Wednesday, May 12, 2010

If you've traveled our nation's highways or even the world's highways you've more than likely witnessed a Wall Drug sign somewhere along your journey. For most travelers Wall Drug is an experience explained best in the lyrics to the 70's song Buttercup by The Foundations.
Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup,
baby Just to let me down (let me down)
and mess me around...So build me up (build me up)
Buttercup, don't break my heart.
For most, Wall Drug is just that, a giant let down. For miles and miles across the barren prairie land of South Dakota, the signs have lured your attention and built your anticipation for what? A store filled with nicknack's and souvenirs. Who buys souvenirs anyway?
But for me, seeing the sign that I had arrived in Wall Drug country meant everything. It was like witnessing Spring's first buttercup, the little wild flower with yellow blooms.

I had driven my '66 GTO from western Black Hills of Dakota to the central Badlands for more than a photo of Mt. Rushmore made place mat.
I was anticipating Wall Drug because it meant that I only had 20 more miles until would get to see her again. She was more than a buttercup. She didn't build me up and let me down or break my heart. She was my future wife. She would become the mother of my children. She would become my soul mate. She was worth the wait, worth the drive, she was the Wall Drug and More!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The giant of a man barely managed to fit through the small doorway as he nodded and spoke, "Whas up?" He shimmied sideways and ducked his oversize head and waist simultaneously as he entered the cedar lined room where I had the temperature set on high. Having lived in SEC country for the past 10 years, my experience told me that the 340 pound specimen painted with colorful tattoos was somebody. I considered how anyone could knock a guy this big to the would be a great fall indeed.

After we jawed a bit about Donavan McNabb's trade possibilities and the crazed Philly fans, I discovered where to get the best Philly/cheese sandwich should I ever visit Pennsylvania. Now that we got NFL football and food out of the way the conversation shifted toward family. I was no longer as nervous in the presence of a zillionaire over twice my size, though he was gentle in spirit. He even addressed me as "sir"! He talked about his mom and her bravery in raising three boys with a combined weight of half a ton without a father in the home. He proudly spoke of caring for his mother now that he's big-time and the big ole house he bought for her out in West Little Rock.

"Whachoo do for a living?", he asked. I told him I was in the construction business, that I am a home builder. He asked what kind. I told him I was into both new construction and a lot of remodel work. I told him it matters what foundation you build on. He agreed and asked more questions. I told him that I'm a home builder in the spiritual sense and that everyone must choose wisely when considering the materials of their foundation. I became real gutsy and spoke about how the foolish man builds his house on the sand. (inside I was fearful that he might own a beachfront home somewhere and what if I just challenged his smarts, oh crap!)

Then he asked if I would consider mentoring he and his fiancé. He said they attended pre-marital counseling in Philly but they didn't like the counselor. I told him that I would be glad to meet with the two of them but that he needed to understand that I recommend only one type of construction material to use. With full confidence I shared with him that ONLY ONE foundation will work and that you must build on the rock of Jesus Christ. I recited Psalm 127:1, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.

I had his attention. He requested a business card. We shook hands. He said he would call me. It's been six weeks and I have never heard from him. I have prayed for him a couple times. Could it be that when you have zillions of dollars you're more likely to build your home like a foolish man? After all, you can afford any material you want but maybe you're somewhat blinded from choosing the best, I don't know. Jesus did say that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Matt.19:24)

Then Jesus spoke one his great parables...Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall. (Matt.25-27)

Could it be that the giant Eagle will think twice about what materials to build upon? I hope so. He has his childhood to remind him of how the winds blew and how their house fell. I pray God used me in some small way to turn his heart toward Jesus, the rock of our salvation. To learn more about this giant of a man go to:
Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saturday April 3rd, 2010 Apple's iPad went on sale across the country drawing long lines and crowds of frenzied people much like when the iPhone debuted in 2007. Many lined up outside stores waiting to get their hands on an iPad, staking out the middle ground between smart phones and laptop computers. Price starts at $499. Expected sales for first year may top 7.1 million globally according to ISupply Corp.

