Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Now I Know Why I Had to Come Here...

Did you ever think about how many stories of Jesus' ministry begin with phrases such as, 'While traveling', 'While passing through,' 'As He went', etc.? In fact, just about all of His "hands-on" ministry moments occurred while He was on the road from one point to another. I had never thought about this until my Pastor made it a point of our discussion earlier this evening. He expanded it by saying quite simply, we need to be ready at all times and be walking God's way. Because after all, we are on His time not ours.

This really struck a chord with me because the primary reason that I write this blog is to expand upon and ruminate over the little things that God teaches me in my daily walk with Him. But it's not like He communicates in a thunderous voice, because that would be too easy. I really have to believe that He is a God that likes to woo us and test us to see if we are paying attention to what He's doing around us. I do my darnedest to pick up on the soft whispers and quick glimpses of Him that I see though out my every day, (and some might even say boring) average-Joe kind of life.

Anyway, tonight's discussion of how ministry happens 'along the way' was kicked off by my telling a story about a divine appointment that I had a couple weeks ago.

It was the usual Thursday morning at work and I was just getting my day started, when my phone rang. I looked down at the caller Id and saw that it was my boss on the other end, so I quickly answered. He told me that there was photographer coming today because he wanted to take some pictures of our facility. I asked why, and he told me that this photographer travels the world taking pictures of plants like ours to be used in a book he's writing. Obviously, I was interested to meet another published author, but I had this strong desire to say no because I didn't want to give up my time for some person that had nothing to do with my workplace, or it's success. But, since my boss asked me to, I agreed to take him around our place and show him whatever he wanted to see for however long he needed to see it.

I met him a few minutes later and proceeded to give him the nickle tour. He was impressed with our site and took a few shots of our processes in motion. After we finished the tour, I asked him how he had gotten into this hobby. He told me that he was a dentist for twenty years and made enough money to pursue this hobby he was so passionate about. I went on to ask him where he lived and he told me he had recently moved so that he and his wife could help his brother start a Church (Now I was really interested).

Then, the big kicker came... I asked him where he was going when he left our site, and he told me he was on the way to the DC area for a congregational conference on Men's Ministry. He told me that his congregation was trying to develop and implement some new directions in their ministry to men and he was going there to learn and share ideas.

I told him that Men's Ministry is my passion and I help Churches develop their men's groups. I went on to tell him about my
book and the recent study group that I led. He was pretty shocked and his parting words to me were:

"Now I know why I had to come here"

Praise the Lord for divine appointments that happen 'Along the Way'. I think that my friend Herschel said it best when he said, "God set this meeting up eons ago". I pray that God will use this meeting for His glory. I also pray that I can continue walking along HIS WAY so that I can be IN THE WAY for many more meetings like this.

So, next time a meeting just springs up out of nowhere and you instantly dread it, or don't want to do it, Remember: The enemy hates any sort of unity between Christians that may strengthen the Kingdom. He will use everything in his power to discourage you from meeting with whomever God is sending your way. My advice today is that if it comes out of the blue, walk in it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

In With the Sin Crowd...

I've been hanging on to this photo that I snapped back in June, searching for a way to use it in a blog post. What you see here is a photo of how we deal with nuisance birds (in this case pigeons), where I work. Here you see a metal trap full of birds that were lured into it by bait, which in this case was cracked corn.

The process for trapping birds goes like this: You spread corn on the inside of the trap, birds fly over, see the corn, walk into the little doors that close behind them, eat the corn, and then are to dumb to figure a way out of the trap. And, since pigeons are very social animals, the more of them you have in a trap the better. In fact, other pigeons flying by will see a bunch of their buddies, not knowing they are in a trap, and fly down to join in on the food and fellowship. The problem is, their search for fellowship ends with them being caught the same way.

I originally took this photo to simply prove that the pigeon abatement project I was heading up was progressing. But when I downloaded the photo, I realized something peculiar:

If you look at the far left side of the photo, there is one single bird outside of the cage. He's looking in at the others as if he wants to join them but he can't find the entrance. Even though his friends are held captive and he has all the freedom in the world, he wants what they've got and trys his best to become a prisoner himself.

Later on in the same day that I snapped this picture, I made another visit to the trap. Although it had been about six hours, the same little guy was still pacing back and forth around the cage, trying to find a way in. I stood there and watched him as he tried to figure out where the door was and I couldn't help but wonder why he didn't just fly off and be free rather than enter captivity. And just then, he made it. He found the door and entered the trap where his friends were. I'm sure in his little pigeon mind he was elated to have finally joined up with those he had obviously envied enough to shed his freedom for life in a cage. But he did it! He got in to where there was food to eat, water to drink, shade, and like-minded pigeon friends to party with.

