Monday, December 28, 2009

Led Zepplin, Rolling Stones and God.

I am an old rocker from the ‘70s. To this day I enjoy the classic rock music of that time. I have hundreds of vinyl LPs stored in a closet that I just know one day will come back into fashion. I even have a really cool collection of concert ticket stubs from Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones to Peter Frampton and Queen. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of the shows, but I know I went -- I have the ticket stubs.

I am not proud of all the times I was dazed and confused (Led Zeppelin) back then. I have actually started to finally get a clear mind after 25 years of sobriety. But back then I was a lost young man and most days I was trying to get some shelter so I wouldn’t fade away (Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter”). OK, bad puns but pretty true as far as who and what my search was from day to day.

I came from a broken home and found myself out on the streets and just trying to keep it together from about the age of 14. I spent the first 10 or 15 years of my sobriety still angry and blaming every one who abandoned that young boy wandering about on those cold nights back then.

However, I have a different outlook on it all today. I don’t blame anyone for the trials and hardships, the times I felt abandoned and hungry. I realized that I was training to be who I am today through those hard times. Those lessons prepared me to be in a place where I can understand boys and men who lived or are living those same trials. It prepared me to start Kids Outdoor Zone Youth Adventure Ministry.

What I mean is that I realize now all those things are the tools I can use when I speak into the lives of those God puts in my path. I understand the boy who is bored at school and wants to quit. I get it when a guy wants to get loaded and check out on everything. I understand the kid who is getting in trouble because he has no one to guide him along the trail. I understand the guy who works all the time or has issues with anger or alcohol.

There are a lot of us, men and women, who have life stories that are unique to just us. They are the fabric that makes us who we are, and my challenge to each of you who is reading this is to pray about those times, good and bad, and ask God to reveal to you what to do with them. Don’t just complain or whine about the hardships and screwed up things that happened back then. Use them to minister into the lives of others today. This new year can be a time for you to turn your past into something positive for the future. Do you think you had it worse than everyone else? Do you think nobody makes it out of the places you have been? I assure you that you do not, and there are people who have.

I have also experienced times I thought I was following His will for me, doing what I thought I was meant to do. I prayed about it, talked to all kinds of people trying to make a good decision only to find out I made a mistake. That will happen. The difference is the process, the way we go about trying to do His will in our lives. You will always make mistakes and pick the left hand when you should have picked the right one; we are flawed. God knows we are going to do that and loves us anyway. When we make the wrong decisions we need to look at the whole process, where it was wrong and how it kept us from Him and move on.

God has us all here for a purpose. When we live day to day without purpose, a reason to live for, we end up like the hamster in the wheel, caged and running in the same place getting nowhere. When Adam and Eve took the fall, that was the beginning of the end of the perfect life so we will have our ups and downs.

I love the way God loves on us, how He plays with us. I hope and pray that for me (and you), I do better this year in making decisions. I encourage you to ask Him what it is you are supposed to be doing to give back, to help Him with His mission in your life for others. You are special, unique and one of a kind, He loves you like no other could. Give it back, share your gifts.

Happy New Year –
TJ Greaney

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Changing How We Look at Christmas?


I believe in Santa. Period. He comes to our house, he leaves presents, eats cookies and drinks the milk we leave out. All my kids are at an age where they may have some different ideas about the physical Santa, that’s OK. When I have been confronted with that question by them I ask them two simple questions before I answer. One is, “do you like Santa coming to our home, the preparation, the surprise gifts?” The second question is, “do you want him to keep coming?” Both of these questions are always yes. Then I answer yes there is a Santa.

The questions are trick questions and they know that. The effort that goes into the whole Santa event that night before Christmas is pretty extensive. Santa has to get all the gifts in the right place, wrapped right, assembled, batteries etc. He is always very busy that night.

In the first two chapters of Luke in the New Testimate Jesus' birth is told in detail. The Immaculate Conception, the angles, manger and gifts. It is the most common story of Jesus birth and one of a glorious beginning to the redemption of man on earth.

There is another lesser know story on that day. It is a dark one. As Jesus was being born, Satan, a fallen angel, was close by looking for a chance to devourer Him. Satan is the prince of darkness on earth and the last thing he wanted was for God to come to earth, as a man, and mess with him any more than He already did. You can read this second less know story in Revelations chapter 12, it is crazy.

OK so this is not the Christmas editorial you wanted to read that made you feel all warm and fuzzy. But for me as I continue this walk with God I am shown so many new and wonderful things that inspire, motivate, capture, anger, confuse, worry, teach and move me to an new understanding of what life is about, what is important and how to live it, I want to share it.

Christmas can be a time of depression and anxiety for many. It can be a time when we do things we know we should not because we are under pressure to provide gifts or material things to people around us. It might spur memories of hard times or sad times when we were kids. It can bring back all kinds of emotions we might not want to feel. For those who are suffering from emotions or are experiencing hard times I am compassionate to your needs and feelings.

The best thing I can tell you is that on Christmas day 2009 years ago there was a baby boy born. His name was Jesus. You cannot deny His earthly influence. The calendar starts with His birthday. The book about His life is the best know, best selling, most widely published book ever, times 1000. His Father’s name is on our money. His dad is so popular almost everyone who hears a person sneeze says His name. Christmas is a huge celebration and it is all in his name, “Christ”-mas.

His purpose was to come to earth and give us all a chance to change how we do life. To receive forgiveness, to become the person I know we all desire to be inside, in our hearts.

I love Santa. I watch the movies Elf, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, The Christmas Story and others every year laughing, crying and enjoying them over and over. I love the decorations and the food, the music and the spirit that it evokes in so many people. It is truly a special time of year. But I also know the depth of what happened on that day. I am humble and live my life to honor and please the One who came Christmas day 2009 years ago.

Don't forget what Will Farrell said as Buddy the Elf, “ The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Jesus was born 2009 years ago, that is amazing and in my simple opinion, worth singing about.

Filled with wonder, Awestruck wonder.
At the mention of Your name
Jesus, your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery
Yea.....

Holy, Holy Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is and is to come, yea.
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of kings!
You are my everything,
And – I – will – adore You.

(Revelation Song)

TJ Greaney
Publisher
Follow TJ on his blog. Countrylinemagazine.com

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pink, Hearts and Guns

When I watch people who are truly worshipping the Lord, I can really get a soft heart and tear heavy eyes. I am so mesmerized by His effect on those who have found His love and how they wrap themselves with it, especially kids.

Recently we had our annual Father/Daughter hunt on a ranch in South Texas. The place is made for our type of events with good sleeping quarters, lots of wild animals and my all time favorite cook shack. The daughters loved the time with dad. I still see things I could do to improve the event but God always takes care of the time we have with Him there.

The one girl who was there without a father was Kayla. Her daddy was killed in an auto accident. I have hunted and mentored her brother for years. Interesting fact, he has always wanted to be a paleontologist until last year. When we were filming a small clip with him for the Kids Outdoor Zone (KOZ) banquet he said “screw being a paleontologist I am going to be a KOZ hunting guide.” I am not sure if hanging with me has helped or not, but he does love hunting and fishing.

In the last few years God has taken this lost little girl who I had pegged for pregnant and dropped out by 15, and moved her into His arms. I feel my emotions welling up as I write this. I am so sorry I doubted you Lord, for doubting Kayla. She never liked the idea of all the hunting we did or anything about it . Then a couple months before the D/D hunt she mentioned she would like to go. I told her if she really wanted to, I would take her.

The first afternoon, Friday, I took her and several other girls to shoot the KOZ .17 rifle. This was her first time to ever shoot a gun and she hit dead on four of six shots and the other two were slightly to one side but deadly. Wow.

Saturday morning we were fogged in and could not shoot at what we saw safely. That afternoon we returned to the blind and watched a large group of javelina, some nice bucks, birds and all types of other wild game. Then it happened, the perfect opportunity. A lone doe came out and stood broadside. Kayla took her time, set up and dropped the deer in its tracks. It seemed at that moment I saw something in her eyes, a twinkle or glimmer, a light. I am holding back my emotions again as I write this. It was so clear, so pure, so real, God was there.

The loss of her father has never really come up much in conversations over the years. That weekend in the deer blind as we sat in the warm sun she talked about her feelings, how she missed him and how she loved her mom. I could see how God had made her strong in some areas. I could see she accepted His arm around her to help her walk through where she is in her life today and with the cards that have been dealt her.

On Saturday night at hunt camp I had the girls write a letter to their dad. Taylor my daughter and I talked about the letter with Kayla. She was OK with it. She took her pen and paper and went outside to write the letter. Her plan was to put it on his grave. I was moved by her strength.

Psalm 59:16But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

I collected the letters to be given to the dads at the end of the weekend.

Sunday came and Kayla shot a second deer that morning. The girls all did really well and harvested deer. My daughter Taylor had all the girls joking that retail stores were going to have to start selling bullets one at a time because they didn’t need to buy more than one or two. I loved that.

As we all began to go our way Sunday afternoon I gave the fathers the letters. My daughter had one in the stack for me. There was also one for me from Kayla. The instructions were to read them later that evening as well as the notes the fathers wrote to the girls.

In the letter I got from Kayla she tells me “Thanks for teaching me how to shoot a gun. I feel like I can accomplish anything at this moment. Thanks for the great talks and for taking me to a father and daughter event, I have never been to one.” My heart skipped a beat. I am crying again.

