Posts in category Spiritual life

Thomas Davis: All-around champion



Thomas Davis daughterSuper Bowl week has to be an especially meaningful one for Carolina Panthers’ linebacker Thomas Davis. In every way the week’s events give reflection of the kind of man he is, on and off the field. Today — Super Bowl Sunday — he will start at outside linebacker in this year’s championship game, which is almost a miracle in itself. More on that later.

But Davis was also the guest of honor at another of the week’s most-celebrated events: the Super Bowl Breakfast, hosted by Athletes in Action, the sister ministry of FamilyLife. It’s not just a religious event, but is the occasion for the NFL to honor the one player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.

Last year the recipient was Peyton Manning, who will quarterback the opposing Denver Broncos in this year’s Super Bowl. This year it is Thomas Davis. And the award this year has even greater significance.  It is the 50th anniversary since the trophy’s namesake led his team to victory in the first-ever Super Bowl in 1967.

The Bart Starr award has been given annually since 1989, and has included such outstanding athletes and men as Steve Largent, Reggie White, Mike Singletary, Jackie Slater, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green, Curt Warner, Aeneas Williams, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning.

It’s not a one-time honor for Davis, who also received the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award last season. In his acceptance speech, he challenged his fellow NFL players to use their fame and fortune to give to others.

“Let’s take charge … Let’s step up and be a village of guys that make a difference to change this world. We’re well-compensated for what we do. Let’s show these kids how much we care about them. Let’s give the media something positive to talk about instead of always bashing our league.”

Coming up from humble beginnings

Thomas Davis grew up in the humblest of beginnings in the Wiregrass region of southwest Georgia, just a couple of hours from where Bart Starr was raised. Unlike Starr, poverty was a way of life for Davis, his sister, and their single mom. There were times, he recalled, they didn’t even have running water or electricity. His mom did her best to meet their needs, but it was barely enough to cover the essentials and no more.

Davis remembers a couple Christmases waking up with anticipation, only to find no present. In his young mind, he reasoned that maybe it was because he was bad and that the reason she was having such a hard time making ends meet was because he and his sister were too difficult. As he was able, he would pick pecans and peas, bale hay, anything to earn money to help the family stay afloat. That memory of struggling for survival and significance would be the impetus for what he would do for others if he ever had the means.

Sports was his chance. He lettered in baseball and track, but he was a standout in football. Because his high school was so small, he got little notice from college football programs and received only one scholarship offer. But at the University of Georgia under coach Mark Richt he proved to be one of the best players to ever come out of the state, earning All-American honors at linebacker and a number 14 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

From the top to the bottom and back

Thomas Davis PanthersGoing from poverty to riches went to Thomas’ head for the first three years of his career, as he revealed in an excellent interview with Sports Spectrum magazine. He could have and do almost anything he wanted, and he did. And, like Solomon, he found it to be meaningless.

It was during this time that the spiritual seeds sown by Coach Richt at Georgia, an outspoken Christian, began to take root in Thomas, and he became more aware of the grace of God in his life. It was also at that same time that he met his wife Kelly and he began to look outward to meet her needs and the needs of others. He got involved as a volunteer in a program that offered free heart screenings to underprivileged children and through that, Thomas discovered that he had a rare heart condition that could end his NFL career. Although it ended up not being as serious as first thought, the process of facing his immortality and the imminent loss of his career created in him a greater reliance on God and caused him to further take inventory of his life.

Thomas recognizes now that God was preparing him for what was to come. Until the heart scare, he had never had an injury or a threat to missing a game.

Then eight weeks into the 2009 season, playing on the Superdome turf against the Saints, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. He had surgery to repair the knee and missed the rest of the season.

Early in summer training camp the next year, in 2010, just after successfully rehabbing his injury he tore the same ACL in the same knee in a fluke, non-contact accident. This time he would miss the entire 2010 season, but he would have plenty of time to properly rehab the knee this time.

Finally, in 2011 he was back to full function for the season opener — his first regular season game in 22 months. But the very next week at Green Bay a teammate’s leg slammed against his knee — the same knee — and tore the same ACL for a third time in less than two years.

In the doctor’s office the next morning, the team trainer remembers that Thomas was crying and shaking his head, saying, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard.”

Thomas recalls the soul-searching few days that followed.

“My wife and I talked about it, and the team chaplain … and they just asked me, ‘Do you really feel like you’re done with the game of football? Are you, in your heart, totally 100 percent sure that you don’t want to play again?’ And the answer to that question was ‘No.’”

The following Monday, according to the trainer, Thomas came into his office and said “We’re breaking history. We’re going for records. We’re doing it again.”

Indeed it would be history. No NFL player had ever come back from three ACL tears, much less to perform at the level Thomas does. He has become the Panthers’ all-time leading tackler, and every year since his return from the knee injuries has recorded more than 100 tackles.

