Champion!

What is a champion?  How do we as a society define a champion and more importantly what do we expect from them once anointed?  Are champions more than highly successful athletes or are they something more? Should they be more?

Is the “Number 1” plate, or the Sprint Cup Trophy, or the Lombardi Trophy, the only thing that is important, “Just win baby, just win”?

A recent “A Football Life,” on the NFL Network focused on the life and career of former San Diego Charger running back and future NFL Hall of Fame member, LaDainian Tomlinson, a man that never played in the super bowl!  LT broke all kinds of NFL records, was the catalyst for bringing back a winning tradition to the Chargers, played in numerous playoff games, but always came up short.  Is he a champion?

The documentary portrayed a childhood plagued with poverty, the challenges of a detached and broken father, the struggles just to play football, and the miracles that eventually propelled LT to the heights of NFL fame and success.  It told the story of his families struggles and how once he was successful, how he gave back to that family and to the community.  It covered the tragedy of his first child being still-born and how once they had a successful pregnancy how he demanded to be with his wife and new child instead of with the team.  This film painted a picture of a gifted man that is more than a Hall of Fame football player, he is a man of integrity, he is responsible and he loves God and his family – he is a real man, he is a champion in my mind!

Over my life of 66 years I’ve heard people ask, “What famous person or persons would you most like to spend some time with?” For many of those years I had identified two men, the late Paul Newman and Sir Paul McCartney.  My thinking was based on information presented to me through the media not anything I truly knew about them.  I knew that both had long marriages and I wanted to know how they accomplished that while being famous and living the lives of world-class entertainers.  With Paul Newman his love of auto racing , my life long passion, put him at the top of the list.

Then I learned who these men really are and I felt betrayed. Not by them, they were and are who they are, I was disappointed in myself for not learning more before I placed them on pedestals, before making them my heroes.  These men were and are successful in their respective fields but in my book they are not men I want my grandsons to look up to, they are not champions!

This brings me to this night before the Geico 500 at Talladega.

Mr. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the unfortunate events of the past two weeks have placed you in a difficult and stressful situation for this final race of the Contender Round.  As with Mr. Newman and Mr. McCartney I don’t know you, all I know is what I see on TV or hear on the radio.  I own that my opinion about you is based solely on what the media chooses to present.  That being said, what I see, what I hear from you directly and from others, is that you are an authentic, intelligent, caring, responsible man of integrity who also has been blessed with extraordinary talents in a race car. When I listen to your interviews, especially with Marty Smith of ESPN (Another man I admire from afar), I’m struck by the passion, authenticity, and vulnerability you display.  No politically correct responses, no canned answers, you appear to always be speaking the truth.  I truly enjoy listening to the “Dale Jr Download” on Dirty Mo Radio each week because you are so real and open.  I listen to your sister on her radio show, especially when you girlfriend Amy is on and I get the sense that you are a man that cares about people, especially family.

Thank you for being who you are and regardless of what happens at Talladega Sunday or the rest of the Chase this year, or the series next year, you are a CHAMPION!

You are a champion because I’m certain you will handle the events as they unfold with dignity and honesty.  But more importantly I consider you a champion because of who you are as a man, a man that one day, God willing, will raise a child of your own to be all that they can be.  A man that that child will look to and want to be like.  A child that will learn to tell the truth, own up to their mistakes, and to walk proudly in faith and authenticity.

Good luck and God bless you.

The Measure of a Man

Is this a real man?It felt colder than normal that morning as I sat in a circle of inmates inside the Chapel of the maximum security prison.  I was the only “free” man in the group and the emotional flow of the discussion added to the chill that was penetrating my bones.  Myself and six or seven inmates sat in a circle on rickety chairs around a tattered rug with a small wood stump supporting a flickering candle in the middle.  The chapel was a large concrete block space, maybe thirty feet wide, fifty feet and with a ceiling approximately twenty-five feet above the cold hard floor.  The main fluorescent lights were off and the secondary incandescent lighting was dimmed to create a somber yet reverent atmosphere.

