Friday, December 7, 2012

Your Place in the Picture


As the owners, publishers and founders of Country Line Magazine Sandra and I made a decision not long after we began this  adventure. We decided that we would never use the magazine to tear somebody down, we would never accept questionable advertising and we would give the glory and the honor to God. Over the years there have been many long days, time away from our kids and hardships we have struggled with. Most small family owned businesses do. We have also had some incredible moments and a lot of fun.
About five or six years ago we began a ministry for kids. Again, incorporating our passion for kids, the outdoor and the Lord, Kids Outdoor Zone was born. The ministry takes primarily, but not only, kids without dads on outdoor adventures. We also train men and women in churches to do what we do and they too come alongside kids they know and mentor them in outdoor adventures. And it has grown.
One of the most amazing and rewarding things that comes from the magazine is when a single mom tells us she found out about the ministry in those pages and brought her son. That through that connection his life has changed, that he accepted Christ, that he found a male role model or friends in KOZ.
Because of the support of the advertisers, and the readers, the lives of kids are changed. Forever. Each year we send out a letter to the folks who have donated to the ministry looking for support to take it through the end of the year and into the next. It is because of the generous support of those who see the vision of KOZ it is possible.
We would like to offer the letter to you this month and if you are so move, please help us in the quest to train more mentors and to make sure there is "No Kid Left Inside".
From TJ & Sandra Greaney: Kids Outdoor Zone,
I wanted to cry. I wanted to beat my fist against the wall. I wanted to take him up and rescue him when I heard the story. A little boy who was left at home while his mother enjoyed the beach with her newest boyfriend on a long weekend said he really did not care. He said he was fine and that he was used to it. He just wished he had not missed KOZ that weekend. He is 11.
 That is the story we hear over and over again. The stories of the kids make a KOZ leader strong in their pursuit of their hearts. Even a small glimpse of a kid's rescued heart brings exhilaration, satisfaction and a joy that is hard to express in words. It has wrecked, for His good, even the toughest leaders.
 Because of your support this year we have impacted more kids than ever before with life-changing experiences in outdoor adventure and through committed mentors. The stories include so many victories. A boy stepping up and mentoring another younger than he, both from fatherless homes. Girls weeping with joy and claiming an empowerment they have never known then accepting Christ as the Father they have never known. Incredible, and the stories go on and on.
 As the Christmas season comes and year-end giving is upon us we would like for you to consider the impact your support provides for KOZ kids. The needs are many -- growing the program, curriculum, training leaders, gear, trailer, land.
 The majority of the kids who come to our camps, adventures and meetings have little or no financial means. Most have no father nor male role model at home. Their lives consist of broken promises and abandoned dreams. It is the support of our donors that has made KOZ available to the hearts of thousands of kids and the adult leaders who care for them.
 "I don't know how to thank you. My son has come back to me. KOZ is what he needed, and I am so grateful for those men. Thank you, God, for KOZ," explained a mom after summer camp, tears rolling down her cheeks.
 We know God is the foundation of this program. Matthew 7:24-27: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock."
 If you would like to meet and talk about possible land donations or other ways you can support the program, please call me personally: (512) 789-3838.
Donations can be made with this envelope or online at www.KidsOutdoorZone.com
Thank you.
In battle for their hearts,
TJ Greaney
Founder, Kids Outdoor Zone

Monday, November 5, 2012

Craftsmen, Artist and Plumbing



The work began here...
The slow leak behind the kitchen sink went undetected for years. Then it got a bucket under it that had to be emptied for a couple years. Slowly but surely the damage to the cabinet, the hassle of the bucket and the smell of the mold and mayhem that was being created behind and below the cabinet took its toll. We had to do something, and we had to do it fast. Family from each side was coming in town for the wedding, and we were hosting.

Our home was built in the early ‘70s, and it is solid. The cabinets are well made of solid quality pine plywood. The plumbing is cast iron, galvanized and copper. The a/c is solid sheet metal duct work, and the electrical is good copper wiring. The slab is solid and has never moved an inch nor caused any problems.

The place was pretty beat up when we got it some 20 plus years ago. It was a foreclosure that had not been loved on for years. Tall grass and weeds grew thick between and around the chicken pens and t-post fencing that crisscrossed in every direction. An old dump truck sat abandoned in the front yard.

At the time, when I found the house, I was a single dad. I loved working in the yard, teaching my son to use the tools of the trades. My wife tells the story of how when she first came over to visit and pulled up into the driveway she thought to herself, "I could live here." Dreams do come true.

So a month ago I began to tear the kitchen apart. Each piece of sheetrock, each piece of old paneling revealed another item that had to be added to the list. I began to feel overwhelmed and fearful I would not have it at least usable by the time family started to arrive. Why did I start this? How am I going to fix that? Who can help me rework those? Anxious thoughts rolled around inside my head every moment.