The time I got to spend with the girls on this event reminded me what true beauty is. What I see in them is beauty from the inside out. They are strong and courageous, determined and mindful. They are soft and gentle and funny and caring. They are searching for a loving Father and have begun to see Him in their walk with the Lord. They inspire me and make me laugh; they frustrate me and own my heart all at the same time.

Lord thank you for the opportunity to spend time with the girls hunting. Thank you for their joyous and wonderful hearts. Thanks for the clean shots and deer that were harvested. Thanks for the girls willingness to clean them and the cookies they made Saturday night. Lord, I also pray for the young men you have picked out already for these girls. I pray they know early these girls can shoot, they can handle a gut knife, a four wheeler, a credit card, a Chi hair straightener and they aren’t messing around.


Amen.

TJ Greaney

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mountain Top Meeting with God


I know there have been a lot of people who have documented meeting God. The authors of the bible wrote about burning bushes, clouds coming down, even Jesus walking about and conversations with Him. I too have written of the times I encountered Him, things He has done in my life and those around me and the stories they shared. I am moved to write about Him often and usually I am not for lack of words. However today I don’t quite know how to express or describe the four days in Colorado with John Eldredege’s Ransomed Heart Ministry (Wild at Heart) it’s leaders and God.


In my walk with the Lord over the last couple of years I have acquired a yearning to be closer to Him, walk closer to Him, live in a way that He would be proud of. I want the things I do and say to honor Him. I want to live as an example, leave a legacy that pleases Him. It was not long ago I would have yawned at those type of Spirit filled desires. Today I stand next to them and hunger for their meaning.


When I found there was a Boot Camp that taught on the lessons of the Wild at Heart message I wanted to go. My turn came on a cold wintery week in November outside Denver, Colorado. I arrived via shuttle bus from the airport. I won’t go into detail on the facility, the food or the free time activities, just let me say it was wonderful and comfortable, healthy and good.


The snow was light and fresh falling carefully as to not distract us as we made our way to the first gathering that Thursday night. A group of men, 300 or so, in close proximity to each other is usually not what I would choose for a relaxing time to look inside myself or become vulnerable. I can access my gut and express what I am feeling in small groups of men, but this was a bit over the top. That was the first time He showed up. The anxiety and self inflicted discomfort went away as I prayed with the men on stage and off. He freed me to learn and worship.


Each morning as the sun was coming up I tried to be one of the first ones out to explore the crisp morning air and slow deliberate life on the mountain. The snow was quiet when it came in the night and each morning everything that seemed dirty or out of place the day before was covered white and appeared soft, light, fresh, a part of the whole. I had a spot I would stand and watch the sun rise and ask for God to come over me, to be with me. I don’t know that I have ever done this except in pain or tragedy. We were encouraged to ask Him in and I did.


I prayed for a still moment in my thoughts. I wanted to be at this event fully, completely. Then He would come. I could physically feel Him there, inside me, next to me, over me. I wanted to cry and laugh and smile all at once. I had never felt Him so clearly before. I knew He was there. I wept.


I came from a background of self-will and self preservation. I am a pull yourself up by your boot straps kinda guy. I remember the night as a teenager I was alone walking down an interstate somewhere. It was cold, raining and I was tired and so very lonely. I remember looking out across a field and seeing a small farm house with a light on and wishing I could be a part of that family, in a warm place where I was loved. At that moment I let Him go, I turned off all emotion. I could not allow myself to be vulnerable or I would die.


During the time with the leaders of Ransomed Heart they shared with us how they accessed God in their lives. Their prayer lives seemed deliberate and unlimited. How could I have ignored that for so long. I was broken as I prayed for a true walk with God our Father. A loving, forgiving, caring Father, a personal relationship with a Father I had limited and kept at a distance.


In each session my heart soared and my thoughts of the ones I loved and cared for washed over me. I prayed for God to remove the barriers, I prayed for ego and self-will to be removed. I prayed to Him to teach me to pray, to help me retain the lessons, to incorporate them in my life. He came, He stood with me, He put His arms around me, He loved on me and I cried more.


There is so much today we have to deal with as participants in this world. It can be easy for me to get to a place in my walk with Christ on a snow covered mountain with other Godly men but a fight each morning at my own, safe, warm house. In my brokenness I have ignored prayer time with my wife, my kids and in so many situations. I never really believed He would speak to me so freely and openly. What I found on the mountain over those few days was He does and will come to me, us.


The Ransomed Heart team shared vulnerable moments, personal moments of strength and weakness. They shared times of glorious revelation and times of darkness and doubt. They shared how they prayed and asked God into their lives, for others, for direction in times of hardship and happiness. They prayed asking their Father to come to them, speak to them, be with them, guide them.


I know better now He is with me and I feel empowered and comforted in so many ways after the time on the mountain. I feel he has taken me to the old farm house across the pasture I saw that night so many years ago. I am loved, warm, He is with me.


I have a new revelation, a new vision, a new relationship with God today. I pray Lord keep me hungry for that time with you, that intimacy. Help me Lord honor the gifts I received and Lord use me as a warrior for You.


When I allow myself to think about the day I am facing my Lord, my Father God – I tear up. It is a selfish tear to myself, I only hope He tells me the words I long to hear – “Job well done my true and faithful son.” That is the day I long for, I can’t wait.



TJ GreaneyTJ@kidsoutdoorzone.com

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nail Salons and Hunting

Not every boy wants to go hunting or fishing, I met one once, for real. But my experience is that almost anytime I have asked a group of boys if any of them wanted to go fishing or hunting with me, they go crazy and all want in on the adventure.

When we got back from out of town not long ago we heard about a boy at our church who had lost his father. My wife and I went over to visit and take them dinner. During the visit I mentioned that we had an all boys hunting trip coming up and I would love for him to go with us. He was beside himself. His mom later told me it was the distraction he needed at that time.

The scheduled weekend came and we made our way to the ranch with six other boys in tow. The sun was setting as we began to unload and I prepared something for us all to eat. The hunt camp was basically dirt and a small shack the size of my daughter’s room. The floor was lined with the boys’ gear and sleeping bags.

While all the other boys were out collecting rocks and firewood the one who had lost his dad stayed behind. He laid back against the wooden wall and began to tell me about his dreams since his father died and how he was feeling. I never asked him; it seemed to just pour out. It was heart wrenching.

The last morning we hunted hard and never had the shot we were comfortable with. The sun was over us and we knew the other boys were packing and cleaning up. We slowly made our way back to camp and I took blame for the less than successful weekend hunt he had. Then it happened, a deer stepped out, a perfect shot, and it was done. It was his first deer and just before we got back to camp to leave.

That morning after we got back to camp he accepted Christ into his life and we baptized him in an old concrete horse trough. It is hard to deny God when He is standing next to you.

It was years ago now but there is another boy who lost his father to a tragic car accident. His mother and sister moved in next door with the grandparents and that is when we met. For years, he has tagged along with us on hunting and fishing trips. He is learning about life as a boy, responsibility, right, wrong and how a young man should behave.

One evening on a fishing trip we baptized him in the lake as the sun set behind us. It was powerful and all the men there wept in joy of how God works.

My beautiful teenage daughter has friends who are now interested in the outdoors, hunting and fishing. Some have dads, some don’t. The key attraction is the real life event of hunting or fishing. It is the adventure, the dirt and the challenges the quest provide. Yes, girls who love dirt one day and getting their nails done the next. How can that be?

The girls hunts we have done have been so powerful and exciting. I hate to tell the boys this, but the girls are better shots and can skin a hog or a deer with the best of you. Ouch.

Hunting and fishing may not be your thing. Not a problem. It’s about being thankful for the blessing we have no matter how much or how little. It can be as easy as taking the kid next door or one of your kids’ friends as part your next family outing. Include one more seat at the movies, at the restaurant, on the golf course or next to you in church.

Time spent with others is the key. A mentor can change a life, boy, girl, man or woman. Live yours a life of influence and purpose. Create a legacy, a tradition or a memory. Be intentional in the lives of those you come in contact with. Contribute to organizations doing good works. Be thankful and show thanks.

My good friend Jimmy always says, “you can’t out give God.” He is right and if you don’t believe it, try it.

For information on our ministry go to www.kidsoutdoorzone.com

TJ Greaney
Country Line Magazine
Kids Outdoor Zone

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Life and Death on the Mountain

It is less than 4 hours till I leave with my 15-year-old daughter on one of the most important trips, to date, of our life. We will spend seven days in the mountains hunting bear and elk with just what we can carry on our backs.

Now I know many adults will think I have lost my mind. The idea of being in the wilds for nine days (we have to be there before hunting season starts to set up and get ready) without running water, electricity, email, cell phones or anything else, well to some that is just nuts. I tell you on some levels I think it may be.

Seems there are more than a few of my daughter’s friends who think she is crazy. Not only all the outside elements she will be faced with but what about being with just your dad for that long. They question the idea of the long drive up with just me, no hair care products to speak of, no texting.

