Play for the Prize - Competing with Honor

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24

Son, there are those who tell you that winning is everything.  And there are those who will tell you that winning means nothing.  They are both dead wrong.

The "winning is everything" crowd will tell you that if you can't win, then there is no reason to play.  All of their life is wrapped up in being better than someone else.  They keep a ranking system in their heads, and somehow they must be at the top.  They identify the whole world as either winners, or losers.

The "winning means nothing" crowd will tell you to just have fun, and don't worry about trying to win.  They will tell you that you shouldn't try so hard to win, because winning doesn't mean anything.  For them, it's all about how playing the game makes you feel.  As long as they keep winning they will feel good and keep playing.  But they will eventually quit, because everybody loses sometimes.

Winning, my son, is fruit.  It is the result of competing with honor.  We don't use that word much today.  Honor isn't something we talk about enough.  It is hard to define honor.  It is integrity, respect, trust, working hard, playing fair and following the rules all wrapped up in one word.  We show honor to someone by putting them ahead of our wants and needs.

Competing with honor means -

- honoring the game.  Play by the rules, and play hard.

- honoring your opponent.  Play fair, and play hard.  Hold your head up when you lose, and be humble when you win.

- honoring your coaches.  Listen and follow instructions. Always assume they know more than you.

- honoring your teammates.  Don't be a ball-hog, or a glory-hound.  Always try to make your teammates look good, and give credit away.

When you compete with honor, winning will come.  In the end, winning IS competing with honor.  Do that, my son, and no matter what the scoreboard says, I will be proud.

Although I wanted my players to work to win, I tried to convince them they had always won when they had done their best.  John Wooden

Forgiveness is Manlier than Revenge

Do you remember the movie?  We watched it a few weeks ago.  It's the one where the cowboy was caught by a hanging posse.  He tries to tell them he is innocent, but they hang him without a trial.  Then the marshal comes along to cut him down, and he lives.  The cowboy spends the rest of the movie killing the men who unjustly tried to kill him.  Yes, I liked that one too.  It makes you want to put a badge on your shirt, and fight for law and order. Or maybe it makes you want to be the kind of man that nobody pushes around.  

The problem is that real life doesn't work that way.  Obviously, most people will never be unjustly hanged.  Don't get me wrong.  There are plenty of injustices in this world, and I'm sure you will experience some.  But yours will probably not be that glamorous or black-and-white.  When they do come along, what will your response be?  The answer to that question, my son, is something that separates the real men from the little boys.

You see, revenge is easy.  When I was a kid, we used to call it payback.  It's perfectly natural to want someone else to experience the pain or abuse that we feel.  When someone says something that hurts your feelings, you wish you could say something right back that would hurt them.  We need to protect our turf.  We need to show them that this kind of treatment will not be tolerated.  No one really has to learn this.  We just seem to have it in us when we are born.  It's the easy way out, and not at all manly.

So what should you do when some injustice is inflicted upon you by a dastardly fiend?  You should forgive them (and probably not call them a dastardly fiend).  Now, I know that may sound simple.  Believe me, it is not.  Learning to forgive is a life-long process.  Personally, I'm not very good at it.  Maybe, that's because I feel like I haven't really experienced much that needs forgiving.  I certainly feel like I should be asking for forgiveness more than I should be handing it out.  (Ask your mother about that, she's a world-class forgiver.)  But let me give you a few pointers on what little I have learned.

1.     Forgiving takes practice.  The more you do it, the better you get.  The less you do it, the harder it is.
2.     Forgiving doesn’t depend on feelings.  After you’ve forgiven someone, you will still feel hurt.  In forgiving, you simply give up any claim you think you may have on making them feel a certain way.  When you say, “I forgive,” you are doing something, even if it is only inside yourself.  It doesn’t matter how you feel.
3.     Forgiving doesn’t make you weak.  Just the opposite!  Forgiving makes you stronger.  It gives you discipline.  Children act only on their feelings.  Real men can control their anger, and act on what is right and good.
4.     Forgiving doesn’t make you a pushover.  If someone steals from you, they can most certainly be forgiven.  But don’t ask them to hold your wallet for you.

There is much more that I want to share about forgiveness, especially regarding needing it yourself.  But that will wait for another letter.