But then two weeks ago in the NFC championship game, Thomas was making his 105th tackle of the season when he suffered a serious break to the ulna bone in his forearm. Initially, his mind went back to the ACL injuries, resigning himself to the fact that he would have to sit out the dream game of his life in two weeks. Under the same circumstances, most athletes probably would have. But this was Thomas Davis, who is no stranger to rehabbing injuries.  The doctors were willing to take the chance and so was Thomas. The morning after the game, he was in surgery to repair it, and Sunday he’ll start with a metal plate and several screws,  protected by a specially designed cast on his arm.

After all, what’s the chance that a broken arm will stop you when you’ve come back from so many desperate situations before, and when you have a chance to help your team win a Super Bowl trophy for the first time?


Offering others a hand up

Thomas Davis playgroundSince their marriage in 2008, Thomas and Kelly created and have continued to expand their own charity. The mission of the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation  is built on the principles of educating, empowering, and defending students in developing essential life and social skills that will help them rise above circumstances to become leaders in the next generation.  Both Thomas and Kelly are intimately involved in every aspect of the organization’s work. The couple has personally invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a playground in his hometown of Shellman, Georgia, and to provide for the material needs of underprivileged children across the nation. And every Christmas, they provide presents to children to show them unconditional love.

 

And after that?



BoatParadise

This blog post by Todd Nagel recently appeared in the Noah Gets A Nail Gun blog. 
As the story goes, a boat was docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the local fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. “Not very long” answered the fisherman.

But then why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American. The local villager explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?

I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing a few songs. I have a full life.

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the revenue you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plant and maybe even open your own plant.

You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.

How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

And after that?” replied the fisherman.

Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big you can go public, start selling stocks and make millions!

Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the fisherman.

After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandkids, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and playing the guitar with your friends!

I’m liking the question, “And after that?”

Our lives have gotten out of balance. At the dawn of the introduction of technology there were dreams of a 30 hour work week, or even 20 hour work week, with more time at home with our spouse and kids, more time to relax and enjoy life. But just the opposite has happened. There is no more 9-5 work day. When are you not “at work” when you are tethered to your smartphone? Even on vacation you’ve probably spent an hour or two (each day) answering email. The line between work-home has become blurred. And just so you know, like Paul told Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” If I’m throwing stones I’m throwing them in the air and letting them hit me in the head! I’m guilty of all the above.

The bottom line is it comes down to having balance. Run everything through the “And after that” grid. Sure, you could work an additional 10 hours a week and make more money, “And after that”?

Somewhere along the line we believed the lie that we needed bigger, newer, nicer, more. In our attempt to achieve those things we have lost what’s vastly more important than material things…relationships.

paintingI’m certainly not advocating a lazy work ethic. I’m currently in the process of painting my two-story house. Besides the roof and windows, everything else requires me to slap some paint on it. I love a good project but this one is pushing it a little. If you’ve never painted the exterior of a house, trust me, it’s not the easiest task to undertake. I’m a firm believer in if I have the physical ability and brain power to do something, I’m not going to pay someone to do it for me. But more on that another time.

All that to say, as Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us, “Whatever your hands find you to do, do it with all your might.” Work hard but have balance. The relationship with your wife, kids, parents, friends, all those far outweigh making a little extra income. This may require you to make some tough financial decisions but nobody looks back at the end of their life and regrets not working more. It’s always “I wish I spent more time with my wife, kids, etc.” As you are faced with opportunities to make a little more money even though it will require longer work days, ask yourself, “And after that?”

Shady planes and shipwrecks



MoldovianPropIn the spring of 2001 I was doing work on a Jesus Film blitz in Eastern Europe and traveled to four countries during a 12-day span. One of the places I found myself in was a small country called Moldova. After completing the assignment, my traveling companion and I boarded our plane to fly over to Ukraine. The airline of our choice was the country’s flagship carrier out of the capital city of Chisnau, (yeah, it sounds just like it’s spelled) called Moldovian Air. To give you an idea of the size of the country, airport, and national airline, today Moldovian Air boasts one plane in its fleet. But when I flew Moldovian 15 years ago they had three planes, so they were pretty big-time back in the day.

The little engine that couldn’t.

We took off around 7:30 in the morning and about 15 minutes into the 90-minute flight the one flight attendant began serving breakfast and everyone was settling in. Five minutes later it got really quiet. The kind of quiet you don’t want when flying 20,000 feet above the ground. Curious as to the lack of noise, I looked to my left and saw the propeller wasn’t moving. Quickly I looked over to my right and was thankful to see the propeller on that side of the aircraft was still actually moving.

MoldovianMealNoticing how the flight attendant didn’t miss a beat and continued to serve breakfast and pass out Moldovian Air chocolate bars, I thought maybe they save fuel by only running one engine once they got to cruising altitude so perhaps this is normal. Everything else I’d encountered in the former Soviet Union was backwards so why not fly with just one engine? The other thought I had was that she knew we were going to crash and that we might as well go out with a full stomach of airplane food and the taste of chocolate in our mouths.

Fast forward 30 minutes and a new pair of pants, we made it back to Chisnau where the runway was lined with all three of the city’s fire trucks and both ambulances. After using the entire runway to finally come to a stop we were safely back on solid ground. When we stepped off the plane I noticed the entire left side of the aircraft was covered in oil, which meant the aircraft had blown an engine.

