm going to feast on the Word, pray more spontaneously, and most of all, continue to work on keeping my spiritual eyes and ears open, ever listening and watching for God's Holy hand to show up. Prayers please.

It's a shame it took my son's broken arm to make me realize where I've been falling short lately. But, if the smile in the picture is any indication, he sure doesn't mind the cast. In fact, he's been showing it off to everyone he comes into contact with. The only bad thing is, when asked what happened, he is quick to tell them, "Dad broke my arm"...