When I read about the frenzy and "need" for a person to get their hands on an iPad I am reminded of the Haitian fellow that visited a family in Texas for an entire summer. When it was time to go back to Haiti a member of the host family asked him if it was going to be difficult leaving America. The young man replied, "I am looking forward to going home. I've been distracted from loving my God during my time here. Americans have many distractions and idols that compete for time with the Lord. I need to go home."

In his book Soul Talk, Larry Crabb describes the story of a man who was extremely ill and while laying on his near death bed in the hospital he longed to be healthy and with his wife. He longed to be back in his business suit going off to work. He longed to be healthy like the people outside of his window sipping lattes at a local Starbucks. One night while suffering intense pain of the over sized cyst the man experienced the presence of God. He called it a miracle. In that moment he realized something very clear. All he really longed for was more of God. That life is all about knowing God. "It's all about him and me, him and you, and you and me in him". Knowing God is what we all want more than anything else. Our hearts are simply clouded by all the good gifts from God that we think we long for. What each of us really long for is more of Him.

I know that I long to touch God and sense his presence in my life on a daily basis. But I also know that my heart wants to stray and desires the next best gadget or the next best experience or the next best vacation. My ten year old car tells my heart each and everyday that it wants to be replaced and my mind gives way to occupying thoughts of the next contraption that simply gets me from point A to point B. If I really long for more of God, he promises to make himself new to me each day. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. Why does my heart long for what never satisfies? His mercies never come to an end. My gadgets always find their way to the recycle bin. His mercies are new every morning. The LORD is my portion says my soul therefore I will hope in him. I long to touch him daily therefore I desire an iTouch with the living God more than I long for an iPad.
Saturday, February 20, 2010

When a sports figure who possesses the most recognized face in the world gets caught up in adultery with not one mistress but as many as fourteen, it becomes everyone's business because we all endorsed him. We followed him, we bought the products he pushed, we cheered him on, he was an American Idol without Simon's critique. He was the first in his sport to prove that being ripped posts better results than toting a beer gut around for 18 holes. We wanted to emulate his swing, we wanted to copy his workout regimen, we wanted to learn his mental strength, his discipline. We wanted to be like him, until he let us down. Until he revealed he's a phony.

For the first time since Tiger's SUV sliced badly taking out a fire hydrant, the champion spoke. And following a 13 minute press speech to the entire world, the media began their comments, picking apart his every word. Every news and sports channel began the barage of questions to dissect not just his words but his intentions.

I think his followers have a right to know, but they're asking the wrong questions. They're asking if he really meant what he said. Was he sincere? Should he have cried? Was it a good tactic that his wife was not at his side during his speech? Will he make the Masters?

When news first broke that Tiger had committed adultery it was more than conversation around the drinking fountain at work. It was everywhere. You couldn't escape it.

Working in a marriage ministry as I do lends itself to using events like this for introspection and understanding and for lessons in how private sins eventually become public sins, and when they do the pain can be devastating. (More on that later) The questions the media is asking are the wrong questions.

Tiger said his intent is to work on "his issues" and work on being a better husband and father. He only mentioned golf twice and said he may come back in 2010 and he may not. That is not his focus right now and though I believe his fans deserved an apology, his fans should now move on and support him. And the media needs to give him space, but they won't.

While discussing Tiger after a game of pickup ball one day, one buddy said, "I don't understand why he did it, after all he has all the money in the world and is married to one of the most beautiful women on the planet". Dude, think about what you just said. My buddy should know better. His logic was saying that riches+beauty=marital harmony. How ludicrous yet his mind was not far off from what it is we pursue as a culture hoping to make A+B=C.

Truth be told, the answer most of us want is why did Tiger do it. Why did Tiger's marriage callapse. Why couldn't Tiger drop the winning stroke and come back from any marriage rough he got himself into? A friend close to the demands of professional golfers told me that when you consider Tiger's tournament schedule, commitments and endorsement demands, it conceivably might allow him 50-60 days at home per year. Think about that for a moment. In a given year, he spends 300 days on the road either practicing, competing, filming, traveling etc.