With love,

P.S. Let's watch another Western soon.  I like 'em.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

Working with All Your Heart

There are certainly a lot of ways to say it: work hard, do your best, grind it out, no pain-no gain, leave it all on field.  Hard work will get you noticed for sure.  It will probably get you money.  It might impress important people, or win you power and prestige.  Becoming and being a hard worker is something that our culture values.   At times in my life, I've been a very hard worker.  At other times, I've been downright slothful (that means lazy).

I'm going to tell you something that may be a surprise.  I don't really care if you become a hard worker.  Yes, you may need to read it again.  It doesn't matter to me whether or not you work hard, as long as you work with heart.  I would rather you be a heart worker.  What's the difference?  I'm not really sure that I can explain it.  But I know there is a big difference.  A man can be a hard worker, and not put his whole heart into his work.  "Put your back into it," or "Put some elbow-grease on it," they will say.  I say put you heart into it.  When you are a heart worker, working hard comes naturally.

I'm sure it has something to do with motivation.  It also has something to do with a purpose, a divine calling, a God-given passion.  Whatever you want to call it, you need to have a sense that you were made to do what you are doing.  That doesn't mean that you have to become a medical doctor and heal all the diseases in Africa (I'm mean only if you want to).  I man can do most anything and be a heart worker.  Welder, woodcutter, weatherman or waiter, it doesn't really matter.  Just do it with all your heart.

Hard work can lead to resentment.  Heart work leads to joy.
Hard work can lead to entitlement.  Heart work leads to generosity.
Hard work can lead to conflict.  Heart work leads to peace.
Hard work can lead to exhaustion.  Heart work leads to contentment.
Hard work can lead to regret.  Heart work leads to gratitude.

Find something that you were created to do, my son, and work at it with all your heart.  Then you will come to the end with a life's work well done, and not a life filled with hard labor.


Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

Calamity Mouth

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.
Proverbs 21:23

It's not easy.  Especially in this world, where we find so many loud voices.  But you must try.  Your mouth will get you in so much trouble.  There are times when I wish I didn't have a tongue at all.  It seems that every day I say things that I wish could be taken back.  But never can they be retrieved.  Words are like arrows shot from a bow.  You can't catch them and put them back before they do damage.

One problem, I find, is that when I stay silent, I often feel misunderstood.  People assume that if I don't speak, then I must not be interested in them.  I'm still learning this important skill.  How to make people feel valued while not flinging words about.  There is a trick to it.  It's called listening.  How hard that can be sometimes.  Especially when most people do fling words about.

What if we could weigh all of our words on a large scale?  We could put hurtful words on one side, and helpful, encouraging words on the other.  I'm afraid my hurtful side would not only tip the balance, but probably topple the table.  There are so many words that I regret.    

The old saying is true, "If you can't say something good, don't say anything at all."

Do not pile up regret my son.  Guard your tongue.  Don't be a calamity mouth.


So Many Reasons


I wish I could explain what drives me to write all this stuff down.  You're not yet old enough to understand most of this.  But you will be soon, much sooner that I would like to think.  The following is the only explanation I have, I hope it will be enough.

...I write this because I love you.  And I know that I am so very fragile in mind and body.

...I write this because there are so many things that I want to teach you about being a man.  Many of those things I am still learning.  I want very much to be a great living example for you.  But I have not, and will not always be that.

...I write this because those face-to-face teaching moments are simply too few.  Teaching is so much more than telling.  I'm not sure that I will have the right words when the difficult situations arise.

...I write this because fatherhood is fading.  So many little boys just don't have good fathers.  Help them when you can.

...I write this because I had a great Dad, who worked very hard at establishing a generational legacy of knowing and honoring God.  I will not be the one to break that line.

...I write this for the grandson I hope to have.  You are going to make a great daddy.  I hope to be around for that.

...I write this because we both have an awesome and loving Heavenly Father, who sacrificed so much for us.  I pray that you will find forgiveness and abundant life in Him.

...I do not write this because I think myself a model parent.  I write this because I wish I were a better parent.

More than anything I write this because...

I love you,


My son, do not forget my teaching
   but keep my commands in your heart,
                                  Proverbs 3:1