If there’s one thing that I can almost guarantee in 2008, it’s that you and I will encounter struggles in our marriage or family life. This is, after all, a fallen world. Things break. Relationships become strained. Misunderstandings happen. Sickness happens. Life gets messy. Even Jesus as He walked on this earth refused to sugar coat reality. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).
Last Sunday tragedy struck close to home.
As you may know, Matthew Murray, 19, barged into New Life Church here in Colorado Springs just two miles down the road from Focus on the Family. His goal? He desired to inflict mass casualties. Armed with three weapons, including a powerful assault rifle and two semiautomatic handguns, Matthew took the lives of two teenage sisters, Stephanie and Rachel Works (pictured), in the parking lot after the worship service.
This Thursday, with the aroma of baked bread and a freshly roasted turkey filling the air, our family will sit down to dinner for a meal shared by millions of other grateful Americans. I can’t wait! One of our traditions is to take turns sharing something that we’re thankful for before digging into the feast. I’m sure we’re not the only family who recites what God has done in the past twelve months. This year, however, I plan to take that tradition to the next level.
As a senior in high school, I was heavily invested in football. I punished my body through many a long practice to become the starting quarterback on the team. In my view there was no such thing as half-excellence. I pushed myself to be at the top of my game–and recruiters for several big-time 1A colleges took notice. I received letters of interest from the University of Las Vegas and Texas Christian University among others.
My plan was to take a scholarship from one of the colleges courting me and then move on to play in the NFL.
I’m reading a fascinating book by Chet Raymo called The Soul of the Night. Although the book was first published some twenty-five years ago, it’s a must read for those who enjoy wrestling with the connection between science and faith. Chet, who is a poet trapped in the body of a scientist, is understandably captivated by “this thing called life that dances on the surface of creation like an abiding flame.”
His warm, inviting collection of essays explores the micro and the macro of Creation.
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.
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.