But as I look at the gear I believe we have what we need. A Katadyn Vario water purification system, Jetboil cooking system, Coleman tent and sleeping bags, Mountain House dehydrated meals, Bushnell Backtrack GPS and an Icon Rogue flashlight. Some of the finest gear available. We have trained over the last months at the gym and running. There is really no way in the flat lands to prepare completely for the altitude and the weather. This summer in a test run we did really well at 7 & 10,000 feet, acclimating pretty fast, this is crucial.

I know the area pretty well and my oldest brother knows it real well in case we don’t report in on time. He has property just a half day horse ride below and he taught me the way of the elk and how to hunt them. He is a great elk hunter. He completed the “holy grail” of elk hunting several years ago when he packed back into the national forest on horseback and killed a monster bull elk with his bow.

I have put on a nice layer of fat to keep me warm. The temperature this time of year in the mountains where we are going averages about 20. It can get up to the 50’s during the day but for us, in the dark hunting the timber, it will remain cold. The snow has come in plenty of times on me there and can slow you down but it helps a lot when your tracking so there is some give and take.

The real test here, the real motivator for me is the time with my daughter. She can be tough and has proven herself worthy of this trip with high grades, no discipline problems, hard work and she is a great hunter as well.

I have a lot going on right now – lots of emails I can send out or reply to, lots of phone calls I can make, lots of things to get done. The problem is that will always be there. I have never had a day when I did not have something I could do. I have a few moments in my life where I heard God speak to me and tell me to invest time into something, go somewhere, talk to someone, do something and this is one of them.

I have plenty of times already in my life I regret. I have times I have laid on the couch and ignored what I knew I should be doing, went hunting when I needed to be home or shopping, or drinking or getting into trouble. Life is full of regrets and so many of them are ones we elect to bestow upon ourselves.

Today I will embark on an adventure with my daughter. It may fail, we may get run off the mountain by weather, not see any big game or worse. But God is going to lead us and bless us in this time together. William Wallace (Braveheart)once said something like, “ Will you not fight for your country’s freedom? Will you leave and return to the comforts of your home as your neighbors and countrymen die here today? Will you wake up one day, living a life of regret, regret you did not fight the fight and die with honor? Today I choose to fight, I choose freedom.”

God’s Speed –
TJ

Monday, October 5, 2009

Old Man River and the Rain

I love the flowing waters of a river or mountain stream. My spirit is calmed by the sounds of the water flowing over the rocks and across the gravel banks. Just the thought of a clear mountain stream in Colorado can take me there. Then there is the warm red waters pushing lazily by in a mighty river in Texas. They are both moving waters consoling to my soul.

The vast reservoirs of water in central and south Texas have also earned a place in my heart. Some are huge and serve as water supplies for drinking, farming, household and industrial uses. Many times I have explored these reservoirs and they are reticent chapters in the memories of my life.

Water is said to be the great reliever and for me when I feel out of sorts a shower can be one of the things that brings me back to center. I have taken several showers in a day on bad days when nothing seems to be going right or I don’t feel well physically. Water, in so many ways, seems to bring me back to start and I can begin again.

I have long been one who has tried to please others and God by doing all the right things. For years when anyone asked me to help set-up at church, help with a Sunday school class, visit with a wounded member I was first in line. I preached a calling to everyone who went to our church to take on as much as I had, I challenged them.

The whole thing really carried the stench of pride and ego. The need is there and the acts were good and thoughtful so how could that be wrong? If you know of a need, do it. Don’t come to the table with a complaint or problem unless you are willing to be a part of the solution. Pull yourself up by your boot straps. Pray this way and study this scripture, do it like me.

Then it hit, a wall I could not overcome, I was drained. God’s loving compassion for this egotistical shell of a man took me out of it all. He removed all the comforts of my routine; He removed the confines I had built that kept me comfortable in my world. I took a job out of town and was away from my family most days for 11 months.

God placed me in a quiet place for almost a year. Over that period I began to detox. The things I thought so important faded and my heart began to heal. I began to seek a feeling, something I longed for that I had filled with busy Christian works. I could not figure out what it was exactly but the hole in my heart was emptied of all my good works and deeds and readied it for His love.

OK, so if you’re a regular guy like me, I guess some of this stuff sounds pretty soft and fluffy. I don’t know where a lot of it comes from, it just comes – but I am learning that the word love is a big deal and that God’s love is what I am seeking. It is hard to explain how deep and profound the feeling is even in the smallest bits and pieces. I was looking for a lightning bolt, it was a small pat on the back, a hand on my shoulder. The deal is when I finally found out what it is, how it feels, I am hungry for it. It is like trying to match a great shot at the golf course or a big fish on the line, for ladies maybe finding a great pair of shoes on sale or a good hair day. You spend large time trying to get that feeling again, you think about it, all the nuances that surrounded it, it makes you smile and feel warm and good. That is what finding the love of God does. You don’t get it every shot, not every cast, not every shopping trip, but you strive for it anyway, you want it.

John Eldredge talks about how a river can flow constantly but a reservoir need to fill up before it can spill over. He talks about how good it is to be so full of God’s love in us that it spills over into the lives of those around us. There are a lot of references to the flowing river throughout scripture – but for me – the auto pilot mechanical Christian, water in - water out was not working. Now I am asking for God’s rain to fill my reservoir.

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain
(Mercy Me)

TJ Greaney
TJ@kidsoutdoorzone.com

PS: I liked this line but could not figure out how to fit it in…
– another great cast down the fairway catching a really nice shoe on sale right after a good haircut.…perfect…..

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Teddy Roosevelt and the Rites of Passage

I remember random things from when I was young. I remember my dad building a go-cart from an old wagon. I remember camping trips and trees in my back yard we would climb. I remember the wooden floors in our first house and playing outside in the eye of hurricane Carla.

There are a lot of things I try to do that are intentional with my kids that they will hopefully be memories they will cherish and hold as important times in our lives together. For my oldest who is now 26, I took him out of school every year for his birthday to go fishing. We had several birthdays when we had storms roll in on top of us and we had to fight the wind and waves to get back to the boat launch. I remember once we were fishing as a storm approached. He looked at me laughing and said “dad your hair is standing straight up.” I realized the danger of potential lightening and we beat feat to the nearest covered dock and watched the storm roll past. It never mattered if we caught fish, we always got in trouble for dragging in late with school the next day, but we always went.

My youngest son and I hunt together a lot. We spend a lot of time taking other boys out hunting and teaching them the way of the woods. When he turned 10 several of male our closest friends came over and read him letters they wrote to him about how special he was. We blessed him and talked of the responsibilities he would face as he turned double digits. That day he received the pellet rifle I was given at 10-years-old 40 years earlier.

My daughter and I spend date nights together and time in the outdoors. She can put on a beautiful dress and go to dinner with me as easily as she can put on cammo coveralls and hunt for deer. Her first deer and our night at the recent chocolate festival are so important to me, and I hope for her as well. She is a bit harder for me to understand, but for her, well she has me wrapped around her finger and the woman in her knows it.

It is important to be intentional with our kids as they grow up. They need to have milestones and markers in their lives that are meaningful and significant. Rites of passage are important to and it seems we have gotten away from those markers in our culture today.

I want to teach my kids to also be brave and strong and compassionate. I want them to explore the world and learn to love the Lord openly with zeal and fervor.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

The world can be a scary place if we do not ready our children and ourselves to face the hardships and challenges ahead. Love needs to be an emotion not a physical act. Character must be a part of who we are not a cartoon veneer or passing thought. We need to plan an adventure and a quest.

The bible is a place you can go to find answers to the hardest questions and accept lifelong challenges. The Words there were written intentionally. The Old Testament and New Testament are both markers of a rite of passage given to us by a loving Father. Be intentional in who you are and what you do. Speak into your kid’s lives and those around you. Be bold and forthright and challenge the untruths in your life. Remember If God is with us then who could be against us.

TJ Greaney9/20/09

Friday, September 11, 2009

How Will You Determine Your Destiny? 09/11/09

Ronald Regan once said: "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."

Today we are facing that rendezvous with destiny, we are face to face with the providence of our children’s future, our grandchildren’s future – the future of America as we know it today.

This country, a country built on self sacrifice, hard work, sweat, ingenuity, compassion, commitment and drive is you and me. We are the ones who are living here, the ones who get up each day and fight the fight, live life here in this community – we shop at the grocery, we pay an electric bill, we buy fuel for our cars and trucks, sit in PTA meetings and boy scout meetings and at little league games - we are the ones who are unemployed or sick or young and just starting out. This is our home, our land, our country our life.

There are longtime Liberal leaders in this country who do not understand the daily life we the people are living each day – they are the establishment in Washington. In a Washington cocoon of self driven ideals for a socialist nation - they have lost touch with you, their constituents. These are the leaders we asked to be there, to fight for us, protect us, to stand tall against those who would take away our freedoms, force their will upon us. But they deserted us, they gave us away.

There are a lot of things we need to address today in our country. We want to feel confident in your representation – we deserve not to be heard – but listened to.

Health care is a concern for us all – I have a friend, Dr. Donna Campbell an emergency room specialist. Dr. Campbell has spent her career serving those who need medical attention and council. She has seen the good, the bad and the worst. She knows firsthand that we live in a country with the finest medical care. There are Liberals in Washington who see the Cuban medical system as the ideal model. That is absolutely wrong.

Yes we have problems, yes there are those who need to understand how to get their medical needs resolved – yes there are things we can do better – but to completely wreck the finest medical system in the world is a mistake we may never get back.