Can you draw a parallel between sin and pigeon traps. I know it may sound a little silly, but think about it: Sin tempts us, lures us in, promises the moon and stars, but always ends in destruction. Think about sins, secret sins such as adultery, pornography, gambling, etc... No one can commit these sins for very long until they end up hurting themselves or someone they love. The Bible is crystal clear when it teaches us that the wages of sin is death. Just like this little pigeon, he's tempted, enticed, and things sure look greener on the other side. But what is he giving up? He's saying hello to bondage and goodbye to FREEDOM!

The sad ending to this story is that when this little bird gave up all of his freedom and entered the trap, he sealed his fate. The birds are lured in, fed well, and kept in good company. But once a week, the exterminator shows up and destroys them one by one.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Spiritual Heritage of a Tattered Bible...


Most everybody I know writes in their Bibles. But, there are a select few that do not. Some feel that it is disrespectful to write in God's Word, and I completely understand and actually admire this level of reverence. But there are a few that take the verse in Revelation that says not to "Add or Detract", to mean they cannot write on the pages. I don't understand this line of thinking though. But however you feel about it, I want to tell you about what my friend Hal shared with me.

Hal told about how he had carried his particular Bible for 30 or so years. In that time, he never wrote in it's pages or marked up the scripture as in the picture to the left. When Hal became a Grandfather a few years ago, all that changed. He started thinking ahead to how one day, one of his grand kids would inherit his Bible. And, they will eventually hand it down to future generations, should the Lord tarry. Hal was concerned that his future generations would look at his pristine Bible and wonder if he ever even used it. So, he began taking notes, jotting down thoughts, and using the margins of it's pages to record what God taught him.

I never thought about how our personal Bible can be such a big part of our spiritual heritage that we pass on to our posterity. Although it is simply the Holy textbook that we used during our short time on earth, it is also a concrete symbol of our love of and devotion to God. But even more important than a book with messing handwriting and highlight stains, what we do with that love of God as we walk with Him is priceless. This is because the spiritual decisions we make during our short time on earth, will have an eternal affect every generation of our blood line. So, what heritage are you handing down?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Aim Small Miss Small...

"So all I have to do is hit the target?"

"Well... Yes... but there is more to it than that."

"What else is then?"

"You have to hit an exact place on the target."


"Just aim at a small spot, even smaller than the tip of the arrow, and do everything you can to land it there."

"But why such a small spot? I can hit that bulls eye from way back there."

"Bulls eye is too big. Think smaller. Aim small, miss small."

I had the pleasure of shooting a custom made longbow last night. I shot one years ago, so I kinda remembered the proper way to do it without hurting myself. But, when I say years ago,I'm talking 15+.

Our target was a white 3'x3' foam box with a bulls eye in the center and was placed about 30' away. I thought it looked like fun so I volunteered to go first, since none of the other 8 had stepped up. I took the bow, inserted the arrow, pulled back the string and let it fly. Of course, I missed the whole darn thing with the first shot. But I redeemed myself in my second attempt and hit the foam box with a resounding thud.

The difference between each shot was that in the first attempt, I just pointed the arrow at the white foam box and let it fly. But in the second shot, I aimed at a small white speck on the center or the red circle inside the middle black line, on the bulls eye that is located on the foam box. My aim had become more precise and limited to a smaller spot, and the results were much better.

I've been reading alot about golf lately. Not the hokey stuff and techniques that are guaranteed to take strokes off your game, but the real fundamental stuff that most folks miss when they tee it up. The most helpful thing to my game is visualizing the shot before you take it. I like to stand behind my ball and picture in my mind the ball flying through the air, landing on an exact spot and coming to rest at a precise location. By doing this, it gives me a plan of attack that is much more focused than simply aiming at the flag and swinging. Do I hit them all like I picture them? Not hardly. In fact, in a recent interview, Tiger Woods said that he will only hit 3 or 4 exactly like he pictured. So, it's OK to miss a little as long as your focus is true, your alignment is correct, and you see the bigger picture of what you want to do.

My Pastor shared with us how we need to use this same type of visualization when we take aim on our marriages, families, and especially when it comes being the Priest of our homes. We need to hone in on the small things that will strengthen our relationships and draw us closer to God. By aiming at and improving the small details, the larger things and future problems we're going to face will more easily fall into place, because of the foundation we've built.