Let's consider any man with a wife and two small children who is gone more than 85% of the time. The conversation in the Woods home could be something like this: We have two children that need a daddy around, HELLO. How much money is enough, you said we have more than we could ever spend? When do the children and I get to be with you? When are you coming home? Can't you cut out some of those tournaments?

Back to why Tiger did it. Every marriage/family must be given a high priority or it will suffer consequences. When marriage vows are not given high priority the door is left open for sin to enter. Sin is where Tiger went wrong. Sin is where you and I go wrong. In Luke 12:1-3 Christ gives us a sober warning. "Watch yourselves carefully so you don't get contaminated with...phoniness. You can't keep your true self hidden forever; before long you'll be exposed. You can't hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can't whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day's coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town."(Msg)

The lesson here is that private sin is only temporary private sin. God said that he will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7) and that a man will reap what he sows. Marriage has God's sacred stamp on it. Reaping what we sow teaches that sin breeds sin, and hidden sin breeds more hidden sin. As hidden sin piles higher and higher it becomes impossible for the sinner to "manage". As the sin grows it accumulates to a degree that is not nearly as pleasant as the initial sin. The sinner finds himself in a place he never thought he could be as the pressure builds and explodes and he's suddenly exposed.

Why did Tiger do it? Sin. Did he have to go public with an apology? Yes. Scripture says Tiger's sin was already public. When he landed out of bounds his private sins immediately became public sins. The SUV was his exposure point. His sin upon sin took him more public and now the whispers are repeated all over the world. For the rest of us, we must watch ourselves very carefully so we're not a phony.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fiesta Bowl 2007 - Boise State vs. Oklahoma
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance –2 Thes 3:5

Did you see it? The Fiesta Bowl from the desert of Arizona on New Years Day? I do not hold a degree from BSU but I did attend the little school for two years in the late 70’s. Boise occupies a special place in my heart. It was on the campus of BSU that God placed some godly young men in my life to disciple me. It was on this campus that my spiritual molars were cut.
About the game: Some are saying it could be the greatest game in college football's 138-year history. This game offered fans so many stirring and stunning plot twists. It became a test of utter perseverance. Boise State goes for a two point conversion in overtime by calling a “trick play” (statue of liberty) to win it all. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than that, viewers were privileged to witness Boise’s star halfback (Ian Johnson) take a knee and propose to his girlfriend on national television. And she said yes! A fitting finish to a hard fought battle. Guy gets girl.
Now I have some thoughts for you. Ian Johnson seems like such a neat young man. So courageous, so gifted as an athlete and he plays with such heart and perseverance. I can’t help but to think of all the coaches that have poured into his life to prepare him for this level of play. And did you know he even knits little BSU beany caps? Ohhhhh, say all the girls.
Watching talented NCAA football players makes me realize the hours, days and years of commitment that go into training such athletes. Most major cities now have strong programs in their middle schools, youth leagues, and even stronger competitive programs at the high school level. These top college athletes are developed and trained in programs that have incredible facilities, great coaches, even mentors that push them, cheer em on and believe in them.
Back to Ian. He epitomizes the Bronco team. Undersized. Underdog. Undeserving, some would say. After all, the little school from Idaho was facing one of the giants of college football in Oklahoma. Bigger school, bigger program, bigger budget, bigger athletes. But at some point in their hearts and minds, Ian and his teammates believed they could win and set out to fight the odds. They came prepared and committed to giving it their best shot. Best of all, they had a game plan and executed that game plan to perfection. (if you missed it, you gotta get a tape of the game)
Do you think anyone has taken Ian by the shoulders to say, “Your’e going to need survival training for this future marriage”? Do you think anyone has told him that that there is an opponent (1 Peter 5:8) that doesn’t want his marriage to win? Do you think anyone has told Ian that commitment at its greatest level is required and that the odds are against him (more than half of marriages fail)? Do you think he or any young man for that matter can begin to win at marriage without a coach, someone to direct and mentor him into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance? It will take that and more to win at marriage and family. Do you think he and his future wife will have a game plan for marriage and execute that plan? Let’s hope he has a spiritual coach, then in the end the couple will have fought the good fight and won the battle. Man keeps woman. And God smiles.