It had been serval months, over nine in fact, since we had last gathered.  The result of an “incident” on the yard that ended with several injuries and the inmates “locked down” in their cells – no program, no group time.  This was our first time meeting since the “lock down” and the chill in the air was the grief that each was feeling and expressing about a friend who had been murdered during the time of the “lock down.”  This friend, an inmate had been in our group for many years before being relocated to another Yard at the prison where he was brutally killed by his cell mate.  This first circle back was our first opportunity to share our grief and to honor the spirit of this man who had touched each of us in a special way.

An inmate had a picture of our dead friend and he placed it with honor on a heavy wooden chair that we used as an “alter” in the circle.  This chair was never sat in by members of the group and was placed at the head of the circle as a place of honor for the founders of the work we were carrying on.  We took turns expressing our anger and the grief we each felt for the loss of a dear friend and we shared stories about the man to honor the impact he had on our lives.  A touching and cathartic experience for us all.

What troubles me now as I write this is the selfish feelings I experienced that day.  I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of  appreciation for this fallen brother and the respect that each of the men had for him.  My predominate thought, “Will people miss me like this when I’m gone from this life? Will they gather to tell the stories of how I have affected their lives?”  The selfish pain I was feeling underneath the grief for the dead inmate was that the answer to these questions is, “No.”

My wife will often kid me by saying that “people are always talking about me behind my back.”  Her intent is to good-naturedly tell me that I matter to her and her children.  This has been the core of my inner personal work for the past 22-years but it’s not the point of this blog.  The point is, “What is the Measure of Man?”  This is the question that stuck with me after dealing with those feelings, emotions that morning inside the prison

With this question tugging at my soul the week after that circle inside the prison I came across a book that just so happened to be titled, “The Measure of A Man.”  Go figure.  The full title is “The Measure of a Man, Men Mentoring Me,” by Gene A. Getz.

Pastor Getz presently serves as Senior Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church North, located in Plano, Texas and his ministry career has involved a variety of experiences including Christian education and music ministries, college and seminary teaching. He has also authored over 40 books mostly focused on what it takes to lead a Godly life.

“The Measure of a Man” is an excellent read but it’s true value is if the reader uses the text as a basis for a men’s study group.  The book uses the values presented by the Apostle Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ) and Titus (Titus 1:5-10) that Paul believed to be necessary for godly men.  Dr. Getz explores each of these values and provides an outline for further group exploration and discussion that if followed will help men to clarify what it really means to be a man.

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.  2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher,  3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.  4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way—  5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?  6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. 1 Timothy NRSV

I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you:  6 someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious.  7 For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain;  8 but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.  9 He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. Titus 1: 5-10 NRSV

Dr. Getz has distilled Paul’s letters into the following 20 attribute of a man and then challenges his readers to evaluate themselves in each area. Talk about convicting!

  1. Spiritual maturity (a well rounded man)
  2. Above reproach (a man of good repute)
  3. Husband of one wife (Morally pure)
  4. Temperate (balanced in words and actions)
  5. Prudent (wise and humble)
  6. Respectable (good role model)
  7. Hospitable (unselfish and generous)
  8. Able to teach (communicates sensitively in a non-threatening and non-defensive manner)
  9. Not addicted to wine (not addicted to substances)
  10. Not self-willed (not self-centered and controlling)
  11. Not quick-tempered (void of anger that becomes sinful)
  12. Not pugnacious (Not abusive)
  13. Gentle (sensitive, loving and kind)
  14. Peaceable (non-argumentative and non-divisive)
  15. Free from the love of money (non-materialistic)
  16. Manages his own household well (a good husband and father)
  17. Loving what is good (pursues godly activities)
  18. Just (wise, discerning, non-prejudiced and fair)
  19. Devout (holy, devoted to God)
  20. Self-controlled (Disciplined)

My first reaction was, “there are 20 qualities!” Really?”! I’ve come a long way since my youth and thinking that the only manly quality was physical strength as portrayed by the Charles Atlas ads in the comic books,  but a man is measured by these 20 qualities?  Even with all of the personal growth work I’ve done, first with the New Warrior Adventurer Trainings and more recently the Inside Circle Foundation prison ministry, I had not considered the specifics of what it truly is to be a man in the eyes of God, family and friends.

Dr. Getz’s book opened my mind and heart to the word of God.

