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Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I am very fortunate to be able to live such a great life. I live at the beach in a small but beautiful home. I can afford nice clothes, drive a new truck and have plenty to eat (in fact I probably eat too much). I’m warm, comfortable and secure, and best of all I have a wonderful family that includes four children and six grandchildren. My friend Bill has a life that is pretty much the same. He is a Senior Vice President at a major bank, lives in a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood, drives a nice car, and has a wonderful family that includes two sons.

Except there is one difference between Bill and I. I have two daughters and two sons, but one of my sons moved to Florida and probably won’t be moving back for another year or two. Bill has two sons, but his oldest son, Justin, joined the Army at age 21 and was immediately deployed to Iraq. Justin is never coming back, ever.

The good news (if there is such a thing) is that Bill has another son, Cameron. Cameron is an awesome young man but he hasn’t been the same since his brother Justin died. Cameron always looked up to his big brother, loved his big brother, and admired his big brother. So it was a profound loss. I gave Cameron a job working for me thinking it might take his mind off things. He worked hard, but his heart wasn’t in it and he ended up quitting. Bill shocked me when he told me that Cameron had decided to enlist and had already completed basic training. He will be shipping out to Iraq shortly. I couldn’t believe it at first. I saw the pain in Bill’s eyes, heard the crack in his voice when he first told me he had lost Justin. His suffering was so severe and so transparent I could taste it. And now he’s sending his baby, his only other child, off to war again. I didn’t ask why, I just offered my love and support.

My father served in the Marine Corps for over twenty years, so I understand the need for our military as well as first responders. And I support all that they stand for. I understand the need to defend our country and to defend the world from terrorism. But the one thing I don’t understand and may never understand is what it feels like to lose a loved one in a war, which is the ultimate sacrifice, and I hope I never do.

And that got me thinking… If everyone single person on earth understood what it’s like to have a loved one killed in war, then perhaps there wouldn’t be ever be any more wars.
Peace is a daily, weekly, monthly process, gradually changing opinions, 
slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures... 
and however undramatic the pursuit of peace, the pursuit must go on.
~ John F. Kennedy

Monday, May 22, 2017

Till They're Gone

There is a line in an old Joni Mitchell song that goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. That saying is probably true about a lot of things, but especially true when it comes to friends.

I miss Bob already and yet he just left a week ago.  Bob and I met for the first time when he joined the Halo Baseball Club about 6 years ago. He hadn’t played baseball in many, many years, and was a little out of shape. But he had a certain excitement and determination within him that you couldn’t help but notice. I liked him right away and kind of took him under my wing. I told him I would help him get familiar with our club, introduce him to all the guys, and that I would also work out with him. We both wanted to become better ballplayers, and we both had a real passion for the game, so we began working out together on a regular basis. It was fun and it made us better ballplayers... and it made us brothers.

Sometimes there would be a big group of guys at our practices and sometimes in the early days it was just me and Bob. I would hit him grounders, then he would hit me grounders. Then we would work on fly balls and then we would throw batting practice to each other. I’ll never forget the time I smoked a line drive right back at him. He got his glove up in time to just barely tip it away from his face, but it hit his glove so hard it fractured the end of his finger. I felt terrible, but Bob never complained and with his finger taped up, he played in a baseball game the very next week. Bob is tough and loves the game of baseball, so nothing is going to keep him out of a game. He worked extremely hard at getting better and he did get better, good enough to become both the most improved player in our club… and the most inspirational player …all rolled into one. And oh yeah, did I mention that Bob is 68 years old. You would never know it watching him play.

Bob is gone now, he moved to Idaho to be closer to his children. I texted him yesterday to make sure he got there okay and he texted back, “I love you, bro”. Now, I know that may sound weird but sometimes guys have a way of forming a bond with each other that is pretty special. Bob and I had that, or should I say still have that. It won’t matter how long it is before we see each other again, we will always have a special bond, sharing a passion for the game of baseball, as well as a passion for making the most of life at any age.

Getting that text from Bob reminded me that friendship is more valuable than gold and that we should definitely never take our friends for granted. So I decided right then and there to text a few friends that I hadn’t seen lately, ask them how they’re doing, and let them know I’m thinking about them. Every single one of them answered back in right away, in best friend kind of way, and it made me feel good that I had taken a few seconds to show my love to my bro’s. Life truly is short, so if you have a few close friends, don’t neglect them. You don’t know when they might be gone. And oh yeah, I think I forgot to mention something, Bob’s been battling a serious brain tumor for over a year now. Bob, if you’re reading this… I love you Bro!

Nothing but heaven itself is better than a friend who is a truly a friend.
~ Tim Cahill

Monday, May 15, 2017

To Be A Blessing

I don’t know why crazy (but yet wonderful) things always seem to be happening in my life, but they do. Last week was no exception.

My wife started reading her Bible again and something she read gave her an interesting idea. She suggested we get baptized. We were both baptized as babies but neither one of us had been baptized as adults. It sounded like a good idea to me because adult baptism is an affirmation of faith already established, and if you do it as a couple, it can also be an affirmation of your love and faith in each other as well.

So we decided to go to the 4pm Saturday service at Saddleback Church and get baptized directly afterwards. The associate Pastor started out the service focusing on Mother’s Day and how important Moms are, how much love they give, and how much they sacrifice for the rest of us. It was a beautiful and moving message. The main sermon came next and Rick Warren focused on a message that tied in nicely with the Mother’s Day message. We should never give to others to “get a blessing”. We should give to others to “be a blessing”. (If you ask me, most Mom’s do that regularly anyway without even thinking about it.)