The other plane I flew on that made it only because of my prayers.

After being placed in a temporary holding room they put us on board one of their other two remaining aircraft to get us to our destination. My seat was next to the exit door and when I sat down I noticed the door was half open and we were getting close to taking off. I thought surely someone will come check to make sure the door was closed but that never happened so I took matters into my own hands and sealed the door shut myself. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing” and for the duration of the second flight while sitting next to what I figured was a faulty exit door that was going to blow open any minute and suck me out of my seat and into the great wide open, I was fully obedient to that biblical command.

After disembarking the first aircraft with the bum engine I found a corner in our holding room, put myself in a fetal position and sucked my thumb. The second to last thing I wanted to do was get on another airplane. The very last thing I wanted to do was stay in Moldova. Facing those two choices I opted for the plane ride. Then I had to close the emergency exit door and began to rethink if I had made the right choice. But here I am today so you can relax knowing how the story ended.

Recently I was reading in 2 Corinthians 11 where Paul talks about all the perils he faced. One of the threats he mentions is “dangers at sea.” The Greek word he uses is “kindunos,” which means extremely dangerous. Paul knew it was extremely dangerous to travel by sea and could write with a high level of authority on this topic seeing how he was shipwrecked three times. I had a hard enough time getting back on a plane and I wasn’t even in an actual crash. Plus my one ordeal was only 30 minutes of actual flying time without an engine. Luke’s account of one of the three shipwrecks that Paul was part of goes like this:

“The ship was caught by the storm … and we took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day [day two of being in the storm] they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for MANY days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Not the actual boat Paul was on.

Last night I happened to catch the last 20 minutes of the movie, The Perfect Storm, a movie about the boat Andrea Gail being caught by two huge storms that converged together and then on top of them. The boat and all the crew were lost at sea but the movie depicts what it would have been like as the waves overtook the boat and ultimately took their lives. I couldn’t help but think this was what it would have been like for Paul, Luke, and the others that were traveling.

Having had the above-mentioned airplane experience I can understand why someone who has been in an actual plane crash would be hesitant to get back on one. I could also understand if, after his first shipwreck, Paul never got on a boat again. Certainly after a second voyage that turned into a swim, one could undoubtedly sympathize with Paul if he never got back on a sea vessel. Then a third time?! I’d have to start thinking I was the problem if every time I got on a boat it went down. And if I were a friend of Paul’s I certainly wouldn’t get on a boat with the fella. “Sure I’ll travel with you Paul. You know what, why don’t you take the one that leaves tomorrow, I need to wash my sheep’s hair and I’ll catch one a little later.”

In a devotion written by Rick Renner he says,

“I’m sure these devilish attacks at sea were designed to put such a fear of sailing in Paul that he would never get back on another ship. But if Paul was going to get to the various places where God had called him to minster, he had no choice. Therefore, he didn’t allow these occurrences to determine whether or not he obeyed God. Even if it meant he had to get back on another ship and sail through dangerous waters again, he’d do it, if that was required of him, in order to successfully fulfill his God-given assignment in life.”

He goes on to say, “It takes guts to do the will of God. You have to be totally convinced of what God has told you, or the devil will throw enough blockades in your way to make you turn around and permanently go back home.”

Life is challenging. Job, marriage, parenting, it takes work to be determined to see it through to the end. I feel like I’ve been shipwrecked a few times in life and also recognize I need to do a better job of jumping back on board the ship after I get tossed. I want to demonstrate to my wife and kids that I’m committed to God’s call on my life, committed to my marriage and committed to raising my two daughters and two sons in a godly way.

There’s only one way to live and that’s to go all in. And the only way I know to do that is to have complete reliance on God. We’ll be hit by waves and want to give up at times, but if, like Paul, we stay true to the end, we’ll also be able to say like he did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV) I can hear Paul yelling encouragement to us, “Keeping battling. It’s worth it!”

This post first appeared in the Noah Gets A Nailgun blog, © 2015. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Todd Nagel’s guest post, “Shady planes and shipwrecks,” on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistThe difficulties endured because of her husband’s martyrdom led Elizabeth Elliot to spiritual maturity.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGod Has Not Forgotten You is a 31-day devotional for handling the shady planes and shipwrecks of life.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTell fellow men, dads, and husbands about the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog. John and Todd post excellent stuff.

Eric Liddell: More than a runner



Eric LiddellI’ve been researching some of Eric Liddell’s life for a new product at FamilyLife (more about that at the end of the post). One of the things that struck me about his life was the surprising number of parallels with Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

  • Both wrote a book about discipleship.
  • Both focused on the needs of others while in a prison camp.
  • Both were in prison camps because of circumstances surrounding World War II.
  • Both died in prison just a few months apart.
  • Both gave up opportunities to save themselves for the sake of others.
  • Both cared more about obedience to Christ than wealth or fame.

Most who have heard the name Eric Liddell only know of his “Chariots of Fire” fame, which highlights his Olympic success, and very public stance not to run on Sunday. But many are less familiar with the fascinating second half of his life. After his Olympic success he went on to serve as a missionary in China, eventually dying in a prison camp. And like Bonhoeffer, he lived an incredibly selfless life, and four stories in particular highlight this reality.