“Listen to God’s voice, which is saying, ‘I love you no matter what you’ve done, no matter where you are in your spiritual growth, no matter what your feelings.  I’m on your side, I have not rejected you.  You are my child.  You can become a man of God, and I’m here to help you.’”

Get the book, challenge yourself.  Find a group of like-minded seekers and use the book as a guide for exploring the soul of becoming a man.  Change the world because we need more men who will take responsibility for their lives and not look to or blame others for their situation in life, especially the government.

“The greatest contribution we can make is to be everything God wants us to be as individuals, as families and as local churches.”

In closing I welcome feedback from those who know me.  How do you see me? How do I measure up to the 20 points made by Paul?  Your honesty and truth would be appreciated.

“If you really want to know what I am like, you’ll have to talk to those who really know me.”

(All quotes, with the exception of the two verses from the Holy Bible, are from “A Measure of a Man” by Gene Getz)

The Second Emancipation

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

Image via Wikipedia

Over the course of the past year I’ve written several articles related to what it means to be a father, to be a man.  I’ve explored the influences on our character, the need for mentorship and blessings and that we have a responsibility to step up and lead our families.  Well, the time is now for authentic men and women to rise up and reclaim America, or risk losing our liberty, forever. Our liberty and freedom are under assault, not by force of arms although that may follow if the tide isn’t turned; but instead by legislation, regulations and the systematic erosion of morality and values.

The daily headlines tell the story:

  • The Obama Administrations’ attack on the conscience clause and the Constitution by requiring religious based organizations to offer contraceptive and reproductive treatment and services within their healthcare insurance programs.
  • Planned Parenthood’s blackmailing of the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Foundation because the Foundation initially dropped Planned Parenthood from their grant list.
  • The holiest of holy Liberal values, class warfare.

And these are only the attacks that have surfaced this past week!  Throw in mandated healthcare, the “Dream Act” for illegal aliens and the 9th District’s determination that California’s ban on same sex marriage is un-Constitutional and the path to tyranny and the lose of our liberty becomes clear.  You know when a Supreme Court Justice tells other countries to ignore the U.S. Constitution as a model we are in deep trouble.

I find it difficult to understand how educated, intelligent and creative people can support the entitlement policies of the Obama administration that have led to increased dependency on the Federal government in a way that enslaves over half our citizens.  I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with men teaching other men how to take responsibility for their lives, to be authentic, and to live purpose driven lives of integrity yet many of these same men strongly support Obama, even though his policies rob the citizens of their responsibility and freedom!  It’s my opinion that it’s hypocritical to help a person embrace responsibility for their life and actions and then tell them what light bulb they must use; what car they must drive; what health insurance they must purchase; or their religious beliefs are irrelevant when it comes to reproductive control.

Is it right and fair for the Federal Government to demand that health care policies provide for contraceptives and other reproductive services, including abortions,even though these services conflict with my religious views?  Under what authority does the Federal Government have the right to require me to purchased anything?  Do you see how dangerous this policy is?  Once the Government has this power where does that power end?

As I write this, Obama is trying to back off the point by saying that if you are a faith-based organization you will be exempted from the requirement!  What the…?  What about my faith, my beliefs?  The government does not have the right to prescribe this coverage in the first place so exemptions are not necessary because the requirement is unconstitutional!

Obama and his supporters foment “Class Warfare” by proclaiming immoral the extreme disparity between the rich and the poor.  The Liberals use this disparity to argue for more funds to spend on more programs to assist the least among us.  And regardless of the billions spent on welfare we still have people in this country that are poor and have less than others.  The issue isn’t that one percent have the majority of the wealth and therefore the 99% are poor?  The true issue is that we are not teaching our brothers and sisters how to take care of their lives, how to cultivate their God-given gifts to support themselves and their families.

The people who support big government programs will scream, “Where’s your compassion?”  And I say government hand outs are not compassionate.  If you are concerned about someone and their plight then step up and go help them. Gather like minded friends and make a true difference in that persons life as well as your own.  If you think wealth should be equalized then find a group of people who have less than you, combine your resources and divide them equally.  Be accountable.

Taking from the rich and giving to the less fortunate is immoral!  Creating entitlement systems and programs that enslave the less fortunate is immoral!  Empowering the Federal Government to control our lives is immoral!