Our country was built on your blood, sweat and tears. Your hard work yesterday, today and tomorrow should not be in vane – your wages and savings should not be taxed or mortgaged for pet projects, liberal agendas and expenditures to the backscratchers and special interests who have taken over Washington.

Billions of dollars are earmarked for the communalist agendas of these Washington elitist –

They are spending YOUR money. They are securing a financial burden upon your children and their children and their children that unless we stop it – will demand them to submit to a governmental society – one that forces dependency on not what they want for their family but what the government tells them they can have. A burden so heavy that they will never enjoy the life, the freedoms, the beauty of the America we love so dearly.

Our soldiers and sailors – our freedom fighters have always been the front line. These brave men and women have held strong against overwhelming odds on the battle field since we became this nation America. Today they fight to protect their families, your families, us - from experiencing another horrific Sept. 11 attack. There are those in Washington who on that day and those immediately there-after stood up and shouted for us to avenge our brethren but have since become cowardice to the minority who shout them into submission, those who believe in a socialist fight – one of submission and not leadership – one of collective obedience and not freedom.

Is that who we are? Is that you? That is not the American heart I know, the one I believe in. It is not the America I cry for when a stand for the pledge of allegiance.

There are many issues we need to concern ourselves with – real issues – ones you and I live with each and every day right here in our cities, our towns, our homes – our lives –
Despite our current hard times and lack of leadership for we the people here today – I know one thing is true, We are the God fearing life soldiers who must drawn our sword against the beast of Washington - those who have forgotten who we are - we are the colors of the sunrise over this land – the one place on earth that still has the blood of freedom and the spirit of life and liberty.

We are one nation, under God, indivisible – striving now – today to regain our liberty and Justice for all – This is not about one person, this is about taking back our America – it is about taking back what so many have given their lives for .

Today as we remember those who perished on that fateful day back on Sept. 11, 2001 and pray for their loved ones. Let us not forget the words of our founding fathers:

(DI Quote)-When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

(DI Quote)-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government

(DI Quote)-That when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The tyranny of Washington today must be our will driving force –

Know that if our God is with us, who shall be against us –

Today I call on you to never forget – never allow the history of this great nation to be transformed from the truth – that we are faithful servants to Him and those who gave their lives for the mighty and better cause are not going to be forgotten or left behind. Their cause was great – their love for their fellow American was uncompromised – they gave the ultimate gift to all who can shout from the soil of America “ I am Free "

TJ Greaney 09/11/09

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Long Haired Health Food Nut....

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair, Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there, hair!Shoulder length, longer (hair!)
Here baby, there mama, Everywhere daddy daddy
Hair! (hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair)
Flow it, Show it;Long as God can grow it, My Hair!

That song from the musical Hair is one I used to relate to. In my teen years and through my twenties I had long, thick, curly hair that at times rolled to the middle of my back. I don’t know that it was ever “flaxen or waxen,” but it was a good head of hair.

I was a pretty hip guy I guess. My ear was pierced. I did all the things “long hairs” did in those days, many of which we won’t talk about here. I hitch-hiked across the country and cruised the beaches of California as well as the highways and by-ways of Nevada, Louisiana and Texas. I hung out in town squares full of other hippies watching life go by.

Now as I begin to live my second 50-years I have conformed in a lot of ways. I guess if someone looked at me today I would on most days look pretty solid establishment. I prefer a starched shirt over a tie-dye, boots over Birkenstocks, I drive a big truck and not a Scion.

I see a lot of people in Austin who are able to keep living the hippie, tie-dye lifestyle and they look comfortable, just doing life like the rest of us. Honestly, I used to think they were all ding-dongs. Yes, I have been an uppity self-centered better-than jerk faced creep, still can be. I found I decided who and what they were about without knowing anything about them or their lives. Thing is it seems every time I do the judging thing God steps in and cold-cocks me.

My wife’s Aunt Gloria is one of the most hip, liberal vegan’s you would ever want to meet. She is the total opposite of me in female form. However because of Auntie Glo and my walk with Christ I have learned some valuable lessons. Auntie Glo and I really enjoy talking about all types of literature and business, home improvements and celebrities. I have grown to love her dearly and it has changed who I am. I would drop a big ole double meat burger at a rally for a Republican talking about gun control to help her fix her toilet or replace an energy saving federally mandated fluorescent bulb at her home if she asked. She is one of the most tolerant, loving people I have ever known. She has put up with me and my gun toting, meat eating, spawn for years. She is awesome and I have changed.

Because of this softening of my spirit I have found as of recent I enjoy the input from my hip brethren here in Austin today. I was in trouble with my wife not long ago and knew a date night would be a big step in getting my foot removed from my mouth. She accepted and I took her to the big Whole Foods in downtown Austin. We casually walked each isle and selected interesting fruits, chocolates and breads. We sampled new things and talked to the employees about the foods and vitamins. My wife knows a lot about that stuff already and I had a marvelous time learning about it all. We have since visited several other healthy food stores in our area and truly enjoy it.

I will never again have the hair I did back in the day and the whole “waxin, flaxin” thing I am sure is out. I won’t be changing my views on liberal politics or meat any time soon. I do however want to reflect the lessons of Paul in his letter to the Romans -

12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11: Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13: Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16: Live in harmony with one another.

I am trying, really I am. Till we meet at the tofu section, Peace out ya’ll.
TJ

Monday, August 31, 2009

Man Tears

This week church was packed when we got there. There was only one service at 11am and I was frustrated we were late, how could that be? We were supposed to meet a boy from our youth club and his family there but finding a seat for the family was all I could do being this late. This time it was not in our usual front left, five or six rows back, it was center section to the right near the front.

When we go to church on Sunday it is an all morning into the afternoon event. We try to get there by 9 a.m. and out by about 1 p.m.. It used to be impossible for me to even consider spending that much time at church. I remember when I was a kid we did the obligatory hour at church then straight home. My brother and I would have contests to see who could get out of our church clothes and into play clothes fastest. I don’t remember anyone who went to my church, the things we did or lessons learned. I am sure we did, it was just not a priority.

Now I don’t want to go to a church where I don’t feel like I am home. I want my friends to be there with me, I want to do life with my church. I realized not long ago that almost all of my friends are from my church. We plan time together, we meet for coffee, we hunt and fish together, we share our pain and passions with each other, real life.

I have heard many times folks that say they don’t need to go to church because they are fine with God and He isn’t in a building. They tell me they don’t want to be a part of a religion. I tell them I agree. I tell them I want a relationship with my God, not a religion too.

When you like golf you hang out at the golf course, you play golf, you watch golf on TV and you begin to surround yourself with friends who understand and enjoy all that is Golf. It is that way in most everything we are passionate about in our lives. I happen to believe when you love the Lord, when you truly seek Him in your life and how you can live for Him, you want to go to church. Now I suppose you could find other ways to fulfill the inner desire to be the best you can be, but the bible has a pretty good track record.

My wife saw them first, when I looked over they were standing right next our pastor, front row. He saw me looking and tapped the boy on the shoulder and pointed me out. I waved to him, his sister and grandpa. When they looked away I began to cry.

I am passionate about God in my life and how He has worked. I want to share the blessing of how living with Him as a guide in all areas makes life so much more rewarding. I really wanted this boy’s grandfather and sister to begin coming to church and feel the love and support that a church family can offer, to do life on that level with them.

If you look at my calendar you would think I am a pretty busy guy. I have a lot of business projects going on in a lot of areas and I love checking things off my to-do list. I spent plenty of years working from sunrise into the wee hours of the night. I am not a financially wealthy guy but I have built and sold a couple businesses, sat on some pretty important boards and was media manager for a multibillion dollar company. Thing is I never feel more fulfilled than when I participate in a church program, talk with someone in need, share Christ with them or when I spend quiet time in prayer.

I trust those who lead my church and that they are teaching me things I need to know to be a better husband, dad, and friend. The bumps and hick-ups I face each day are different than they were before I committed to a new way of doing life. The rewards for teaching that boy and his family about the Lord are so much more than a building made of brick or any physical thing I could possibly acquire with money.

My dear friend and my previous pastor Bob told me once, “when you teach people about God you can affect their lives for eternity.” That is a pretty good return on investment if you ask me and if there is a legacy to leave, that is the one I want.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Well, Well, Well - French Cooking Rescues Hollywood

If you follow this blog at all you know I had a very bad taste in my mouth over the recent Transformers movie. I thought it was crafted by lazy writers and exploited children. I think I said I felt the retailers and food chains using the movie as a marketing tool were also subsurface mucus. Basically, I thought it was disgusting.

Again, I am not the big movie buff at my house, my wife is. I do on occasion see a movie trailer that intrigues me and if the wife and I go to the theatre I push for the one that I thought I might like. On a rare convergence of the moon and stars we both agreed recently on the movie Julie and Julia, the new Meryl Streep movie.

OK, so guys are thinking what a chick flick dude, what were you thinking? To that I respond in a couple ways, first, I wanted to see it so shut up. The other is I just thought it would be a well done movie and I was looking for Hollywood to prove me wrong about my most recent evaluation. I don’t know if I am aligned with Streep and her political beliefs, but I can’t think of any that would keep me from going to her movies. Now forget it if it has Tom Cruise or Woopie Goldburg or a handful of others, I am not going.