Looking back, I should have used my golf technique for visualization when I took my first pull on the longbow. Luckily, I remembered to do just that prior to my second shot. I didn't hit the small white speck that I had envisioned, but I only missed small.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Home Alone and Listening...

Tonight.... I... Will.... Be.... Home... Alone! AHHHHHH!!!!

My wife and son have gone out of town to a conference and left me at home all by myself. Most men would probably jump for joy at this type of time off from the family. Some may even plan on doing nothing more than becoming a slug that moves from in front of the sweet, life-giving TV set long enough to pay he pizza guy. It's funny, but that doesn't even sound the least bit enticing to me.

Instead of resting and relaxing when my family is gone, I normally end up doing more work than normal. When they are away, I've found that time passes much quicker if I keep myself occupied and active. Over the next couple of days, in addition to my "Real Job", I plan to golf, catch up on laundry, work on a couple of home improvements, and do whatever else that I'm not thinking of right now that needs my attention. By my own estimates, come Friday evening when they come rolling in, I'll be exhausted but happy to see them, and hold them again.

Along with my selfish little projects, I'm looking forward to spending time alone with God. When the house is quiet and I'm alone I plan to pray, but even more, I plan to listen. I have this feeling that God wants me to hear something, but I don't know what it is yet. I would appreciate your prayers for safe travel and my covering during this time. Word of God speak...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dark Football

Yesterday was my lovely wife's birthday! Will and I took her out to eat and then over to her mom's for ice cream and cake. We were the first members of the family to arrive, so to occupy our time, Will and I went outside to play baseball. Well, it was actually a leather ball and an over sized plastic bat. I pitched, he hit, he pitched, I hit, and we worked up a sweat running the imaginary base paths. We played for probably an hour before the rest of the family arrived and we could get on with the birthday festivities. The ice cream flowed, the cake was cut, and the presents were opened. After all of this, there was one problem: Night had fallen on us and Will still wanted to play. I told him that it was too dark to play and he told me,

"No problem Dad, lets go out and play dark football."

"What is dark football?" I asked.

"You take the football, throw it and try to catch it in the dark. It's lot's of fun," He said in his four year old wisdom.

"How many times have you played dark football?" I had to ask.

"I haven't," He said, "I just invented it."

With that, we went outside and spent the bigger part of an hour throwing a football at each other in the dark. It may sound silly, but it was really fun because of the challenge it presented. The moonlight made it so that you could faintly see the other person, and you could even see them throw it, but it was too dark to properly judge the path and flight of the ball. You knew it was coming at you because you could catch a fleeting glimpse of it, but it was really hard to tell when it would hit you. Most of the time, the ball would hit you in the face, belly, or other more sensitive areas, before you could react (Thank goodness it was a Nerf Ball). With every throw, laughter ensued. Especially if the ball landed on your nose. This silly game of dark football turned out to be one of the more enjoyable games Will and I have played.

So, dark football and life have alot in common don't they? You can faintly see things coming at you. And, you can make your best guess at how they will turn out. But in the end, you catch some and the rest hit you in the nose. But in life, there aren't many Nerf balls. Sure, sometimes life is good but we usually take those times for granted. That is, until real-life slaps us in the face and we forget the high times and our focus is centered on the deep valley.

So, hows your game of night football? Maybe I should ask how your game of life is going? Before you answer it, I've got to tell how our game of night football ended:

As we stood there in the moonlight throwing a football and getting hit over and over, my wife's Aunt came out of the house. It was time for her to go home, so she made her way to her car that as parked near where we were playing. We said bye to her and she started the engine. When her headlights came on, we could see! Now we had a real night game under the lights. Our game in the dark was now transformed. We could now see the ball coming and catch it before it hit us. She actually sat there for about five minutes because she noticed how excited Will had become by playing under the lights. But soon enough she had to leave, and we went back to playing in the dark, getting hit in the nose, tripping over things, and laughing at each others foolishness...

"Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." (John 12:35-36)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Judas' Embrace...

The hearing began with an opening statement from the leadership that told why this meeting had been requested. Internal squabbles, gossip, and anger had been building for some time, and had finally come to a head on this cool evening. Most in attendance were angry and felt as though they had been betrayed by their leaders. Some were there simply because they were confused over the recent rumblings they had been hearing through the grapevine. The rest must have been there to show support for their leaders that now stood in judgement of men.