Story #1: The Spirit, not the Letter

Liddell was famous for his stance on keeping the Sabbath holy. He would not run races that were held on Sunday, which was a significant part of the plot of Chariots of Fire, and most probably the reason why his story became so well known. (Can you name any other Olympians from the 1924 games?) But the following story speaks to Liddell’s spiritual maturity and shows how he knew when to hold to the letter of this conviction, and when to hold to the spirit of it.

Throughout these difficult years, Liddell maintained his belief that Sundays should be reserved for God. But when teenagers got into a fight during a hockey match, Eric – to the astonishment of those who knew of his famous stand at the 1924 Olympics – agreed to referee the game on the following Sabbath. Joyce Stranks, who was a seventeen-year-old fellow internee, said that Eric,

“…came to the feeling that a need existed, [and] it was the Christlike thing to do to let them play with the equipment and to be with them … because it was more Christlike to do it than to [follow] the letter of the law and let them run amok by themselves. And for me that was very interesting because it was the one thing, of course, everyone remembers about Eric [that he would not run on Sunday because the Sabbath was the Lord’s Day].” (P82)

Every man, and every young man has to strive to know when to hold to the letter and when to hold to the Spirit of the law. It’s a difficult balance, but one that a mature man strives for through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Story #2: Hold on Loosely

Eric’s sincere Christian faith was everywhere on display. Stephen Metcalf, who was seventeen in 1944, remembered one remarkable incident. Metcalf’s shoes had completely worn out. One day Eric came to him with something wrapped up in cloth.

“Steve,” he said, “I see that you have no shoes, and it’s winter. Perhaps you can use these.” Eric pushed the bundle into Steve’s hands. “They were his running shoes,” Metcalf says. We can only imagine that Eric had been saving the historic shoes as a memento of his past triumphs, but in the difficult conditions of the internment camp, their practical value to this young man far outweighed their sentimental value to Eric. (P83)

Possessions are fleeting. We need to hold loosely to things, even the sentimental items to which the world ascribes great wealth. What do you have that others need that you can let go of? Try to identify one thing today you can give away and encourage your kids to do so as well. Bonus points if it’s an old pair of your running shoes from the Olympics.

Story #3: Women and Children First

I mentioned above, that one of the parallels between Liddell’s life and Bonhoeffer’s was that they both turned down opportunities to leave prison in order to protect others. Bonhoeffer stayed in prison, even though he could have escaped, because he knew his family would have suffered if he had escaped. Liddell’s situation was a little different, but he still was thinking of others first:

…63 years after Eric’s death, just before the Beijing Olympic Games, the Chinese government revealed something that even Eric’s family didn’t know: Eric had been included in a prisoner exchange deal between Japan and Britain but had given up his place to a pregnant woman. (P86)

Part of me isn’t sure how to feel about this, knowing he had a wife and children to care for. But of course, the other side of me is inspired and moved to live sacrificially as a result of his example. Either way, there’s no doubt Liddell was an amazing man, firmly committed to Christ, and active in his love of others. How can you put the women and children in your life first?

Story #4: A Life Honoring to God

I love it when there’s so much more to a story than what the popular versions reveal. The things that occurred in Liddell’s life after the Olympics are really some of the most fascinating parts. And the general testimony of his life is a great encouragement. Especially his commitment to the daily discipline of spending time with God. Even while in the prison camp. One of his fellow prisoners observed the following (All quotes come from chapter three of Eric Metaxas’ book 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness):

“No matter how busy he was, Eric never neglected his daily time with God. Each morning, Eric and his friend Joe Cotterill woke early and quietly pursued their devotions together by the light of a peanut-oil lamp for beginning a long day of work.” (P82)

There are many days I find myself tired, frustrated, and scatterbrained. And I often lament having not spent personal time in Bible study and prayer. Sometimes I even blame it on busyness. But it’s a great encouragement to know that even a man in a prison camp kept this a priority. If he can, so can I.

Share With Your Children!

Men need encouragement, and children need examples. The life of the man featured in this post provides both. Read his story, and then take time to read portions to your family. There’re some powerful lessons in here about what it means to be a mature Christ follower, things I hope my kids and I learn. Try answering some of the questions above and see if you can’t apply his life to yours this week.

Final Note: Passport2Identity

As mentioned at the onset, FamilyLife has a new product forthcoming called Passport2Identity™ (due out March of 2016). Designed as a follow up to Passport2Purity®, it equips parents to help their 14-16 year old children navigate the teen years. I mention it here because we have a feature in session two of the version for young men (there’s a separate version for young women) on the life of Eric Liddell.

© 2015 by John Majors. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Eric Liddell: More than a runner,” by guest writer John Majors on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistTo get more details, listen to an extended podcast version of Liddell’s life story on SoundCloud.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistKeep your eyes open for the March 2016 release of Passport2Identity. It will be announced on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistIn the meantime, if you have a pre-teen son, why not plan a Passport2Purity getaway together.

Happy 394th Thanksgiving



How’s your Thanksgiving history? Here’s a refresher on the important dates in the history of our country.