The movie was the convergence of two wonderful memoirs, My Life in France by Julie Child and the blogs by young budding writer Julie Powell who worked through Child’s famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The movie was exceptionally well written and the two cuss words were not out of character, nor inappropriate for an adult rated movie. I love the actors, especially Streep who has got to be one of the most brilliant actors in the business. I don’t know if I have seen many movies where she did not stand out. Her accent and portrayal had me believing that that she was Julia Child.

I laughed through the movie and found at the end I was wanting more. The film did what I consider the purpose of a movie, to move you emotionally, entertain, create an enjoyable experience and not insult your intelligence. I want to be lead into an experience with a film, not tricked into the theatre.

I won’t take back my comments about the other movie I referenced at the top of this blog, it was bad. I am however reconsidering the industry as a whole. There are exceptionally well crafted films out there that deserve to be seen. Julia and Julia is one of them. Thanks to Nora Epheron who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, fabulous.

I am glad to see the talents of Julie Powell, Meryl Streep, Nora Ephron and Amy Adams recognized and that they collaborated in a film that inspires. This movie just makes everything a little bit better. I am keeping one eye open where the liberal west coast movie makers are concerned, but for now I am inspired and I must get back to de-boning my duck, bon appetite ya’ll.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Green Projects Turn Brown on the Vine

I could never figure out how our current president was going to generate millions of new jobs, green jobs. It all sounds nice, but I just could not see millions of folks building and installing solar screens on houses, changing out toilets or working on the giant wind turbines in West Texas.

Turns out I was right. The whole green energy movement is falling apart. Billionaire and businessman T. Boone Pickens spent $60 million of his own money buying advertising across the country to promote wind energy. He has millions tied up in the big wind turbines and has hundreds of them “in his garage.” Millions and millions of dollars invested in materials and land leases, but it is not going to happen, not right now. This is a guy who knows the industry, knows how to make money and has proven it over and over again.

I was reading recently that there is a global cooling going on right now. You would not know that by the mercury in my outside thermometer today, but, statistically, it has been cooling down.
The Big 8 Summit is where all the biggest countries come together to work on mutual projects to better the world. They flat out dumped the global warming hoax out the back door. This is all that crazy and expensive stuff that has earned Al Gore a huge home, a private plane and a rock star world tour lifestyle.

Greenpeace activists were recently arrested for hanging a banner on Mount Rushmore. The banner asked Obama to step up to the plate and lead on the global warming front. This came just one day after the Big 8 rejected the hype. If Greenpeace really wanted to make a difference, they could build water cisterns for elk in the park or replant native grasses. They could work with Texas Parks and Wildlife coordinating efforts to monitor fish kills caused by toxic golden alga or a hundred other constructive hands on projects. These things will cause change and create a greener, better world.

Next you can see the price of gas is going up. Depending on whom you ask, the reasons vary. But what most people do know is that the government is trying to get us all in smaller vehicles and they are forcing the automakers to add equipment to every vehicle that can be very expensive. Problem here is if you look around in rural America, small cars won’t get the job done. They won’t.

I am a conservationist and care for people. I spend a lot of time managing wildlife populations, feeding the hungry and caring for the land and waters I frequent. I spend a lot of time teaching kids how to harvest foods and care for the ranches and parks they visit. I dare say I may do more hands-on work, more conservation work that improves the planet and helps the animals, including humans, than most of the PETA or the National Wildlife Association volunteers.

You see, it is about getting your hands dirty. It is about personally experiencing the lifecycle and how land reacts to our use. God made this really neat little system of checks and balances that work. Expending energy and money on a banner hanging from Mount Rushmore is never going to do what a well in Africa or a field of native grass will do. Long-term results, planning and careful thought.

Most of the folks I know who do conservation work do it for the love of the land and animals that live there. They don’t care about media attention; they care about nature. They care about teaching kids how to get out there and do something good for the planet, never looking for a pat on the back. They do it because it is right. What are you doing today?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Transformers Transforming Our Kids?

There are some amazing things they pull off in today’s movies. I love the animation and the camera work. I really enjoy some of the creative ideas and even the remakes of a lot of the classic films and books, great stuff. My wife is really the movie buff at our home, she remembers the names of the stars and the movies they played in. She also knows who is dating who. I know John Wayne when I see him, Steve Martin, maybe a few others. I know John Wayne is dead but no clue who Steve is dating.

Recently I took my 11-year-old son to see the new blockbuster Transformers. There was a lot of cool animation and special effects. There was also a lot of offensive language and sexual references that just made no sense to me at all. The bad language came from all sides and I could not once, not once, accept it as part of the plot line or as a necessary part of the action. The sexual connotations were also unwarranted and could have been left out without affecting the story line.

I have written scripts for television, radio and other video media, the last client did 2.5 billion a year in sales and their TV scripts were very important to them. I never once found the need to include anything even close to what the movie Transformers had as what seemed to be a staple by the writers. As a writer I wonder how they could be that hard up for a story line or just lacking an educated vocabulary.

Now you take this movie and the offensive parts and feed that to kids through the mega meal deals at the fast food restaurants and soft drinks, you feed it to them every 15 minutes on the kid’s channels on TV and you have everyone convinced it is OK and kid friendly.

This movie is only a small part the transforming of the American culture to a lewd, selfish, uneducated and all me society. Take ABC Family channel, who made that up? That channel has some of the worst shows you would ever want to expose your children to, namely promiscuous teenager’s alamode. Is that really how people want their kids to act, really?

I have a friend who home schools his family and they don’t have TV or any of the internet or video things in their home that transport this type of information. I really thought he was off his rocker when I first met him. I am not so sure he is not making the right decisions now. He feeds his kids at a slower more deliberate pace. It makes a lot more sense to me the more I think about it.

This is not unusual or new. Society as a whole has hungered and accepted the next perverted or dangerous act for years. We have allowed the content to permeate our families, the schools, politics and it goes on and on.

Hey, I am no perfect angel. I catch myself being drawn into these shows and I slip and use language I am not proud of. I don’t hold folks up who get caught up in the heat of the moment. I do however dislike the planning and executing of language and sex in places where kids will be exposed to it. Yes, I know, so don’t take your kids to that stuff then you hypocrite, I can hear it and it is true. Maybe next time I will prepare myself better, be a better parent and guardian. I pray for Gods wisdom and strength for that every day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mean Old Guy.......

I have told of my grumpy and self-absorbed spirit before. I am not sure where it comes from but it is a fight I have had with myself for years. Many times folks will complain they have been mistreated one way or another to justify their mood or disposition. For me, I am a 50-year-old adult male. From here on out if I have a problem, it is my problem. It is up to me to fix it or change.

One Sunday not long ago I was in one of those not real cheerful moods and I walked into church, stood there, then walked back out. That day I had my wife’s little jeep and the top was off. I got in the jeep and just started driving.

When you have the top down on a jeep, the radio or music is not much of an option. As I headed out into the countryside it was just me, the sun and God cruising along. Now I believe if you listen God will speak to you. It can be in all types of ways, sometimes even audible. On that Sunday as I was asking Him to please help me figure out why I was so mad, He spoke. He said go buy a can of Coke. Not the bottle of diet Coke with lime that I like, it was a can of regular ole Coke.

I was pretty far out into the country driving down a small paved road thinking I needed to find an old country store and get the Coke. The sun was warm and the air was cool. Just ahead of me I saw the top of a small white church, I passed it slowly and noticed the door was open and there were two cars out front. Up and around the curve and there was a highway. I turned right and quickly found a convenience store. I walked in slowly and purchased the soda. All the time I was wondering if I should buy a lottery ticket or if someone was going to walk up to me and say something profound to change my life. Nothing.

I got back in the Jeep, pulled to the gas pumps and filled it up. Nothing, nobody. I eased out of the drive and headed back to my country road. Then He started to speak again, He told me to go back to that church. What, what was He talking about. But the Jeep turned and I ended up in the grass and gravel area in front of the tiny church. I pulled under a tree, motor running and sipped on the drink. I told myself I had no business being there and there was no way I was going near a strange little church in the country. Then He spoke again.

He told me to go introduce myself to the two older men on the porch. Reluctantly I backed up and parked, got out and walked to the porch. There on the white painted porch I met the pastor and one of his congregation. I told them I had no idea why I was there but I did not want to be at my church that day and I wanted to at least be nice and say hi. The next thing I knew I was sitting in a pew in the back of the church when service started.

All six or seven of the men met up front, invited me up and then prayed before the service. We all sat back down and several of the ladies began to sing and it was beautiful. The pastor introduced a member who spoke that day on how he had been blessed recently and how he knew it was only by the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit that he was there speaking.

I introduced myself at the end of the service and gave thanks for the Lords direction. I drove home back down that country road and into the bustling city. I was overcome with Gods hand on my shoulder that day. He helped me realize another piece of who He needs me to be, who I need to be. Eight strangers spoke into my life words of wisdom and grace, kindness and love.
We all have demons and life experiences in our closets. We all have hardships and struggles, all of us. Now you may think the guy with money or a pretty wife doesn’t have near as bad, it is all relative. The one thing we can all do that is the same is to choose to not go there. We can all choose to pray for God to give us the wisdom and heart to change who we are and how we are. He can do it, I know He can.