Grievances were aired that involved procedural technicalities that some saw as hindrances to them. A time of discussion took place, in which each side told their personal reason why they felt strongly about what was bugging them. And why they wanted change to come. Some even claimed that they, themself had advised against certain things but no one wanted to listen to them.

As the discussion wore on, whispers were heard and the level of angst in the room began to grow. Angst cascaded into personal attacks hurled at the leaders like fiery darts. This condemnation was comprised of many things, but the most common was: "I have no respect for you!" The anger of the aggrieved was so evident, so real, and so vile that the presence of evil was felt by the discerning few in attendance. Blow after blow was received, blood was spilled, and wounds, deep wounds, were created...

But after all of this agony was received, the person that it landed on humbly handed out apologies. A flaming arrow would strike but blessing would be returned. But were these apologies necessary? Should they have ever been issued? God's word tells us that we should ask forgiveness from others that we may have wronged, so that we may be forgiven, just as God forgives us. But what if these same folks are speaking nothing but condemnation? Forgive them anyway... gulp... so that your consciouses may be clear and you can stand blameless before the Lord. And do not repay evil with evil.

As the meeting was hastening toward a close, the leader of the aggrieved asked to speak. He was a large man, and when he took the floor, all eyes were on him. Most were unsure what he would say and some feared what he might physically do. As he stepped up, he placed his arm around the beaten down man's neck in a half-embrace. As his words began to flow through the air, everyone began to wonder how he would treat the man he had a hold of. His words were soft at first, but then began building to a passionate tone. He spoke of how he did not "Hate" the man he was holding, but how he had actually kissed him when he had last seen him. He then addressed the crowd by saying that he nor his group had done anything wrong. His list went on how he had done great things, and how they had prayed with others, and how they had helped people, and how they had worked hard to do God's work, and how they had tithed, and how they...they...they.

I'll stop right there for now. ..

What you have been reading is my own modern day take on how Satan can manipulate people to do his bidding. The setting here is a meeting in a Church and the people are the congregation and their Pastoral leadership. Obviously, this exchange has grown out of these folks personal and therefore fleshly desire for change. They have an idea of how they want things done in their own mind and they are unhappy with the status quo. So, they meet with the leadership. However, they've failed to realize that there is someone else in attendance that wants to change some things in the Church as well. His name is Satan and all he wants is division, condemnation, and to reclaim the ground he lost to Christ.

So, he whispers in ears and helps thoughts become vocalized into flaming arrows and darts that are aimed at the heart of their intended victim. And what better person to harm than a person called by God to lead His people? The words, "I Don't Respect You!" cut to the bare bone of any leader and cause wounds that may never heal and will leave horrible scars. Satan also thrives on "Self First" as best witnessed in the argument by the group leader how "HE" and "THEY" had done great things. And Satan loves a spirit of diminishment to enter the picture so that all will become discouraged.

I guess what I'm really wanting you, the reader, to take from this is that Satan is real. And, even if you are a Christian, he will try to use you however he can. He knows that a Christian person can cause much more harm than a non-Christian, and he is gunning for you. AND, he can go right inside of your Church too! So, armor up and be strong against him. Encourage your leadership for they are under constant bombardment. The enemy prowls like a roaring lion and he ONLY comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Believing an Author Over THE AUTHOR...

Since I was published last year, I've enjoyed hearing from my readers. Especially, those that have a problem with something I've written and have it felt necessary to point out where I am wrong and only they are right. 99% of the these disagreements have been over topics of doctrinal differences. But that's OK, because the arguments I've received are what I like to call "Church Stuff" and have nothing to do with the fact that Jesus was the son of God, died for our sins, arose, ascended, and will come back one day so it's up to us to tell everyone about Him. This is much more important than deciding between who's the most right: Wesley or Calvin.

When I wrote 'A Warrior Culture', I went to great lengths to craft it's message in such a way that it would be accepted across denominational lines. And by His grace and for the most part, it has. In fact, I've heard from Baptists, Methodists, Church of God, Pentecostal Holiness, and even Catholics that have enjoyed the book and have applied it to their lives. This is what has made the work I put into that project "WORTH IT"!

But today, I'm concerned about problems that could arise within Churches if a group of people buy into a particular author's works, writings, and interpretation of God and forsake the doctrinal teachings of the Church they are attending. Case in point:

I've read almost every book that John Eldredge has ever written. I love his style and I think he is one of the greatest spiritual motivators of men that is alive today. His ministry has helped thousands of men to realize they are in a battle, are called to be heroes, and their heart is essential to their survival. Some of his stuff is a little too hokey and poetic for me, but overall, I agree with about 80% of everything he teaches.