As some accounts go, one day in the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims were preparing for a feast to celebrate the harvest. The men went out to shoot game for the meal, but when Wampanoag scouts heard the sound of gunfire, they were concerned that their new immigrant neighbors might be planning an attack.

Chief Massasoit and 90 of his men visited the Pilgrim encampment, and found out that they were simply hunting in preparation for the feast. The chief ordered his men to pitch in with some of their own game, and for three days, the Pilgrims and Wampanog feasted on deer, shellfish, corn, and other roasted meat. What? No turkey, stuffing, or cranberries?

Of course, the Pilgrims being the Pilgrims certainly must have given thanks to God for the provision, but the first recorded instance of a “Thanksgiving” meal was two years later, when the Pilgrims thanked Him for ending a two-month-long drought.

Fast forward 166 years and the land is officially the United States of America. On October 3, 1789, newly-appointed President George Washington signed a resolution of Congress recognizing Thursday, November 26 to be a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” to the Almighty, not just for food, but for the blessings of a government that respects the individual and his freedoms as being from God. Here is the text of the proclamation.

ThanksgivingBy the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks —for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

The next few presidents issued similar proclamations until 1815, then silence. And then, 75 years to the day after Washington’s initial document, President Abraham Lincoln reinstituted the day in 1863 after two years of Civil War. With that proclamation, people were not just encouraged to spend a day of Thanksgiving, but it became an official national holiday. Here’s the text.

Thanksgiving 2By the President of the United States of America. 

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

And so, from that day until now, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as an official holiday on the last Thursday of November. Well, that is, except for the years of “Franksgiving,” from 1939-1941. On the tail end of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt felt that moving Thanksgiving back to the third week of November would spur Christmas shopping and, thus, the economy. (And you thought Black Friday was a recent invention.)

After years of pressure from Congress, Roosevelt made Thanksgiving officially the fourth week of November in 1942.

So there you have it. The history of Thanksgiving.

But there are some older proclamations you might want to use yourself this Thanksgiving day. Below are some Scripture verses of thanksgiving to God. Consider dividing these verses among the people at your dinner table, having each person read one, then closing with your own prayer of thanksgiving.

1 Chronicles 16:8 – Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.

1 Chronicles 16:34 – O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Psalm 28:7 – The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.

Psalm 34:1 – I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 69:30 – I will praise the name of God with song, And shall magnify Him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 95:1-6 – O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, And a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth; The peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Psalm 100:4 – Enter His gates with thanksgiving, And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name.

Psalm 107:29-32 – He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet; So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, And praise Him at the seat of the elders.

Jonah 2:9 – But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving.  That which I have vowed I will pay Salvation is from the LORD.”

Colossians 2:6-7 – Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 3:15 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

1 Timothy 4:4-5 – For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

An All-American hero



SteinmarkBenchIt was called “The Game of the Century” back in 1969. #1 Texas visiting #2 Arkansas in a contest that wouldn’t just determine the winner of the old Southwest Conference, but the National Champion. It was such a big game that the President of the United States was in attendance.

But even bigger than that, it was the last game for Longhorn safety Freddie Steinmark. The undersized player with a never-quit attitude toughed it through the final game of the season, but finally admitted that the knee pain he’d been dealing with all season wasn’t getting any better. In fact, it was getting a lot worse.

When he finally went to see the university’s bone and joint specialist, the doctor was surprised Freddie was even able to walk, much less play football. But that was the indomitable spirit of Freddie Steinmark.

Very few football fans even recognize the name Freddie Steinmark. He never played in the NFL. He’s not in the College Football Hall of Fame. He was never even an All-American. In fact, the 5-9, 155-pound Colorado prep product only received one college offer. Every other school passed him by as too small. But Texas head coach Darrell Royal couldn’t ignore what he saw on Freddie’s high school game film—heart, determination, and a team spirit.

He sounds a lot like the main character from the movie, Rudy,  doesn’t he? He did to Angelo Pizzo, who wrote the script for that movie as well as another inspiring sports classic, Hoosiers. And now, Pizzo is making his directorial debut with his new movie and script, My All-American, the Freddie Steinmark story.

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Whatever Freddie Steinmark did, he did it with a good attitude, with all his effort. As a student, he kept a 4.0 average. As a player, he was the first sophomore to start at safety for Texas. He not only won the position, but inspired those around him to work harder, not for personal gain, but for the good of the team. Freddie Steinmark was a big-picture, big-future kind of guy.

Unfortunately, his future was cut short in his prime. He had always dreamed of playing for the University of Notre Dame. And the final game of his junior year could finally be his opportunity to show Notre Dame what they passed. The Longhorns were preparing to play the Fighting Irish on New Year’s Day in the Cotton Bowl. But because of aggressive cancer, Freddie was only allowed to be a spectator.

But he was still the game’s hero. Texas rallied after halftime to defeat Notre Dame 21-17, and in the locker room after the game, Coach Royal and the team presented Steinmark the game ball. The Fighting Irish may have had “The Gipper,” but Texas won this one for Freddie.