As far as that Coke in the can that day, I don’t have a clue. Maybe I was just thirsty, maybe I needed the extra sugar boost, maybe God will reveal it later. All I can say for sure is the soda was good, the church service was as close to God as I have been in a long time and one day, in the not too distant future, I will be back sitting in a pew at the small white church in the country.

God also spoke to me that day and reminded me that (Proverbs 29:11) A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control…….

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Friends

The thesaurus here on my laptop says that a friend can be a pal, a buddy, acquaintance, comrade and even colleague, helper and ally. My friend from Australia calls me Nancy, I think its a term of endearment from his side of the globe. I call him Bubba.

I don’t think I make a very good friend for the most part. I don’t always remember birthdays or special events. I don’t call regularly just to check in and see how people are doing. I have friends that do, guy friends, they are awesome that way. Honestly, it seems for me, life just goes by and I don’t think about it. I try to put it off as a guy thing but that really won’t get it because some do.

I hear that on Facebook , Twitter, Myspace etc., all those social networks, it is about how many friends you can gather. There are a lot of television and media types who have millions of friends. I do understand that is just a term for fan or obsessed person with nothing else to do. But I bet there are those who feel that they are truly connected to that person on a more intimate level, their buddy, pal. I bet it even become more of a problem for celebrities and their fans wanting to get “closer” be cuase they follow them on “twits, or tweets, or peeps” – or whatever they are called.

Jesus had a lot of folks who followed Him and helped Him. I think He probably considered many of them friends and loved them for caring about Him and others. His fab 12 were closest to Him. They shared intimate conversations and I can just see them walking for hours down an old dusty road, hot, thirsty, sweaty. “Man it’s hot out.” “Yea.” “Do we have far to go.” “Not sure.” “Man it’s hot out.” “Yea.” Friends can have a conversation like that and it is fine, especially guys, friends just know each other.

Ladies friendships are so way beyond what most guys can muster. They have to plan time together. They talk for hours about things that they talked about just a week before, or an hour ago. They get excited if they meet another woman and might have a new friend in their circle, a new “best friend.” They can brush each other’s hair or share clothes. I don’t know if any of my buddies have ever asked to borrow a shirt to match his boots and belt, well maybe, but just once.

For my best and closest friends we have an unwritten bond, one that time and life have no power over. It is just there (our friendship) and it only takes a minute or two once we are together or talking to hit our stride from 20 or 30 years before. I have other friends who I have not know as long but we love each other’s company, we laugh and joke. I smile thinking about them in my life today. And there are friends who I think we just like each other. We don’t necessarily see each other often or hang at each others homes, but we could.

The human has an innate desire for friendship. They want to be cared for and care for others. Even the worst of the worst crave to be bonded with others in some way.

Thanks, thanks to everyone who came to my 50th bitrthday bash and grillathon. I am amazed at how many folks care enough for me, call me a friend and take a day of their time to come and tell me. Thanks ya’ll.

Friends are more important to me as each day passes. Lord help me to be a better friend to those friends I have now and those friends I have yet to meet.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Road Less Travelled

When we were growing up my father took us around the country in the old family station wagon. To this day, I believe the adventures we had on those weekends and during the summer are a big part of why I write about, and have a passion for, the outdoors.

The old family station wagon was well before everyone had a pickup, Mini Van or SUV. They were the original SUV Mini Van. We took it up and down the narrow mountain passes. We drove through the giant sequoia tree in Yosemite National Park before it fell in 1969. We sat in the backseat, facing backwards and making faces at the cars behind us.

Mom used to tell us all kinds of things to keep us quiet like, “Chew on a saltine cracker long enough it will turn into sugar.” “If you’re not quiet we will just put you out right here.” We played the “I Spy” game for hours, colored and read books until we were nauseated. And we just stared out the window watching the world and listening to mom and dad talk about all kinds of things.

Dad built a homemade camping trailer. The trailer was flat with compartments that fit different items, like the Coleman stove, tent, food and ice chest. Everything had its place and it worked really well.

I remember once on summer vacation as we sat on the mountainside, a storm in the valley let loose a tornado. We watched it as it whipped and tore through the fields. I was so frightened. My mom and dad explained if it came up close we would lie down in the ditch and it would go right over us. They knew it would not come up the mountain and it didn’t. To this day I wonder if you lie in a ditch if a tornado will just go over the top of you.

On that same campsite on the same trip we had a bear chase a ground squirrel over our tent. It happened in the middle of the night and when we woke the next day we saw the bear paw prints and some punctures on our tent just above where I was sleeping. To this day we have that tent and the paw prints are on it.

America has a long list of must-see landmarks and parks. Rural life is where my heart is. I love driving the back roads through the small towns. I am also one who is not afraid to eat at the mom and pop café. For me, the old saying, “You spend the first half of your life trying to get off the farm and the second half trying to get back to it,” fits, except I was raised in the city. I have an inner longing for the simple things life offers; they seem more rewarding or real.

Thinking, dreaming, pondering, wonder, adventure, prayer, discovery, quiet and simple are all words I want more of in my life. I want my kids to learn to seek adventure and contemplate God in their lives. When Jesus was feeling overwhelmed from his adventures or just needed quiet time, He headed for the mountain, outside, away from the hustle and bustle of healing and preaching and sharing life. He needed to have quiet time with His Father and time to recharge.

When I travel, I get excited to see just who God is going to put in my path. An old shop clerk, a farmer, a shrimper, a couple kids on four-wheelers, each with a story if you are interested and listen. This summer, take some time to explore. Take a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon drive. Check out a small highway through the country without the radio on. Stop in a small town and have a soda or buy some vegetables along the town square. Listen for God to lead you and know that we live in the best country on earth, and if you are with me, in Texas, the best state in America -- I’m a native. I can say that. Be grateful for the ability to move about freely and without fear. Take the “Road Less Traveled,” see who is there, amazing.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pot Scrubber

There are certain things that, as a man, I feel required to do or be responsible for around the house. When the toilet gets clogged up, I get the call. When the yard has branches or fencing problems, it is mine. Most of the things my wife or kids could do, but they are left to me because they are outside. All that is fine because I like my time in the yard and I like accomplishing things then sitting back and looking at the results -- many times with a cigar in hand.

My wife has certain things she does that are hers. There are things that she does not want me to touch, and, honestly, I don’t want to touch them. She likes to clean the house. She likes dusting and spraying cleaners and organizing. She will tell you it is therapeutic with a smile on her face.
Before we got married I kept an impeccable house. I was ultra organized, had the laundry done nightly, cooked and cleaned with gusto. It seems not long after we were married those skill sets began to wane then continued a downward spiral to almost nothing. I never intentionally meant to turn over the cleaning and laundry to my wife, it just happened. Don’t misunderstand, I still get asked to help and those times I get asked, I better perform.

There was a period in my life when I spent a lot of time listening to motivational speakers. I had a handful whom I really enjoyed and got me fired up. Motivational speakers can be very positive influences in your life, and if you were to pick up on any one lesson chances are you would grow personally or in business. The two I really enjoyed the most were Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar.
Brian Tracy really taught me some skills when it comes to selling and professional relationships. I must have worn out two cassette tape series listening to them over and over in my truck. He also taught me how to be organized and efficient with your time -- that I am still working on 15 years later.

Zig Ziglar is my favorite because he uses wonderful personal stories and visual aids to get his point across. For years he carried around a big chrome hand water pump that he would get to cranking up and down to demonstrate a point that I can’t remember.

I do remember one thing in particular that Zig did say that in the last few months, 15 years later, I have begun to implement with conviction. It is not a sales tool or a marketing angle, not really. Zig said he never lets his wife wash the big pots and pans. If she used a big frying pan, stew pot or anything big like that, he hand washed it, dried it and put it away. He was adamant about this.

I started to do this at our house. It can really be a drag on some days. Recently when my wife very lovingly put something in the oven to warm up for dinner, she forgot there was a plastic tray under the foil. The house filled with smoke and the plastic dripped and covered all the racks and bottom of the oven. I rushed in as she worried about the fire and mess. I immediately began the clean-up process that took several hours but resulted in a sparkling clean oven. I guess the oven is a giant pot of sorts anyway.

I know I can always do a little more to help around the inside of the house. This one little gesture, cleaning the pots, has been unspoken to date but then I am not doing it for a pat on the back or a thank you. I need, I want, to be a good husband and the knight in shining armor for my biggest cheerleader. We have a joke around our house that the sock fairy always delivers clean socks right before our drawers are empty. Now I am not one who believes in fairy tales and the likes, but that one is one I am going to believe in as long as I can. If it takes getting to that mystical land of clean and wonderful smelling laundry by including a few inside chores to my side of the list, I’m in.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bacon, Coffee and a Memory

The six senses are amazing. They can bring you to a place of long ago or create a tab in your life book that you can go back to and savor, morn or reflect on.

Sounds or music can spur a memory that makes you sad or happy. Lots of people can hear a song and get nostalgic. I remember running away from home when I was in Junior High and I rode a bus all the way to Lake Jackson, Texas. At the time it seemed like a thousand miles, really it was maybe 60 or 70. There was a specific girl who I had a crush on that had left our neighborhood and moved there. When I got to her moms apartment I was met by her older sister who told me she was inside with her new boyfriend and I could not go in. I sat on the steps outside and listened as Elton John’s Mad Man Across the Water played through their windows. To this day when I hear music off that record I feel something, sad I guess, it almost always brings me back there.