For this exercise, I'll use the fact that he condones drinking alcohol and teaches that there is nothing wrong with it as long as you do not become a drunk. Granted, this same type verse can be found in the new testament and can be easily defended/argued by both sides. However, many Churches have the abstinence of alcohol spelled out in their doctrine.

Lets say this group of men decide that it's time to go out and tell the rest of the Congregation that it's now OK to drink alcohol and the Church needs to get with the times and loosen up on the Doctrine. Remember, the doctrine of this Church clearly says, "No consumption of alcoholic beverage", but they go against the Church and refute it simply because of Eldredge's (an author) argument. In essence, this group thumbs their noses at the doctrine they have learned under for however long they've been in the Church.

Doctrines were created by men so that we can have order, structure, and a way to interpret the Gospel. Many doctrines sprang from a disagreement that escalated into a Church split, and then into the formation of a new denomination. Did you ever wonder why there are so many different Baptist Churches? If you said, "Doctrinal differences" then you are correct! But, trust me when I say that doctrine is essential, if we are going to conduct Church. Doctrine is more than just a bunch of rules and laws telling you what you can and can't believe. Doctrine gives the Church body boundaries and a common flag to rally around.

Getting back to my case, let's say that some member of this group are in Church leadership, and some are new to the faith. If some are covenant leaders, are they not violating covenants they made with God? And what of those new to the faith that witness this rift? It's scary to think about conflicts that occur and the train wreck that's left to clean up after new teaching and doctrine collide.

So what? If anything, I'm just trying to get the point across that not everything you read is going to line up with what your Church is built around. We have to discern what we read and allow the Spirit to speak to us. Or, to make it easy... when you come across something that throws up a flag about your Church's doctrine, get out the book and look it up. That book is the Bible and it is THE DOCTRINE.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Men's Vogue???

Today's "Daddy-Duty" involved taking Will to the dentist. I really don't like to take him... but I had to. I usually try to avoid taking him because he has an extreme fear of the "Sharp things they touch your teeth with". I can relate to him because I wouldn't want to lay on a table and let someone twice my size scratch around on my teeth either. But anyway, I took him, he cried... loudly at times, and then we went to the mall and bought a toy for his bravery.

In between the screams and crys that were pouring out of the exam room, I attempted to occupy my time by perusing the magazine selection in the lobby. I first grabbed the local society mag and scanned it, looking for people I know. After I set it back on the table, I noticed that the office staff had suddenly turned the Muzak up, obviously to drown out my child's screams. Or, maybe they were doing it for their own sake? I digress...

As I looked through the selection of magazines, I saw "Coastal Living", "Readers Digest", "Men's Vogue", and "Southern Living". Wait a minute... Men's Vogue? I'd heard of, and seen "Vogue" before, but had no idea that there was a male counterpart publication. I couldn't resist so with a chuckle and a grin, I picked it up and scanned through the pages.

The first thing I noticed was the fact that at least 70% of the magazine was devoted to advertisements for clothes, jewelery, and cologne. But, not the typical clothes/jewelry/cologne that I consider MANLY. There was nothing with the brand names Under Armor, LL Bean, Adidas, or even Brut by Faberge. All of the clothing was in the form of suits, or over stylish stuff by designers with odd names, worn by feminine looking male models. Most of the things I saw would probably get me beat up if I were to wear it in certain parts of my town. But, I really don't have anything to worry about because I probably can't afford, nor would I have any reason or event to purchase these clothes.

The remaining 30% of the magazine was comprised of articles. There was one piece about a particular presidential candidate, one on styles for the fall, and one about some writer I've never heard of. The most shocking thing to me was the fact that the only sports I found was a half page piece about the Red Sox. Granted, I'm a Yankees fan so anything Red Sox is avoided. But, I actually read the article about them because there was nothing else of substance that I could find in the mag to sink my teeth into.

After I had returned the magazine to the table, I couldn't help but wonder:

Who thought up the concept for this publication?

My humorous side was now stirred up, and I immediately pictured a bunch of overweight guys, bellied up to a bar somewhere, talking about how they wished they had way to find out the most recent runway fashions for men. And then I pictured a whole bunch guys discussing the finest dress socks in the dugout between innings of their softball game. Then I thought about how many men I personally know that would subscribe to a fashion magazine (I'm still at zero as I write this).