Much of Freddie Steinmark’s life had been football, but the revelation now that he would never play the game again didn’t mean that Freddie was ready to give up. The off-the-field story was that he became an aggressive crusader for cancer research, even gaining the ear of President Nixon, who eventually signed a bill that declared national war on the disease. It became law just a few months after Freddie lost his battle with the disease.

Days after the Game of the Century, Freddie had been given just a few months to live. Maybe it was by his determination, but he managed to push it back another 17 months. He died in June of 1971, almost exactly a year after Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo also succumbed to cancer.

My All-American has some of the same elements as Brian’s Song, the movie based on Piccolo’s story, which grabbed the heart of the country when it was released as a made-for-TV movie in late 1971. It extols the virtues of being a team player, maintaining a can-do spirit, and of the importance of playing for a greater cause. Plus, the end of the movie is a real tear-jerker.

The Freddie Steinmark story lacks the high-profile actors, outstanding musical score, and the depth of Brian’s Song, but it has a good heart. And the film’s financial backers insisted that it be true to life, so the viewer really gets to relive football history, and is treated to some great game action sequences as well.

One of the factually-accurate aspects of the film is the language. Despite it’s PG rating, a fair peppering of salty words probably make it inappropriate for younger audiences. For families of teens, it’s a better bet. In fact, the bond between Freddie and his parents, and the wholesome portrayal of the relationship with his girlfriend, Linda, lend to the overall positive message of the film.

The film may not become one of your favorites, but learning the story of Freddie Steinmark should leave you with a lesson in character. Hard work, good attitude, big dreams, and selflessness can make you big enough for any task.

Awful advice from Mister Wonderful



MrWonderfulSharkTankIf you’ve ever watched the show Shark Tank then you’re familiar with Kevin O’Leary, or as he calls himself, “Mister Wonderful.” Even though he plays it up a bit for the cameras, he’s still pretty much a cold-blooded, shrewd and self-absorbed person who loves money more than anything else in this world. If that last sentence was your first introduction to Mr. Wonderful then I’m sure I sound a bit harsh. In a recent article he was asked what it takes for him to pick an entrepreneur to work with and his answer will shed additional light on his worldview:

“Any entrepreneur on my team needs to understand that the goal is always cash flow, and they must be willing to do anything to keep the money rolling in. I don’t care if that means missing your kid’s birthday party or your 25th anniversary for an important business meeting.”

He explains further the philosophy for this attitude: “The reason you pursue an entrepreneurial career is to one day provide financial freedom for yourself and your family. The only way to achieve freedom in your career is by amassing wealth and the only way for entrepreneurs to reach this point is by giving their full devotion to growing their business, accepting all of the sacrifices that come with the approach.”

At the present moment the guy’s worth $300 million. I’m not sure how much you need in the bank to reach his definition of “financial freedom for yourself and your family” but I would probably say $300 million would suffice. I’d even be content with $299 million, personally. Yet he keeps missing birthdays and anniversaries for this so called freedom.

In a way I feel sorry for him. At some point he’ll look back on his life and wonder what the purpose of it was. He gave his life for amassing cash but in the end there’s no way to spend it all, and having destroyed his relationships with his kids, wife, and perhaps a friend or two, there’s nobody to enjoy it with. On the outside he looks like he’s living the dream with fancy cars, big houses, private jets, but on the inside it has to be so empty. God did not create us to be fulfilled by these things.

Solomon, in addition to being the wisest man ever, was also one of the wealthiest men to ever live. He says in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11,

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Note to self: When we run after things that are not part of God’s plan for our lives we will find ourselves empty and grasping after air.

After reading the article, it made me take a quick inventory of my life. Kevin’s trying to accumulate money, what am I running after? He’s willing to miss birthdays and anniversaries, and he certainly wouldn’t blink an eye at missing his kid’s sporting events or recitals. Are there things in my life – job, hobby, “needed downtime” – that are causing me to miss out on the same things he is? Even though I’m not pursing money like he is, are there other things in my life that I’m going after that need some re-calibration?

When it comes right down to it, this life is about relationships. Having a healthy and growing marriage, having a deep relationship with my kids, living life with other people, that’s way more valuable than anything else out there.

This post originally appeared in the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog© 2015. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished Todd Nagel’s post, “Awful advice from Mister Wonderful,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat are you running after? Adding to the bank account? A bigger retirement? Or enjoying your family?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistSometimes it’s not having more money but “Managing the Family Finances better.” Hear the broadcast.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this post with another father and husband, and challenge each other to review your priorities.

What it means to ‘act like men’



1 Corinthians 16:13-14 is a passage that’s always intrigued me. If ever there was a passage designed specifically for guys, this would have to be it.

“Be watchful. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

 What more could a guy ask for? Two verses. Straight to the point. Five very short, direct commands.

Recently, I had been digging into the passage, trying to plumb the depth of truth in those two verses in the original language. I thought it would be quick, but there’s so much there, I ended up having to put it aside for when I had more uninterrupted study time.

Before I could get back to it, wouldn’t you know it, FamilyLife Today had a radio broadcast on that very passage. If you’ve ever seen the Stepping Up video series, you may remember James MacDonald giving a quick, to-the-point, teaching session on this passage. If you haven’t seen it, here it is.