Seeing something can create a Déjà vu effect that triggers emotions. It is not uncommon to be sensitive to certain things you see that move you to emotion because of your interpretation as a kid. Past experiences with people, places or things can spur you to happiness, sadness, fear. When I see a kid being ignored by an adult I get frustrated, even mad. I remember when I was growing up and it was “kids are made to be seen not heard.” I grew up longing for someone to talk to, not another kid but a grown up. Today I find myself drawn into ministry with boys who are hungry to talk to an adult. Something about seeing a kid being ignored gets me all worked up.

Feeling the soft flannel of a sheet or a shirt, the feeling of a fresh washed pair of favorite jeans can make you feel good. It feels like a Saturday morning with nothing ahead of you but the day. When I feel my wife’s hair after it has just been washed, soft, smooth and silky makes me feel good. I also love to get my back scratched. I remember as a kid begging mom to scratch my back every night and to never stop. Human contact is imperative to life. Touch.

Two of my favorite sensory alerts are from the nose and both of these can typically be found in the mornings. The smell of bacon and the smell of fresh brewing coffee. When I come into the kitchen in the morning and the coffee is already started and the aroma is all about it makes me happy. I don’t have any specific memory or occasion when it became such a feel good sensation but it is one I truly enjoy.

Bacon, yes that lovely pork product. You can wrap bacon around a rock and I will enjoy every bite. Bacon is one of those smells I can catch from miles across a mountain valley coming from a hunt camp in the timber. Once while hunting early one morning in the hill country it crept into my deer blind from the next ranch over, I had to leave the blind early to go eat at our camp.
I truly believe God gives us these extra special tools to use for his good. They can bring us to a special place we may not see but we feel. They can be hurtful sometimes but I do a lot of hard work on myself when I am hurting – a lot of big hit songs came from pain.

Thanks Lord for the sensations I am blessed with and the emotions that come with them. I pray I use the gifts you have given me to honor You. Lord help me slow down to “smell the coffee” each day and oh yea, thanks for bacon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Broken Cars and Chocolate

It is never good to find a pool of liquid under your vehicle. I know on hot days if you have been running the air conditioner it can be nothing, but most other days, grrrrrrr.

That is exactly what happened Monday morning. The night before I noticed a spot on the driveway, I am a guy, I see those things. I decided it was most likely from someone else’s vehicle because we had a lot of folks over that night. The next morning I pulled up in a different spot and when I got out there was a drip under my engine. I know very little about vehicles but I did know that it was not oil but most likely water from my water pump. Crud, that can be an expensive fix especially on a ¾ ton diesel pickup.

Life goes into a holding pattern for me when a vehicle goes down. I drive a lot and many times out in the middle of nowhere. That is not where you want to break down. Many of the roads have nothing but a ditch to either side. I can’t take that chance and I sure don’t want my wife calling me with car problems when I am out of town.

It took a few phone calls but I had an appointment to have it repaired that afternoon. On one hand it was a blessing, on the other I did not know how I was going to pay for it. I thought I would figure that out as I went along. Stuck at home I was not going to get anything done.
The shop I took it to was on one of the oldest streets in Austin, Texas, Congress. Luckily for me it was at the beginning of the newly revived eclectic parts. Vintage clothing stores, health food shops and coffee houses line the street on both sides. I left the car with the mechanic and strapped on my backpack with my laptop and took off to explore. It was urban exploration at its finest.

My first stop was the resale shop by the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul. I spent and hour looking a worn t-shirts and old records. I could not find a thing I needed but it was cool inside and I had nothing else to do, what the heck. I had a few shirts I thought I would buy until the very end when I put them back and left to continue my exploration.

I walked all the way to the end of the shops on one side then crossed and started back on the opposite side. The shop I was drawn into on that side was the candy & soda shop. I explored each shelf and admired the old candy boxes on display. I could taste the cherry sours, the Clark bars, the Necco’s and the licorice. Now the doctor told me to back off sugar but that just highlighted my cravings. You know what I mean?

I could not resist a handmade root beer and some apple, bacon, smoked chocolate. I made my purchase and found a metal chair along the sidewalk in front of a small city grocery and relaxed with my treasures. I drank every drop of the soda. I saved most of the chocolate for my daughter who just happened to be playing a softball game around the corner right when they finished the truck.

Yes, the day started out pretty crummy, but it turned out good. I realized that the time I had exploring was really a neat chance to think, and pray and be out of my normal element, it opened me up for a great conversation with God. We had a nice chat and maybe our relationship will be a little stronger, I will be a little more open. I sure do need it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Books

I did not grow up a reader. I can only remember a few books, one or two, that I read as a child in school. I grew up in a normal school and home setting for the most part, but I don’t remember being a family that read. I had friends along the way that I noticed devoured books and I envied them.

Danny was one of those friends. His parents were well read and they were smart. They talked about politics and things going on in the world. They also read the bible. To this day Danny reads every night before he goes to sleep.

Somewhere along the way, in my mid twenties, I began to read. I think it was Danny who inspired me to read again and the first books I chose. I started reading the James Clavel series Shogun, Taipan and the others. Then I read a couple huge books on mergers and corporate takeovers rolling straight into a series of business biographies. These were all long reads and each time I completed one it became a special trophy, an accomplishment I was very proud of.
When I had my birthday recently I got a book from my wife, Wilderness Challenge by William G. Collins. I read that book over the weekend and loved it. It is now on my favorites list. Another favorite is Waiting for White Horses by Nathan Jorgenson. Both these books took me on an adventure, moved me to thought and emotion. Those are the things I look for in a book. Interestingly these were both first book for the authors.

Reading is a lost art to many. I have a friend, Ben Raider, who is an author. He has written a series of really funny books built around a game warden and his adventures. The problem that he and I have talked about many times is that it is hard to get the guys who would enjoy his books to read them. Outdoor guys are good on magazines, but not necessarily books. I remember once at an event we had tons of kids coming by our booths. He had books, I had stickers and pencils. The kids avoided him and flocked to the free stuff we had. By the end of the weekend we were laughing as he tried to coax kids in to see some literature. A book. They were confused and all but interested. Sad but true.

My kids have been read to almost every night since they were small. They are now good readers. I give that credit to my wife. Her consistency has paid off in dividends that will give to them for life. I love it when they read and tell me about their books. I will buy them almost any book they want to read. I actually have found a used book online is a great buy and I buy them a lot.

I could always read more. I should read more. When I read a book I love to feel it, to laugh and cry and be excited to get back to it. I love the feeling of not wanting to be interrupted or rushing back to it after a day of work or a distraction.

Coming from a high school drop-out background Satan always tries to convince me I am not worthy or smart, but he is wrong. The Lord has blessed me with the ability to read, the gift of emotion and a world of books, including His. I can read the bible everyday and understand something new.

Now I wear reading glasses and they can be a hassle. I have electronic distractions everywhere; I carry one on my side (Blackberry phone). But there is nothing like a book, a story on paper that takes you somewhere, teaches you something or just makes you feel good. So remember what my good buddy Ben Raider says, “Hey kids look, literature – it’s OK”.

Take a minute, enjoy that quiet time. Enjoy the adventure of a book.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cowboy Way

I love stories of strong willed resolute people. I hear these tales many times when I talk to our older generations. I hear stories of kids who woke up early to milk the cows then off to school all day then home to work till dark each night. I hear of long days at the office where men built businesses and careers from nothing. I hear of time spent reading, writing (with a pencil) and talking. People set forth to accomplish things and they would not look up until they were complete. Change their lives, change their living conditions just change what needed to be changed.

Today it seems we are getting soft around the waste and in how much we can handle. Society as a whole seems to look for the easy way out. Don’t hear me wrong because I know many who work their fingers to the bone, who love with all their hearts and set their minds to get things done and do. There are those who want everyone to have it easy and comfortable even if they do not do their part, they want others to pick up the slack and make it all better.

Winn McClure grew up ranching and living the “cowboy way”. McClure lives in West Texas and to this day works his cattle ranch, he is 80-years-old. He lives each day with droughts and fences, cattle feed and coyotes, fresh air and quiet time away from everything. When I sat and talked with him recently we talked about God, morals and habits. At one point our conversation turned to smoking. McClure had smoked the old brands of cigarettes that were filter-less and pure nicotine. Four packs a day at his peak. Now anything you do that many times a day then add in an addictive chemical element over many years will hook you.

McClure had a wonderful spin on how he quit cigarettes that got me to thinking about how tough we are and determined as a society today. “Back in 1959,” was how he started his story. “Back then we lived in Odessa and one cold winter afternoon I ran out of smokes.” His wife was in the kitchen making Christmas candy when McClure announced he was out of cigarettes. “Well go to town and get some and get me some raw peanuts for the candy,” she said matter of factly. So he headed into town.

When McClure got to the store they were out of raw peanuts. “I asked for my regular carton of smokes and they told me that would be $3. Three dollars, I told him he was crazy, I would never pay that much for a carton of cigarettes. Then he told me my wife had been paying that for years. I didn’t know cause I never did the grocery shopping. That was it – I told them right then and there if they were gonna cost that much I would just quit.”