Then I remembered to stop and pray. I have done it before on renovation projects. Lord, please help me to understand the mechanics of this or how to make that cut with the mitre saw. Then He reintroduced me to a dear friend I had not seen in years. When my friend, who is a contractor, heard I was working on the kitchen and needed help, he told me he would have his guys call me. It was only minutes before a plumber called, then an A/C contractor, an electrician and a sheetrock guy.

All of them could come right over; all of them could help right away. First of all, that is a God thing right there. They began to get the things done that I thought would never be finished. Each day another task completed. They were good, real good. To find a craftsman, any type, that can get on something right away, or even more exactly when you need them, is only possible with God.

The art of the craftsman is sometimes lost, and the importance of a trained plumber or carpenter is overlooked by society too often. Years ago my son's school took the wood shop class and turned it into a computer lab. I was mad. I went to the next school board meeting and told them about the contractors and craftsmen who got their confidence and beginnings in school shop class. I told them I thought they were making a huge mistake. It didn't matter what I said; they did what they were going to do regardless.

I am a big fan of folks who work with their hands. Yes, I know we need computer programmers, grocery store clerks and politicians. Well, maybe not politicians -- they would do a better job if they worked as plumber’s helpers for 10 years before they qualified to dish out the BS they do. Sorry to put that out on you, plumbers -- you don't deserve that either. Ah, but I digress.

The art of craftsmanship is an incredible gift. Imagine running on the top beam of the Empire State Building with a heavy tool belt around your waist. Welding hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean. Framing a staircase in your house or any house for that matter. Painting a house, running the waterlines in a condo building or wiring a panel of breakers. 

The joy of building and the satisfaction of a project from start to finish have not gone unnoticed by the consumer. Lowes and Home Depot are in the top 10 retailers in the country. People like building, repairing and renovating.
Just about finished.
For the most part, our kitchen is done now, just hours before the family arrived. I find it hard to believe that it was what it was for so long. 

For me, again, I see where God came through. He was a huge part of each element, which assures me that He cares about everything about me. He comes through. I almost feel like I don't deserve all the blessings; ah, but He tells me different. I am thankful this season, Thanksgiving, for the blessings.

Thanks to all the hands that crafted the new kitchen for us. I am excited that the Mrs. will have a great kitchen to cook our turkey. All those who work hard, work with their hands, job well done, all. I appreciate you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bran Muffin or Bacon, or Both?



As I am sitting here enjoying the morning, it is quiet. I have purposefully set myself up to have a few hours to write, which I do it best in places that inspire me in different ways -- the mountains, Starbucks, a balcony overlooking the beach. Today it is Whole Foods. The newest store in Austin is a smaller store not far from where I drop off my son at school. 

Whole Foods is an amazing place where people-watching is at a premium. The headquarters are here in Austin, and they built a flagship store downtown that is just incredible. Healthy foods are the foundation with just about anything, and everything you need to feed your body well can be found there. My wife and I have, on many occasions, chosen a date night as an evening strolling the isles and people-watching at the mega-headquarters grocery store. It always includes taste testing then eating something new, organic and healthy.

Today I was craving a bran muffin with blueberries. I bought a four pack and a half loaf of cranberry walnut bread cut thin. I also ordered a medium organic coffee with almond milk and cinnamon. As I sat down to enjoy my treats I thought, ‘Who am I?’

Since when do I want a bran muffin? Why am I so intrigued by local honey and Truvia natural sweetener? Let me check … Boots? Yes. Jeans? Check. Ranger belt? Yep. Starched button-down long sleeve? Yep. I drove my dirty ole’ Dodge truck over here. I am half shaven and have a healing wound on my hand from a weekend fishing mishap. I am still the good ole’ boy I think I am -- I think.

As I ponder my cravings I look up and notice that there are old pickup truck tailgates hanging from the ceiling in different directions as decor over the registers here. Older ones -- now that is cool. 

I am stuck in a weird place right now. I realize I live a life polar opposite of where I spent many days on along my life trail. I grew up a city boy, and I crave the country life. I am about as conservative as one can be, yet I love this hip and cool place called Austin. I enjoy the energy of the boys and girls I mentor and crave time with the wise and intentional Sages I have in my life. I love bacon, eggs and biscuits with strong black coffee for breakfast, yet I am here filling a craving I had for a bran muffin and agave nectar.

The music in the store changes from something I have never heard, an eclectic sound, to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels. How appropriate.

The really amazing thing, the one thing consistent in my life today, is my desire to know Jesus and live a life as an honorable man -- a man who claims Jesus as his Lord of lords, King of kings. A man who will fight a battle against the wrongs and deviant claims of the fallen angels and Satan himself. To be a person, a man, who stands for something, who is compassionate and caring and has meaning in his life. One who is penitent when wrong, walks with a joy that is shared without conversation and truly prays when I say, "I am prayin' for ya."