Government programs have not and will not improve the lives of the citizens.  Prosperity, freedom, liberty and mentoring will.

Government programs have enslaved 50% of the population.  Continuing to support the growth of government will enslave us all!

In 1863, at a pivotal point in our Nation’s history, President Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” setting in motion the events that would eventually lead to freeing of slaves in America.  We are once more faced with a challenge that requires no less than a Second Emancipation Proclamation – an emancipation from the tyranny of an overreaching government!

The Second Emancipation will occur the minute we stop looking to the government to effect change in the lives of people and step up and take action ourselves!  The moment we take responsibility for the quality of life within the society then we will be back on the Founder’s road to liberty and freedom!  Imagine the good that could be achieved if you, personally, reached out a helping hand to someone less fortunate, as opposed to a government hand out.

Let the emancipation begin.  Drive out the big government, entitlement obsessed career politicians, of either party; Dismantle all departments and agencies that are not supported by the Constitution; Replace the current progressive tax system with one that is fair for all; and Restore fiscal responsibility.

Let’s celebrate and empower each other!  Let’s stand up for FREEDOM!

 “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Post 24: Fatherhood Part 2

The young man, a talented amateur golfer, was melting down in the biggest tournament of his young career.  This was his big chance and he was in control of his own destiny on the 18th tee – close out this hole, win the tournament and he would be playing in his first professional event in a couple of weeks.  Instead he makes bad decision after bad decision and finished the tournament well down the leader board after just one tumultuous hole of golf, his dream destroyed and his father, his caddy, walking away in disgust!

This scene is from the movie “Seven Days in Utopia” currently in theaters around the country and I highly recommend that you go see this film (http://www.sevendaysinutopia.com).  There’s no sex and no violence, instead what you’ll experience is an excellent study in contrasts about fathering.

The father of the young golfer had merged his own unachieved desires to play golf with his role as father to shape his son, starting at a very young age into a champion golfer.  He pushed the young boy, forced him to practice, honed the kid’s skills to the point where the young man was ready to take the next step, to turn pro.  However, was the young man ready for the pressure?  Apparently not.

The movie chronicles the next seven days of the young man’s life after losing the tournament and how he ends up finding, unintentionally, a man who becomes his unorthodox mentor.  The movie illustrates the power of a father figure, a mentor that considers the whole person, the physical, the emotional and spiritual components of this young man.  The story demonstrates how essential it is for fathers to address the complete child not just his special skill.  As the seven days unfold the young man is challenged to become a complete person and it ends with him…well, you’ll just have to see the movie to find out the rest of the story.

This movie effectively illustrates the essential elements of fatherhood:  Time, challenges, blessing and faith.

Time

I don’t doubt that the young man’s father loved him and wanted the best for him, the father didn’t know any better.  Especially about nurturing the whole child.  He should be commended for dedicating his time to the growth of his son, he should be acknowledged for identifying his son’s athletic gift.  As I pointed out in my previous post on Fatherhood so many boys don’t have a father like this who dedicates large chunks of his time to their sons.

The father in the movie recognized that his son had a gift and dedicated his life to nurturing that gift and this is something all parents need to be aware of.  What’s the gift in your child? In the book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman presents the acorn theory, the idea that each of us is blessed with a gift that needs to be identified and nurtured by our parents.  The father of the young golfer found that gift in his son and he worked hard to make sure that the boy grew to achieve success with that gift, regardless of the consequences.  The father didn’t know any better, he was broken and didn’t know his gift, he didn’t know who he really was.  So how could he truly understand that his greatest gift to his son was the time spent together?

My father was fanatical about baseball, especially professional baseball.  His favorite bar in San Diego was the Baseball Inn, an establishment where other fans and some marginal pro ball players would hang out.  My father became friends with many of the ball players and managers of the local minor league team (This was before the Padres became a major league team).  He was always giving me the best equipment, bats, gloves, shoes and balls, that he would get from his good friend at the Padres.  I’m certain that one of his greatest disappointments in life and in me was that I never became even a moderately good baseball player even when I had the very best equipment.

I was a very good football player, an above average basketball player and decent at track, but baseball just wasn’t my strong suite and I never made any teams that I tried out for.  You see my father had the desire, he had the connections, he just didn’t have the time.  The time to teach me how to play the game, how to use all that marvelous equipment.  I felt sadness as I watched “Seven Days in Utopia,” because I still feel the pain of not having a father to teach me how to play baseball, how to be a man!