That day McClure quit smoking and never started back. I have quit a few unhealthy habits but I don’t think I ever just quit something with that much resolve. I usually squirm and whine as I suffer through it. I just thought what he did was so classic, hard-nosed, set in their ways old timer tough. I have heard ranchers and country folks tell me all types of stories like his. Stories of strong willed individualism and determination for good.

As Americans I don’t think we will ever lose our drive and will to push ahead, not everyone. There will always be mavericks and innovators, winners and losers. No matter where we go as a society we will have men and women who will not fit the mold or settle for less.

The bible tells us stories of those who lived and died because they made a decision and would not waiver. They were convicted of their faith and determined to share that with others. While facing certain death, sitting in prison and even Jesus as he was beaten and crucified stood for what he believed, made the choice to stand in the gap, speak out, to die for what is right. Mr. McClure quit smoking and that was that, done. I pray I can teach my kids to reach for the brass ring, to stretch, to strive to be a winner. I pray my kids are not afraid to share their faith with others and make hard choices. To this day I believe there is something to be said for “the cowboy way.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

By By Blackie

You know there are always things that just seem to become a fixture in your life. Some people have an old shirt, some it’s a chair or a car – things. I have a couple t-shirts that I just cannot give up and they are more comfortable than ever. I don’t wear them in public.

I had a jacket I got after my dad died that I loved. The jacket was leather and it looked a lot like the one worn by Indiana Jones. I actually bought a hat and wore Kaki pants with it every Halloween. One day my bride was clearing out the closet of coats to donate to Coats for Kids and the coat went away. I was so upset. I went that night to the coats warehouse and sifted through thousands of coats to find it and never could. To this day we just don’t talk about it. She didn’t realize what it meant to me and I guess God wanted to bless someone else with it.

One of the first things I did when I moved to Austin was to buy a fishing boat. It was a new, sleek bass boat and I ordered it to match my truck perfectly. My oldest son Cody and I spent years on that ole boat fishing, cruising, hanging out. We got in all kinds of trouble when I would pull him out of school to fish. We laughed when we would get in trouble for him missing a school day or come in late off the water because we just didn’t want to come in. I remember after a long day the drive was quiet and he would ask me if he could rest his eyes. He never wanted to “sleep” if he was with me, just rest his eyes. He would fall asleep in a flash.

One Christmas I bought Cody a pony. Cody was maybe 8 and I hid the pony in the garage, it was a cool Christmas. Blackie was a stubborn little fat black pony. We had a saddle and all the gear. Cody and the kids in the neighborhood would ride him everywhere. It was a little boys dream come true. I forget now all the hassles that came along with him, just the good memories. It was a sad day when we had to finally sell him and the folks drove off down the street with him in their trailer.

That ole bass boat was black. We kept in the garage and took very good care of it. I bought it in 1987. The last few years’ life being what it is I had not gone out in it much. Cody, now 25, began fishing bass tournaments and bought his own home. I gave him the boat. He has used it the last few years to hone his fishing skills and is now a very good tournament bass angler.

Time being what it is, a robber of newness and mechanical health we decided it was maybe time to sell the boat and move on. Last night Cody called and said, “Dad, Blackie is gone. Remember when we watched Blackie (the pony) drive down the street? That is how I feel right now.” I knew what he was feeling.

Cody needs a different boat and I was proud he took such good care of her while he had her. He sold the boat to a nice young man and we hope it serves him well. Things don’t mean much in the end. The memories made on that boat are precious and bonded us close. Thanks Lord for Blackie and the bass boat. Thanks Lord for Cody. Thanks Cody for being a great son. I love you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Frig in' Dog Thieves

She called my cell from the posting I put on Craigslist looking for information. The story she told me made me really mad. This lady and her young daughter lost their small dog, a Chihuahua I think, just a couple weeks before she called me. The small dog squeezed out of the fenced backyard just moments after he was let out to go to the bathroom. They worked hard putting up posters and posting online, going to the pound every other day. Finally after a week or so she took a new batch of flyer's out and this time she stopped at the large pet retailer in the strip center not far from her home. Here is where I get mad, as she was asking the clerk for permission and telling her story, describing the dog, the clerk next to her perked up and shared about a recent customer she had.

The new customer was a middle age white lady. She came to the register with a cart full of everything you need to make a new dog comfy. A cute bed, food bowls, food, toys, blankets even little sweaters and booties. She talked all about her new dog and how cute he was. She told how she found the little booger walking alone down the road and she saved him. That was it, she rescued him and decided he was hers for the keeping.

Ranger and Lilly were our dogs since my kids were little. Lilly was a wonderful female black lab we got one Easter in the parking lot of a local grocery. The family giving away the puppies assured me she came from a long bloodline of great hunting dogs, sold me. She was as sweet as any dog could be. Ranger was a Father’s Day gift from my wife and kids after I had to put down Bud. Ranger was a full blood Sheppard with all the brains of a turnip but a heart the size of a watermelon. He was, is, however a compulsive fetcher of anything that is not bolted down.

We live next to a park and on occasion the dogs would find their way out, always returning filthy and tired, sometimes covered with skunk or porcupine. They were, are, good dogs and we have been trying to find them since 9/11/2008 when they got out. We have posted on Craigslist, at the pound, and still to this day put out huge posters all over. We still have hope.

Not long ago I got a call just minutes after putting up a poster on near our home. A guy and his kids just picked up two dogs and were taking them to their house. I turned around and rushed to a parking lot to meet them. They were not our dogs, they were big, cute pups, maybe a year or so. The guy said in passing “well I guess I will take them home.” His kids were overly excited about “their “ new dogs. I asked him to please post on Craigslist and call the pound. He said he did not know about any Craigslist and said he would try to find the owners, I have my doubts.

One bright spot from this whole thing was all the loving and kind calls from folks who thought they found Lilly and Ranger, saw them or just giving us tips. It is amazing how many folks care for pets that are not their own. God has a special place for these folks who through their kindness have lifted our family up and cared.

I know someone has Ranger and Lilly. I know the people who have them have not gone to the pound to see if anyone lost them and they have not posted or looked on Craigslist. I guess now, after almost 7 months we have to think about moving on. I pray that our dogs have found a good home and are loved as much as we loved them. I pray that people who find dogs or other lost pets are convicted to try to find an owner. I pray my kids and wife do OK as we work through this time. Thanks to everyone who cares or helps in times like these. Our dogs were, are, family and it is a loss we will not soon get over.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Little Turns and Lessons

I was pretty nervous as I prepared to speak at the wild game dinner. I am not usually uptight about speaking in public and most often jump at the chance. This time however I really wanted to convey a good message and relate a point. It had to include a lot about my childhood experiences and growing up. This is a topic I can talk on for hours.

My concern that I would get off topic kept me on I task. I spent days handwriting, typing, editing, reading and re-reading the speech. The versions changed each time I wrote it and when I finally read it to my wife and pastor they shredded it. It was good they were honest and open with me and I was surprisingly open to their critiques.

From the ashes of reflection into my childhood I learned some things about myself that were wonderful as I wrote. My childhood was not a perfect white picket fence, apple pie, tucked in bed story of love and caring. It was one of trials and challenges, disappointment and struggles, not always, but a lot.

The amazing thing I realized as I was writing them down was that each piece had a part in making me who I am today. There are many amazing and wonderful things, things I would have never imagined, but are now common and every day, like this blog.

In the midst of all the craziness of my childhood during elementary school I wrote a story. I was in the fifth grade and it won a “best in school” honor. It was read in front of the whole school and I received $5 cash.

I remember camping trips from the family station wagon and catching my first fish. The adventure, bears, streams, smells, mountains and the dirt of the outdoors.

I remember as a young teenager being on my own and walking through fields of tall grass in the middle of the night searching for a place to be. I remember one night I was walking along the interstate as I hitchhiked. I was again a young teen and I was cold, tired and hungry, to top that off it started to sprinkle. I remember seeing a farmhouse in the distance and wishing I could be there, inside where it was warm, and I was loved and cared for.

As I reflected on these storylines of my life I realized each one of those trials and struggles were God’s way of preparing me for who I am today. I am not and do not complain about my childhood. I don’t live in a constant reflective and remorseful time of lost boy or childhood opportunities. But I can see now how God took each moment, each lesson and is using it for His good.

I am an award winning outdoor writer and communicator. I am not the best or most skilled, but it is who I am in my life today. The confidence from that one story and knowing I might could actually have a talent or gift. That $5 sealed a deal that lay dormant for many years.

That lost little boy wandering the country gave me the ability to know how a lost boy feels. The drug and alcohol problems gave me insight from a firsthand position to understand those struggles in boys and men. These combined with the outdoors birthed the Kids Outdoor Zone youth ministry in my life.

God used all these struggles, these challenges to create who I am today. I believe we all have these pieces in our life experience that if we stop, be still and reflect, we will see. The gifts and tools that we uniquely have like finger prints. My story is my story. Yours can be exactly opposite but you still have things in your life that He can and will use if you let Him.

Take some time to think how best you can serve the One who gave up his only Son for you. What an outstanding chance to give a little back. You have talents and gifts, ask Him to help you know them and use them. You are amazing!