John Eldredge, (“Wild at Heart”), talks about the poser. The guy who is living one way and portrays another, one who wears one hat in public and a different one at home or at church. We all do it at some level, smiling when we are not happy, laughing at something we do not find funny, agreeing to something to get along or get ahead. I have been that guy for years in so many areas. The difference today is when I uncover myself posing, it bothers me. I don't want to do it. I don't want to be that person.  

Life is full of all types of opportunities, challenges, foods, stores, people and places to be or be from. I am free to choose. I can enjoy my bran muffin today and thick cut fried crisp bacon tomorrow. I can choose today to be in a good mood or fill my pockets full of rocks and sticks and be weighted down with the burdens of unhappiness and anger. Of course I have to take into consideration my waistline, my cholesterol, my sugar intake and if there will be time for a nap after breakfast. Many of the choices we make today have long-term consequences. Decisions from our past come back and we have to deal with them. In almost every situation we have to make a choice, eat it or not, be there or leave, face it or run, believe or not. Today I choose to enjoy being where God has me. It is a good place.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Unconditional Bob

A phone call in the middle of the night almost never brings good news.

"Hey, my car is broken down." "Hey, so-and-so is headed to the hospital." "Hey, can you come get me out of jail?” No one wants to get one of these calls at night, but if you have kids or family it is going to happen at some point.

Shirley and Bob Baker, my mother and stepdad,  were probably asleep. Waking up and first thinking, "What is that sound?"

Clarity comes quickly and they answer the phone.

"Mrs. Greaney,” the voice on the other end of the line chimes in a monotone voice.

"No, it's Mrs. Baker. It used to be Greaney," she says very defining.
The voice on the other end of the phone continues, "Excuse me -- Mrs. Baker. Well, ma’am, we have your son here in the Toyavalle, Ala., county jail, and he gave us your name and phone number to come get him."

I was a juvenile, living on the road then, and they wanted me bailed out and picked up.

I was actually hitchhiking from Texas to Birmingham, Ala. A young teenage kid on the street. I had made up my mind to go visit my mom, brother and sisters, so I took off hitchhiking from Houston. Standing on the interstate in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere apparently attracted the local sheriff’s attention and landed me in the slammer. Dirty coppers.

Several hours later a uniformed officer showed up at my cell door and told me someone was there to pick me up. It was Bob.

At this point I really didn't know my stepdad. I don't know that I had even met him. I was not a part of the wedding. I don't think I even knew about it. My mom, little brother and sisters had moved to Illinois then Alabama after the divorce. I ran away. When you are in jail, having anyone come bail you out is a blessing, and, being the arrogant little heathen I was, I figured Bob should have. After all, he was married to my mother. The drive was quiet. We didn't know each other, and I sure wasn't going to let this guy into my world. Not yet.

That was my introduction to my stepdad. Stellar planning on my part, right? Over the years Bob was patient through each of my disruptive visits. He knew mom loved me and wanted to see me. Another time I proved to be amazing was when I was staying with them in Georgia on an extended visit. It was not unusual for me to ask then to use mom's car. This Friday night the stipulation was that I had to drop my sister off at her destination on my way to wherever I told them I was going. I was driving fast and scaring my sister as I hurriedly drove to her drop-off spot. Before we got far I missed a stop sign and skid out in front of an oncoming car. Mom’s car was totaled. I don't think Bob ever said a word, but I know it was a huge hardship. The car was paid for, and they were struggling.

There is a plethora of information online about step-parenting. Stepfamily.org lists these statistics. Over 50 percent of U.S. families are remarried or re-coupled. The average marriage in America lasts only seven years. Seventy-five percent remarry. Sixty-six percent of those living together or remarried break up when children are involved.  Fifty percent of the 60 million children under the age of 13 are currently living with one biological parent and that parent's current partner.

The site also lists tips and dos and don'ts for step-parents. Step six says in part, "There is no model for the step relationship except for the wicked stepchild and invariably cruel stepmother of fairy tales. Note the absence of myth around the stepfather. It is vital for the survival of the stepfather to be able to see and delineate expectations for each member of the family, especially the primary issues of upset in step: e.g., money, discipline, the prior spouse, visitation, authority, emotional support, territory and custody."

I wanted to find a Biblical example of the grace Bob has shown me over the years, how he is true to the Word of God. In the book of Mark, Mark 10:13-16, people were bringing little children to Jesus asking him to lay healing and loving hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant.

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.

I think there were plenty of times Bob wanted to "lay hands" on me but not for healing and loving. He could have rightfully banned me from his home. He could have scolded me time and time again. Many times I expected him to shame me for being stupid or taking advantage of my mom or him. He never once did any of that.

