I’ve met a number of genuine tough guys in my life. Back in sixth grade, for example, I met Chuck Norris – yes, the Chuck Norris who battled Bruce Lee in the Way of the Dragon. Chuck was a special guest in our karate class taught by my homeroom teacher, Mr. Fried – a serious tough guy in his own right. Mr. Fried was both a fifth degree black belt instructor and a reserve deputy sheriff who just happened to be a personal friend of Chuck Norris.
The other day I was talking with a close friend about his marriage. I’ll call him Dave. I knew he and his wife had been experiencing some rough sailing this summer. When I asked how things were going now, Dave reflected, “Honestly, Jim, there are days when I pray, ‘Lord, take me or take her–but one of us has to go.”
He added, “I even told God that I’m driving around without my seatbelt to make it easier for You if You want to take me!” Anyone who has been married longer than five minutes knows marriage is hard work.
I don’t remember the exact date, but the events of that night I’ll not forget. After all, I was almost killed. This would have been back in college during finals week. I was cramming for an exam with six friends. We were sitting at the kitchen table at a friend’s apartment, hitting the books well past midnight. A welcomed evening breeze floated through the open windows, exchanging the lingering smell of pizza with much needed fresh spring air.
My father was an alcoholic and a horse gambler. And, while he was a natural athlete and coached little league with an unmatched passion, my father never made the time to teach me how to play baseball . . . or even have a father-son catch. Due to a lifetime of poor choices, Dad missed out on the bulk of my childhood. In the end, he lived a hard life, lost everything that was dear to his heart, and died alone in an abandoned warehouse.
Several weeks ago I was invited to share part of my story in a chapel setting at Focus on the Family. Each month our staff is encouraged by outstanding music and an inspiring guest speaker. From the inception of Focus, Dr. Dobson believed these regular gatherings were an important component of equipping the team as they strive to serve others with excellence and staying healthy spiritually. I invite you to eavesdrop on that message delivered September 7th (see audio player below).
On September 4 and 5, I had the opportunity to share a little bit of my childhood story on the Focus on the Family broadcast. In case you missed that program, my family life put the “D” in dysfunctional. Evidently, those broadcasts touched a nerve with listeners. I thought I’d give you a sample of just one of the many letters we’ve received echoing the invaluable role of mentors in the midst of a traumatic childhood.
Like many dads, I’m always on the lookout for fun, creative ways to bond with my kids something I rarely experienced with my own father. However, this particular “great idea” backfired big time.
I had just dropped off my wife Jean at the Denver airport and was returning home with the boys when a stroke of inspiration struck me like a freight train. Come to think of it, a southbound train adjacent to the interstate sparked the idea.
I’ve been known to do a few wild and crazy things in my lifetime. This summer was no exception. Eight middle-aged guys – including me – swapped our suits and ties for leather duds and boots and then hit the road on Harleys. No agenda, just three days of the open road rolling out in front of us.
We followed the Arkansas River up into the Colorado Rockies on a two lane stretch of asphalt that snaked its way through the mountainside.
While up in Silverthorne, Colorado this weekend, we visited a church. It was an outdoor church that meets in the park during the warm summer months. The boys struggled to sit and listen. At ages four and six, the allure of the park was too strong. I decided the best thing to do was to take them to the nearby lake and skip rocks.
Although I was a hundred yards away, I could still catch most of the sermon.
Over the weekend, I took the boys for a treat. They helped me in the yard and they were thirsty. We popped into a coffee place. The boys, ages six and four, love cold vanilla milk with whipped cream. As we’re getting out of the car, my oldest says, “My hand is stuck in my pocket!” I looked over, and sure enough he seemingly could not remove his hand from his pocket. I said, “Why can’t you pull your hand out?”
Still sitting in the van, he explained how he put some chocolate in his pocket a few days before.