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On the FamilyLife Today broadcast, however, he dives deeper as he talks to a group of men at his home church in Chicago, Harvest Bible Chapel. I’ve excerpted a few pieces here to whet your appetite so you’ll listen to both days of the broadcast.

We have to act like men, and the first part of that is to “be watchful.” It’s the idea of—in old times, there were these ancient cities that were surrounded by walls. The men had the responsibility to keep the barbarians out. In the fortified city, the people (in this instance: your wife, your children, your family) could only rest because they knew that the watchman was awake and was on the wall.

It’s time for us to quit being so passive, and step up—as we’re being challenged today—and do something! God help us to be watchful over our homes! 

Act like a man! Hang up the phone, get off the couch, shut off your computers, stop tinkering in the garage; and act like a man! Your son needs you / your daughter needs you. So be watchful.

Then, this—it means: “Be strong.” Actually, the Greek here is a passive voice, which means, actually—this is very instructive—it means: “Be strengthened.” This is not an exhortation to be the world’s strongest man: “How much can you bench press? How big are your biceps and your shoulders?” This is not an exhortation to be macho; alright? This means: “Be strengthened in your inner man/ in your soul,”—listen—“in your character, in your integrity, in your fidelity to the truth.”

Of course, in Scripture, Christ is our strength. This isn’t an exhortation to try harder. Do you hear me? This is not an exhortation to try harder! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. [Philippians 4:13]” Jesus Christ is the strength to live the Christian life! It’s not like He stands over there—“Thank You for saving me. Now watch me go live an awesome life for You,”—alright? “As you received the Lord, so walk in Him…[Colossians 2:6]” Christ is the way to salvation / Christ is the strength to live the Christian life.

So “Act like men,” means be strengthened. Keep that relationship strong. The best way I know to be strong is to admit your weakness. Admit your weakness. Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  [2 Corinthians 12:10]

Check out the rest of the two-day broadcast on this passage. Then go out and 

Act like men.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post, “What it means to ‘act like men'” on the Stepping Up blog for guys. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWrite the passage down and put it in a prominent place at home or work, then commit it to memory.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistTo go even deeper, read James MacDonald’s book, Act Like Men: 40 Days to Biblical Manhood.    

STEPPass - 10-point checklistGet with a group of other men to go through the 10-week video study, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. 

Being an extraordinary man



JeffBeExtraordinaryInterviewJeff Kemp was recently interviewed by Crystal Berger of Fox News Radio for her segment of  Extraordinary.”

Jeff offers some words of encouragement about the future of the country, and the identity that is at the core of that transformation. What is in the making of an extraordinary man?

CRYSTAL: [Jeff Kemp] says the way to fixing America’s problems is by fixing families. Jeff’s community-based non-profit, FamilyLife, focuses on developing strong men.

JEFF: The root of problems with kids is parents, and the root of parents’ problems is that they didn’t get raised well themselves and that they don’t know how to make a marriage work. I don’t think we can fix the problems in America if we don’t fix manhood. In doing that, we can define “manhood” as a partnership with women to raise the next generation.

CRYSTAL:  Jeff’s father, former NFL quarterback and congressman Jack Kemp, helped him identify his purpose. His dad’s message of making your life count stuck with him.

JEFF: My dad mentored me in the sense that he gave me a lot of encouragement to be a leader and to make your life count for others.  During the off-season of the NFL as a backup quarterback, I realized, gosh, “I may never get to be the starter I wanted to be and win a Super Bowl, I’ve got to use these off-seasons for good.”

CRYSTAL: While playing professional football, Jeff realized that not everyone had a strong male role model. He now spearheads Men Stepping Up, an Internet movement that prompts courageous men to serve families when fathers are absent.

JEFF: In most cases, manhood is actually bestowed in the company of other men. A single mom needs to put her son in the company of uncles and grandpas, a pastor, a priest, a rabbi, a football coach — a mentor.

CRYSTAL: Jeff says the key to stepping up is first finding yourself.

JEFF: I remember being benched one time and going from first string to third string in one half of a game. I did an interview with someone afterwards and she asked about how you survive something like that.  I said, “It’s hard, but I remember that my identity is that I’m God’s son, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m first string or third string. My identity isn’t as a quarterback who knows God and follows him, but as a man who knows God and follows him, who happens to play quarterback.

CRYSTAL: He hopes that once a man knows who he is, then he can lead by example.

JEFF: We men need to look around to see what kid on our team doesn’t have a dad, and bring him to our house for dinner. We need to look to see who is it that hasn’t been shown what it is to be a man. Let me hang out with him — invite him to coffee, invite him to lunch. Churches need to go out of their way to make the ministry to men their primary thing. You can’t fix marriages and families if you don’t help men understand their identity.

CRYSTAL: Jeff’s message for men who don’t use their role for good?

JEFF: You can be a little boy and go consume from lots of girls. You can have a baby by someone and leave them. Or you can say “I’m going to save my best for one woman.”

CRYSTAL: Jeff gives hope to men who have lost their way.