Over the years I have made my amends and have come to admire Bob in a way I admire few men. He is the rock my brother and sisters needed in their lives. Even though he had kids of his own he was fully committed to them and my mom. Mom had lived a hard life for a long while with my father and his propensity for alcohol. She deserved to be loved and cared for. Bob is her knight.

It is always the easy way out to ignore, check out, blow off, drink, be angry, leave, physically abuse and just generally not give a darn about so many things in our lives. In my work with fatherless kids and single moms, even the men with whom I am close, I am told the stories of horrific stepdads and the despair and deep wounds that are now burdens on them.

I was the one who pushed back, who wounded and battled the good that was and is Bob. I now strive to be a man he is proud to call his son, the step part matters not. The gift of Bob's love and caring will show up for generations on earth through our family. His love took a broken family and mended the hearts together. I don't know how you pay back someone like Bob. Maybe it is you pay it forward. Sound familiar?

Mark 9:37, "Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in my name, receiveth Me: and whosoever receiveth Me, receiveth not Me, but Him that sent Me."

Monday, August 13, 2012

People Watching and 1 John 2:16


People Watching 101. Don't stare. Eye contact is fine, but immediately go into a smile if you do find yourself in direct eye-to-eye contact. Guys, don't fall into lust and women, same goes for you. Get a few of the basic rules down and you can spend hours at a time having fun in popular, over-crowded and loud places.

I love the airport for people watching. I don't get there often but it is a great place to watch people in every mode imaginable. I like the rushers, they are either late to catch their plane or they are just always trying to be somewhere quickly. It's funny to see them right next to you after they rushed by with a wake of stress rolling over everyone behind them minutes earlier.

Kids are a big people pleaser for me, I love watching them in just about every age bracket. It is especially funny when a little kid walks up to you and just stares at you (a kids form of people watching) and the babies who look over mom's shoulder and start laughing at you as you make faces. 

Kids also say things in public that can be quite awkward for the parents and anyone nearby. I had a kid recently, randomly, start explaining that his mom and dad are separated and that his mom threw something at his dad. The story was about to go on when mom whisked him away.

Recently my wife and a group of women went to a Beth Moore conference. Moore is a dynamic Christian speaker and is absolutely amazing. She (my wife) and the other ladies she was with sat on the front couple rows where they could see every detail of the stage and Moore's presence. Her first comment to me when we finally talked about the conference was, "she had the cutest hair. She is so pretty, her shoes were so cute. I was distracted for the whole first hour by just how cute she was." I laugh each time I think of that.

Apparently women look each other over pretty hard. Guys for the most part don't think that way. I do, on occasion, notice a good looking guy and a nice suit even more. Not the same as the girls and the thoughts are fleeting especially if a nice truck drives buy or a server carrying a big hamburger catches my eye, I love a good burger.

The bible talks about people watching, or at least about the hazards, pitfalls and dangers. 1 John 2:16 says,” For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” For me, today, I have to be keenly aware of the things that distract me from my walk with God. I have to be careful not to feed into distractions and they can come from every direction. 

God has created some amazingly beautiful people and if you're in public you will encounter them. You have to be so careful not to fall into Satan's grasp here and obsess or stare past a point of personal distraction. This is probably the place a lot of folks are wounded or wound others.

Wikipedia even defines the art of people watching and it appears it is quite the sport. "People watching or crowd watching is the act of observing people and their interactions, usually without their knowledge. This differs from voyeurism in that it does not relate to sex or sexual gratification. Eavesdropping may accompany the activity, though is not required. Though often a casual hobby, it can be used formally as a means for sociological, anthropological or psychological research. Naturalistic observation is a more formal way of describing people watching in an academic sense. Writers also take up this act as means of reference or inspiration for things such as character construction and social interactions."

All the fun aside, I do have times when I see someone with a need. God does this too me every once in a while to see if I am really listening or watching. I once saw a guy working the parking lot at the grocery store. He wasn't an employee he was a homeless guy from what I concluded, asking people if they would give him money. I sat watching as he strategically confronted people walking to their cars. I was comfortably waiting in mine when I saw him hone in on an older woman. I could see that she became confused and fearful. I parked, got out of my truck and quickly made my way over to her.  I told the panhandler he had two minutes to get out of the parking lot as I helped the woman with her groceries. I don't remember her saying anything special back to me but then, I wasn't doing it for a thank you.

Watching God's plan play out in front of you can be fun and amazing. Participating in His plan can be even better. If you see me at Starbucks I am most likely doing some naturalistic observation while writing. Sometimes I get distracted and slip into wasting my time away on Facebook, ugh, make me stop if I am, coffee is on me.