Anyway, I have to believe that there are only two groups of people that care enough about men's fashion to devote themselves to a project such as men's vogue: Women and homosexual males. Obviously, women and fashion magazines go hand in hand. But do hetero men really care? Sure, we want to look nice and maybe even appear somewhat fashionable. But a magazine about it? Today I'm at a loss and I can't see how a magazine like "Men's Vogue" can find enough male subscribers to keep the business afloat. But then again, maybe they rely on Doctor and Dentist Offices and the homosexual population to pay the bills. As for me, give me a Golf Digest for reading, and a new polo shirt every now and then and my fashion till is full.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Declining the 'Dad of the Year' Award...

I donny prater hereby decline any possibility of being nominated for 'Dad of the Year 2007.'

Throughout the annals of childhood fears, there is none much scarier than this little red-headed fellow to the right named CHUCKY. In the 'Childs Play' movies, he is a demon possessed Good Guy doll that comes to life and kills a whole bunch of people. I guess what makes him so scary is the fact that he is a little boy's favorite doll. But what is a doll to a child? My little boy has a nappy, dirty white rabbit he won in a 50 cent crane game at Shoney's two years ago that he considers highly exalted among his multitude of stuffed animals. I guess its because whenever he is sad, tired, hurt, or afraid, he can always count on Rabbit to be there for him. NOW, imagine Rabbit came to life through some Chucky type demon possession, and started killing everyone. Just the thought of that is enough to warp the psyche of my son and lay the groundwork for many years of future counseling.

A couple of weeks ago, Will and I were in the TV room and I was switching channels, trying to find something to put on as background noise while we played little green army men. I turned the channel and it landed on the F/X Network, and guess what was on... 'Bride of Chucky'. But more specifically, it was at the wedding scene and there was a close-up of Chucky's bride and her blood stained face. Worst of all, Will was standing there, mouth agape, looking at the screen. It was about five seconds until he ran through the house yelling, "Mommy! Daddy's scaring me and making me watch a movie about these dolls with blood on their faces". I quickly changed the channel, but the damage was already done.

Just then I heard, "Donny! Stop scaring him!".

I had some explaining to do... So, I slowly walked to the bedroom and told how it was an accident. Then I had to explain to Will how it was just a movie about a mean little doll named Chucky and that we will never watch it again. Will was OK with that so we went on to play little green army men, with Playhouse Disney as our backdrop.

BUT... Here's where I lose Dad of the Year- Later that evening, Will and I were playing hide n' go seek in the house. When it was my turn to hide, I ducked into a closet in the guest bedroom and waited on him to show up at the door. When I heard him enter the bedroom, I disguised my voice in the most sinister way possible and said:

"He, he, he... I'm Chucky!"

Obviously, this scared the snot out of my little boy, and he ran through the house crying and telling Marci what I had done. I got in trouble as usual and had some damage control to do with him... and her... because both were a bit angry with me. But why did I do this? I knew it would scare him, but I did it anyway. I also knew that it would upset my wife, but I did it in spite.

Today, I am pondering/praying Colossians 3:21

"Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged"

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Give, I Quit, I Surrender...

I hate to lose.... It's contrary to my personality and it really ticks me off. But, I also hate to win by an overwhelming margin. Weird huh? Anyway, I recently threw up my hands in surrender, submission, failure, or any other word you may be able to come up with that means "I give up". And, to beat it all, the root cause of my failure is the enemy! I fought him, but in the end, it was not worth prolonging the battle and possibly losing the entire war.

Here's the scoop: Back in April, I decided to start an online Christian golf community. I've always been a big fan of the online message boards where people can post a thought, question, or any other thing they desire and receive feedback from folks all over the world. So, I researched the web and found that there really was only one place where Christian golfers could do this, and it was buried deep in a very popular Christian forum website. So, I designed my site to be better and easier to use. The problem was, it was too easy to use.

After the first month, there were about ten or so guys on the message boards, chatting and sharing ideas. Some had really deep theological questions, while many others had bits of random silliness that we guys are best known for. I monitored the forums closely to make sure someone didn't post something that didn't have a place. I even made a new friend in Australia that helped me out with this.

By the end of June, he and I were starting to notice a lot of advertisements were being placed on the forum for pornography and drugs. By July, the problem had swelled to the rate of about ten per day. This was when I took control of all sign ups for the forums and made it so that everyone must be personally approved by me. I did this by reviewing each request for an account and personnally clicked the "Approve" button if they seemed legit.