JEFF: Our strength was made to be used to protect and bless others. We aren’t meant to be consumers; men are meant to be investors. So I urge men to ask God to help you to start reading the Bible to learn what He says, to get your identity, and to pray with your wife, if you’re married.

CRYSTAL: Jeff acknowledges that prioritizing what matters is often times hard. He says that there’s only one thing that matters when it comes to being a man.

JEFF: What’s more important is “Who are you?” Who you are is different than the stuff you accomplished and the trophies you’ve gotten. It’s more than the money you have or the car you drive. Who you are is who God says you are.

© 2015 Fox News Radio.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Being an extraordingary man” on the Stepping Up blog for men. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistJeff Kemp discusses “Life Lessons From the Football Field” on the FamilyLife Today radio broadcast. 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead more about how to triumph in the face of adversity by reading Jeff Kemp’s Book, Facing the Blitz.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistHelp other men become extraordinary by leading a group through the Stepping Up 10-week study.

What makes a hero?



VillageHutsWhat makes a hero? What makes one man stand out above another?

Let me tell you a story of two brothers, Herbert and James. Raised in a godly home with two other siblings, they came to Christ at a young age. In their 20s, each young man committed himself to a life of Christian service. In fact both of them ended up following a call to the South American mission field — Bert to the central part of the continent, followed a few years later by Jim to the north.

That’s where their paths diverged, not just geographically, but in just about every way imaginable.

You see, missionary work is hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. Living among people of a different language and culture, with different customs and values, requires a lot. Add to that the hardships, long stretches away from family and friends, and the threat of illness and danger, and it’s a wonder that anyone lasts for long. The best Bible and missions training — which each man had — is often not enough to prepare you for what you will face on the field.

Despite the best of intentions and the best of preparation, Jim lasted less than a week at the place where he felt God called him to serve. Not even close to enough time to learn the language and culture, much less share the gospel and raise up a local gathering of believers.

Bert, on the other hand, went on to serve 62 years on the same foreign mission field. With his wife Colleen, they planted more than 170 churches in Peru before he passed away on that very mission field at age 87.

So which one is the hero, James or Bert? It depends on how you define hero?

Do a Google search for Herbert Elliot; you won’t find a Wikipedia page. The results you do find are generally from obscure or low-traffic websites or blogs.

Nothing like the media attention Bert’s younger brother Jim Elliot and his four co-laborers received when they were martyred by the very Auca tribesmen they came to reach for Christ. The five men were only five days on the ground near the tribal village in early January, 1956 before being killed. Before the month was out, Life magazine’s 10-page spread let the world know about the men and their sacrifice, and the wives and children left behind.

Both Jim and Bert followed God’s call to give their lives on their respective mission fields. God used them both, but in very different ways. Because of their heroism, countless people came to know the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Jim never planted a church as he had hoped to do, but his wife Elisabeth and Rachel Saint (sister of another of the men killed) continued the work by returning to the Auca tribe to tell the people there about the grace and mercy of God, and about how Jesus laid down his life so that others might live.

When his brother died, Bert was on furlough. During that time, he did some soul searching, trying to understand why God doesn’t protect all those who commit their lives to his service. It was during that time that God gave Bert the spiritual insight that became the motivation for his remaining years of service in Peru. “It’s in dying that we’re born to eternal life. It’s not maintaining our lives, but giving our lives,” that is God’s purpose in our serving.

Bert wasn’t the only person inspired to heroism by Jim Elliot. In the years following Jim’s death, countless men and women gave their lives to Christ and committed their lives to foreign mission service because of the conviction of Bert’s younger brother. Through Jim Elliot’s sacrifice and immortal words they recognized the eternal significance of a life lived for God.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

God doesn’t call all of us to be heroes, only to be faithful. But a life fully given to Him is always a heroic thing. How He chooses to use us will vary as greatly as it did for Jim and Bert, but in the end, He will be glorified, others will be impacted, and we will be changed.

Bert had many decades to reflect on why God chose to use him the way he did, and Jim in a totally different way.

“While my brother Jim was like a comet streaking across the sky which caught the attention of those on earth, God chose [me] to serve in a different capacity as one of the many dim stars from earth’s viewpoint — stars which are countless in the vast universe.  There are many who consistently shine as lights where God has put them but never achieve the recognition that has come to Jim Elliot and the other four Christian martyrs at that time.  But God chooses to use both a few streaking comets and the many stars!”

Whether you shine brightly like a comet before the world like Jim did that one day in Ecuador 1956, or rise and fall like a dim star, night after night for 22,000 nights in Peru like Bert, remember that heroism isn’t just for our brief days in this life, but for life eternal.

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” – Daniel 12:3

(HT: Randy Alcorn and Trevin Wax for sharing the story of Bert Elliot with the world)

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post about Jim and Bert Elliot,“What makes a hero?”  on the Stepping Up men’s blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to Jim Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, retell the events of January 1956 when the five men became national heroes.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHow can unspeakable tragedy lead to a life of courage? Elisabeth Elliot shares her story on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistJim Ryun and his sons talk about Heroes Among Us, people who lived by principles and changed history.

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