After the service, we changed into shorts and T-shirts and got ready to be baptized. We had some special friends there who joined us, but there were also dozens of other people watching which made us a little nervous. The pastor baptized me first and then together we baptized my beloved wife. When we raised her from the water, the wetness under my eyes wasn’t just water, and the goosebumps I got were definitely not just from the wind or my wet clothes, they were simply signs that something truly special had happened.

After the baptism, we decided to celebrate by having dinner at our favorite Mexican Restaurant. Unfortunately, it was really crowded and we were told the wait would be 1 ½ hours. However, we got lucky and found three open chairs at the bar and decided to grab two of them and eat at the bar. A few minutes later we noticed another couple waiting for a table so we motioned them over, scooted our chairs down, and tried to make room for them at the end of the bar, which they appreciated. As we started in on appetizers, the hostess came over and said that a table for two had unexpectedly opened up. I started to get up and my wife motioned me to sit back down. (She’s a Mom, remember!) Then she turned to the couple next to us and said why don’t you guys take our table. They were really happy about that and thanked us for our kindness. Likewise, we were in such a good mood after our baptism experience that we decided to live it up with appetizers, drinks, expensive entrees, and even Butter-Cake for dessert! I knew the bill would be huge but like I said, we were celebrating. When we finally asked for the bill, the bartender surprised us and said, “It’s already been taken care of!” Apparently, when you “give to others to be a blessing”– it can rub off on others!
If you listed all the reasons for your faith, 
and all the things that make you cry, it would essentially be the same list.
~ Robert Brault

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sunshine (Or... My World - Part 2)

Last week’s Monday Message was about setting a good example so that you can make a positive difference in “your world” no matter how small that world may be. Normally, I receive comments about each MM I write, which I really appreciate, but a strange thing happened in that for the first time ever, I did not receive a single comment. That’s fine, because I know everyone is super busy, so I don’t expect people to necessarily have time to read my stories or comment on them. My main goal is simply to write something interesting that will inspire people to think about… and focus on… the important things in life. Well, I spent time with someone last week who hadn’t yet read my most recent Monday Message - and didn’t need to!

His name is Antony and he is a “Personal Trainer”, but that is not his true profession. Let me explain. I injured my right shoulder playing baseball (and moving furniture on the same day) about a month ago. It has been so sore that I’ve had to miss the last 4 games. Two years ago, when I was training to go to the baseball World Series, I saw Antony on a regular basis and he got me in the best shape of my life. So, with my shoulder being injured, I decided it was time to see Antony once again.

The first thing Antony did was greet me with a great big smile and a huge hug. It was like I was his prodigal son returning from a long-lost adventure in a foreign land. He definitely knows how to make you feel welcome in his establishment. In fact, my nickname for him is “Sunshine”. Then he started with the questions, none of which were about my shoulder. He wanted to know how things were going with me personally, with my family, my kids, my business. He wanted to know if I was happy, if my wife was healthy, how often I was working out, what I ate, if my faith was still my focus, etc. All the while offering up encouragement and praise. We talked for a long time before Antony ever touched my shoulder and the entire time he worked on my shoulder he continued with his positive attitude and encouraging comments. Near the end of our session Antony was literally pounding on my shoulder with his fist, 40 to 50 times, trying to break up the internal constrictions. The whole time he was inflicting great physical pain on me, he still kept talking to me and encouraging me, reminding me of what a great baseball player I was and what a great player I could still be. Mr. Sunshine sure knows how to multi-task!

Despite the pain of the physical therapy, I loved my time with Antony. His never-ending positivity and overflowing love for people inspired me, lifted me up, and healed me in a way I didn’t even know I needed. I went in for a sore shoulder and came out with a happy heart. Antony reminded me that sometimes we don’t recognize that the stress in our lives can easily lead to physical health problems. Antony also reminded me that if we focus on the important things in life, such as being happy and enjoying the blessings we have been given, our bodies will respond in the most t positive manner. Wait…I just realized Antony should be the one getting credit for writing this week’s Monday Message, so let me make a comment. Way to go Sunshine!

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, 
always bring a little of your own sunshine.
~ A. J. D’Angelo 

Monday, May 1, 2017

My World

My wife and I attended a memorial service last week for a friend who passed away unexpectedly. It was a beautiful ceremony and more of a celebration of his life than anything else. But as his lovely wife talked through her tears about his life and all that he accomplished, I couldn’t help thinking about my own life. Have I really accomplished anything of value during all the years of my life? Have I made a difference in this world? Can I make a difference in this world?

Somewhere, I remember reading a very haunting question. Do you want to make a difference in this world? The author’s answer was short, direct, and to the point. “Live a holy life.”

Whoa! That’s a lot easier said than done. And even if I could do that, could I really make a positive difference in this world? Here’s my answer… No! First off, I can’t live a completely holy life no matter how hard I try because I am simply a flawed human being, full of faults and far from grace. Second, I am only one person, living in one small town, in one small part of a country, that is part of a huge planet teeming with billions of people. I can’t possibly make a difference in this world.

But I can make a difference in my world! My world consists of my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my extended family, my friends, my coworkers and the people I meet on the street. My world is small compared to the entire population of the planet, but it’s still my world, where everything I do can have an effect on the people around me.
If am faithful to my spouse…
If I am honest at work…
If I treat my neighbors with respect and strangers with generosity…
If I pay my bills (and even my taxes) ...
If I lead a peace-filled life of love for others…
If I don’t speak one message and lead another…
If I set a good example…
Maybe I can make a difference in my world!

Actions do speak louder than words and most of the time, you would be surprised at how many people are watching. I know the list above is not easy, but if I am trying to honor God with how I live my life, and if my actions match my words, then people will know I am a Christian, not because of my words, but because of the example I set... in my world!

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. 
It is the only thing.
~ Albert Schweitzer