By the middle of August, I was receiving anywhere from 50-100 requests per day! AND, not one person that requested an account was an honest to goodness person that wanted to share their faith and their handicap! This is when I decided that it was not worth it and I decided to pull the plug on the FORE God!!! website.

I would love to sit here and tell you that the main reason I had to pull the plug was because of a lack of time on my part to sift through each and every profile that was emailed to me. I would also like to sit here and blame it on money, because it does cost money to run a website. But neither of those are the real reason I had to pull the plug. The real reason that I killed the site was because of the temptation to look at the pornographic images that I faced day in, day out.

Everyday, I would receive my list of emails from new people requesting accounts on the website. I took each one of them as a good-faith effort to join a Christian community, and I would review their profile to see what they were all about. Most of the time, you could spot the bad ones because they would have links to various websites in their profile that their names alone, told me that they were either pornographic or drug related.

But it was the other ones that were the most dangerous. Many of the profiles seemed pretty much legit and I would go ahead and open the links they provided only to be slapped in the face with perverse images. At first, I would quickly close them and delete the profile. But the more of them I received, the more numb I became to what I was seeing. I'm not saying that I dwelled on these sites or anything like that, nor did I bookmark them for later viewing. The fact of the matter is, the numbness to these bits of sexual perversion was kiling me. It's a fact of human nature that the more numb you become to something, the more accepting you are to it. This is obvious by the way that America has seemed to accept the sin of abortion and homosexuality as just the way life is.... But the biggest problem I have is that whenever a pornographic image flashes in front of most men's eyes, it's somewhat permanently embedded into your mind. Even though you know it's wrong to look at and think about, it's there, somewhere, and trust me when I say, the enemy knows where it is and will use it the next chance he gets.

Although I gave up on my golf ministry, I have achieved a victory in my life through surrender. Who knows what would have happened had I kept "Checking Out" the profiles. Pornography is a slippery slope and it only leads to destruction.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Look! Up in the Sky!!!

Today's soccer match was disrupted by a UFO. Yes, I said U-F-O. It was such an overwhelming distraction that my entire team stopped playing, froze where they were, and one by one pointed and told me of the anomaly they saw.

"Coach Donny! LOOK!!!" one by one they all shouted and pointed.

I quickly looked behind me, and there in the sky it was! But what was it? Was it a bird? A Plane? Superman??? No... it was a single, red balloon. But this balloon was special. There must have been some kind of existential/supernatural attraction that drew the attention of my entire team, off the game and onto a single floating piece of rubber in the sky.

The problem with this "Siting", was the fact that while this episode was taking place, the opposing side dribble past my squad and was on their way to the goal. I quickly snapped to my team, "Great guys! Its a balloon! But this is a soccer match and you need to get going!" After this, they slowly took their eyes off the floating balloon and went back to playing soccer.

As the match went on, I was actually a little aggravated by the entire episode. I even thought to myself, "I can't believe that they are more concerned with some stupid balloon than the match they are playing in." That's when the Holy Spirit checked me by telling me that I had lost site of what this team/league/sport is all about:

It's just a game and these are 3 and 4 year olds!

After that swift kick in the behind, I went back to coaching with a different approach that involves fun and not winning. Like most other red-blooded American males, I have a strong drive to win. So much so that sometimes I forget about the little things like making sure everyone plays an equal amount of time, gets treated the same, and most of all that everyone has fun. I try to keep these in check, but at the time this balloon went flying by, I was extremely wrapped up in the match, and was wanting nothing more than my team to score a goal (even though this league does not keep score).

So, today I'm thankful that someone released a red balloon into the sky at just the right time. Maybe someone accidentally let go of the string, or maybe it was done on purpose. Actually, I know it was done on purpose through Him and was meant for me. Thanks Daddy...

Friday, September 7, 2007

If Time and Money Were No Object...

At Promise Keepers in 2004, I sat through an interesting session about doing what God wrote on your heart. I can't remember the guys name, but it really doesn't matter because I remember what he told us. He had everyone take out a sheet of paper and write the words, "If time and money were no object, what would you be doing." In other words, he gave us a blank check to search our hearts for what we wanted to do with our lives. Best of all, the sky's the limit.