Challenge

When the young golfer melts down on the last hole of the tournament and his father walks out on him I’m sure the young man judged himself a failure.  Was he? Or was this what was needed for him to find himself?  This is the stuff of fables, the golden boy being brought to his knees before he connects with his truth and climbs his way back to wholeness.  Iron John and the Fisher King come to mind.

Can we truly know and appreciate the good days, the triumphs, if we never have to wade through the ashes of our lives and struggle to find ourselves?  This movie holds an important message for our culture of “fairness” and “everyone” is a victor.  We teach our children, whether in school or on the play field that everyone’s a winner and everyone gets a gold star or a trophy.  That performance doesn’t matter, it only matters that you feel good about yourself.

We have a primal need to achieve victory, born our of our need to survive.  Certainly most of us don’t have the primitive need to conquer our rivals but does it advance the species or the culture to say that everyone is a winner?  How do we find the limits of our potential if we don’t risk failure?  “Seven Days in Utopia” paints a challenging portrait of the effort needed to hit bottom and then find the path back to yourself, your full self.  The journey was painful and difficult but the result was a better person.

Blessing

This is a concept I judge is greatly misunderstood in our culture.  It isn’t the medals and trophies one gets that blesses us.  A blessing is given freely from the heart of the “teacher” to the “student;” from the mentor to the seeker.  It’s an acknowledgment from an “elder,” not necessarily someone older but wiser, that you have been seen, you are loved and you have a place in the tribe, in the family, in the culture.

Check out another movie, “Nobody’s Fool,” starring the late Paul Newman.  This is a story of redemption between a father, played by Paul Newman, his son and his grandson.  The son comes home in his own time of despair to make a connection with his father.  And as the father and son struggle, the character played by Paul Newman starts a relationship with his grandson, a boy of about eight.

In a scene near the end of the film Paul wins the prosthetic leg from the town lawyer in a game of strip poker (Warning there is some nudity during this part of the film).  After the game is over you see Paul sitting at the bar with the prosthesis next to him on the bar and the one-legged attorney is at the other end of the bar.  The boy is standing next to Paul mesmerized by the fake leg, actually he seems a little afraid.  Paul picks up the prosthesis and asks his grandson to takes it to the attorney at the end of the bar.  At first the young boy refuses but finally the wonder overcomes the fear and he takes hold of it in both hands.  Paul gently turns the boy to face the attorney and asks him to return it to the old man.  It takes a couple of prompts from grandpa before the boy slowly moves down the bar to the one-legged old man.  When he gets their the old man takes the prosthesis with one hand and places his other hand on the boy’s shoulder.  He bends down and softly thanks the boys and tells him that he is a very good boy, he’s proud of him!  When the boys turns around, back towards his grandfather, the look of joy and accomplishment on his young face is priceless.  He faced his fear and was blessed!

Faith

In “Seven Days in Utopia,” Johnny, the unorthodox instructor doesn’t focus his attention just on the golf skills of the young golfer, Luke.  Instead Johnny challenges Luke to take a look at who he is, why he’s here on Earth and his relationship with God, or in this case his lack of a relationship.  The issue of faith become a pivotal point in the maturation of Luke as he realizes that there was more to life than just a low score on the card.

Like Luke I had to learn this the hard way but when I did my life changed in a powerful way.  Once I accepted God, as my Abba Father, I was able to release the residual longing for my earthly father and surrender my life to the One who would never forsake me, the most freeing experience in my life.  I discovered that surrender didn’t mean defeat  and in the case of God it means I’m no longer alone and I’m always loved.

Through faith we can integrate the mind, body and soul to complete the package, to become, as Dallas Willard says, “the person God had always intended us to become.”

I encourage you to go see this movie and while you watch and after ask yourself what’s working and what’s not working in your life?  Who are you and what is your impact on the world, especially the people closest to you? If  you’re a parent, if you’re a father what are you doing to spend more time with your children; what are you doing to challenge them to be all they can be; are you blessing your children, showing them how deeply they are loved; and are you creating opportunities for them to experience and come to know God?

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