I remember that time so vividly that I can even describe what shirt I was wearing, where I was sitting, and who was with me. I remember with precise detail, the three words only three words), that I jotted down. Whats funny about this is that I should have been able to write a novel about the many different careers I'd love to have. You see, at that time, I was recently laid off from my job, had lost my home, and my wife and I were raising a 6 month old boy. As you can see, it was a pretty difficult time for me and my family, and all I wanted was a job that would allow me to get us back on our feet. But, what I wrote down will surprise you. I simply wrote down:

Baseball Bat Maker

"A What?" you may ask. Let me explain all of this.... At that precise moment in time, I wanted nothing more than to own a business where I personally turned wooden blanks on a lathe, into finely crafted pieces of home run hitting power. I had been turning bats in my basement (when I had one) for about a year and I just knew that my bats were destined for the playing fields and ballparks of America. Heck, if Sam Holman of the company Sambat could build a bat making empire, then why couldn't I? I had a logo, all the equipment, the skill to make bats, and tons of desire. The only problem was, I didn't have the money support my family, and all the other things that come along with that. So, as with most dreams, I finally got a job, quit making bats for lack of time, and moved on to the next hobby.

One year later, same question asked by another guy at Promise Keepers, this time in Nashville. By this time, my child was almost two, had a great job, a home, and a Golden Retriever. Financially better off and ever growing in God's word. My answer to the question this time:

Wooden Boat Builder

"HUH???" You may say... This time, I had become obsessed with sail boats. I had always wanted one and decided that I was going to build one from scratch. I read every book, bought plans, and experimented with the different techniques. The problem was that I did not have the time, nor the space to build what I wanted (a 20' Sloop). So, I soon scrapped that idea and moved on.

The next year (2006) in Louisville, same question, new answer:


At this point in time, I had just been published and knew that writing is one thing that God wrote on my heart. I love to write, but it is another such activity that doesn't quite "pay the bills" so to speak. But, who knows what God has in store. I hope to write more books, but recently, work has taken the bulk of my time (as usual), and my blog is all that is keeping my creative writing juices flowing.

I missed PK this year, so I didn't get to do this little exercise. I wonder what I would have written this time? With my rekindled obsession with golf, I wonder... Oh well, I'll stick to writing, and still dream of playing baseball on my sailboat...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Choosing Sides...

I was a big man on the playground back in Elementary School. My game was kickball, and I was an ace at kicking the long ball and scoring lots of runs for the team. It was because of my "long foot" that I was always picked quickly when we chose sides for a game. But that was in kickball, if it were any other sport, I would be among that last few chosen. But it was OK, because I knew I was destined for greatness if the PKA (Professional Kickball Assoc.) were ever developed.

When I think back to those days of choosing sides for a child's game on the playground, I am reminded how similar divisions between adults can be. For instance, when an event such as a divorce occurs, everyone lines up and joins either "Her" team or "His" team. Instead of him and her choosing sides, the teams are drawn simply out of loyalty. Sometimes, coercion plays a part, but most of the time, it is simply out of friendship.

The game begins when the first pitch is hurled in the form of the story. The story is simply what each person views as their reason for their rift with the other person. The big problem with the story is that there really is two sides to every story. That said, it's impossible to see the big picture without knowing EVERY intricate detail of both side's story. This is the conundrum that makes it impossible for both sides to agree with each other. So, the game/battle begins and is hurled into a state of perpetual motion that is hard, if not impossible to slow down.

Along the way, feelings are hurt, insults are hurled, and assumptions are made that cause the rift to widen and deepen. But this rift has become something much more than a personal, him to her problem: It turns into a "His Group" versus "Her Group" war. When this happens, the battle lines are drawn and there is no unity, only division.

I've seen this scenario played out time and time again in everything from divorces to political debates, and last but not least in Church squabbles. When we become so engrossed in a split that we chose sides and shun the other group, we have played into the enemy's hand and done his bidding. I'm sure Satan licks his chops and jumps for joy when those claiming to be children of the King turn a disagreement into bitterness and allow it to take hold of them and grow into their hearts. Is it out of pride that we cling to a root? Sadly, the answer is "Yes". But to make matters worse, when we allow pride to control how we relate with another person, we are allowing Satan to control us because "Pride" is his number one device and is not of God.

So, if you find yourself choosing sides in a petty little squabble among brothers, take it to the Lord first before you jump in and enlist in one side's army. Pray it through, discern the spirits, and most of all communicate not only with God but with those that are spewing forth the rhetoric you're hearing. Pray in the Spirit and remember that all of us are in a war with the real enemy Satan. When we join battles against each other, he wins...