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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Watching Games or Watching Dad?

17 Sep
Gary and his son, Luke, getting their game faces on at the OSU game.

Gary and his son, Luke, getting their game faces on at the OSU game.

Last week, we had the privilege of taking our kids to the Ohio State football game.  We had previously bought two tickets for me and Luke, and then a friend wound up sharing three more tickets with us so Jennie and the girls could go as well!  We’re grateful!

There’s something incredible about being in a stadium with 107,000 people who are rooting for the same team, the same goal, and the same result.

For about four hours, though, my focus was on just one of those 107K.

I enjoyed sitting with Luke.  We had some incredible fan experiences, like getting to high-five the players as they ran out to warm up.  Like getting J.T. Barrett’s autograph.  Like getting our picture taking with all-conference linebacker Joshua Perry.  The whole day was full of fun memories for two guys that love sports.

But for me as a father – and for Luke as a son – it was so much more.  We made memories together.  We had great conversations.  We had a great time talking about the game and about the players.  And, throughout all of these conversations, I’m thinking “dad thoughts.”

Things like, “encourage your son.”  “Listen to him.”  “Point out things we both can learn from the people we’re watching.”  “Talk about how grateful you are to get time with him.”  “Pray for the player who got injured.”

Football is not just our common interest, it becomes a common context to talk about life issues.  Like why a player got suspended.  Like how much money is involved in big games like this.  Like how hard these players have worked to get here.  Like what do former players do.  Like how God feels about every single one of these 107,000 people.

You mean, there’s more to life than football?  🙂

So, while we Dads can enjoy sporting events with our kids, we’ve got to focus on the greater challenge and opportunity to invest in our sons and our daughters.  For me, going to game is never just about going to the game.  It is just one more opportunity to prepare our children for the game of life.

As much as our kids enjoy watching Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones, or anyone else for that matter… they are watching their Dads and Moms so much more!

 

When Everything Changed

15 Sep

TCE_LogoWhen Everything Changed.  Can you remember the life-changing moments or decisions in your life?  Were there any “before and after” moments when you knew that life would never be the same?

1990 changed everything for this guy.  When I saw my face on that State of Ohio Driver’s License, it was on.

1996 changed everything as well.  Recently graduated from Grace College, I remember the feeling of getting my first actual full-time paycheck, and there was an immediate rush to the bank.  And soon the reality of paying my own bills.

2000 changed everything in all the right ways.  Saying “I Do” to the most incredible woman I’ve ever met, grateful to God and His timing in my life.  From lost in my singleness to found and blessed in the grace of marriage to Jennie, my best friend and love for life.

2004 changed everything and still does.  Allison was born with all sorts of tears, burps, and diaper noises – changing our Underwood lives and every moment since.  Then Luke in 2005 with the introduction of man to man defense.  And Julie sending us into zone coverage in 2008.

2012 changed everything in little ways, when our family welcomed that helpless little puppy, Rocky.

But this Sunday, I can’t wait to share the kind of “game changer forever” things that God has brought into my life and millions of others.  God is passionately in love with us, pursuing us, saving us, and raising us.

And this.  THIS.  CHANGES.  EVERYTHING.

 

They lost… again?!

24 Sep
Even the Browns' best play on Sunday was called back because of a careless offensive penalty.

Even the Browns’ best play on Sunday was called back because of a careless offensive penalty.

Nobody likes to lose.  Have you heard anyone say, “Man, I just can’t wait to lose the next game!  Crush me!”   Nobody ever says that.

But I grew up in Northeast Ohio, where the Cleveland Browns are still our only professional football team.  For more than twenty years, the team has brought disappointment and heartache to sports fans all over the state.   It’s no surprise at all that their stadium is affectionately called a “Factory of Sadness.”

This season, the Browns announced that things would be different.  The billionaire team owner, Jimmy Haslam, appointed a new general manager and a new head coach.  He insisted that the Browns draft a new franchise-leading quarterback – Johnny Manziel – one of the most famous college players of all-time!  The Browns invested millions in stadium upgrades and enormous screens and amenities for their ever-faithful fans.

But when the season started, one of their officials said, “None of these changes matter if we can’t start winning some games.”

And, though they have played tough and competitive, the Browns are 1-2 to start the season.  One win, two losses.  Sunday’s loss against Baltimore (the “old Browns”) came in the final seconds, as the Ravens kicked a field goal to win it.

Use all the cliches you want… “they played hard…” “they deserved to win…” “they looked good…” “they… ”

They lost.  End of story.

Losing can hurt – whether it’s your hometown sports team, your daughter’s soccer team, or your family’s UNO game.

Nobody likes to lose.

But… losing is a part of life.  Losses are often out of our control.  Losing implies that you hopefully tried to win and gives you the chance to improve and do better next time.  Losing might make us feel like quitting – and I’ve thought of rooting for a different team – believe me, it is hard to be a Browns fan!

In the end, it’s not the losing that defines us.  It’s how we cope with loss.  How we respond.  How we stay and commit and learn from our losses.  I hope the Browns get better, and I think they’ll beat the Steelers on October 12.   But there’s really nothing much I can do about it.

As one of my favorite writers – Terry Pluto – says regularly – “Don’t let the millionaires ruin your day.”

I think that’s good advice when it comes to any competition and any loss…. don’t let it ruin your day.

 
 

“Hi, I’m Gary, and I use Facebook.”

23 Sep

Facebook addictions are real.  It starts innocently, wanting to “stay in touch” or “see what so-and-so is doing” or “find pictures of my grandkids.”

But Facebook addictions start when we try to meet ACTUAL needs with VIRTUAL answers.

People turn to Facebook to cure loneliness.  Does it?

You can have a thousand Facebook “Friends,” but how many of them really know you?  The name doesn’t fit the reality that most of these are not “friends,” but rather, “people I may or may not have met at some point over the years.”

People turn to Facebook to relax and catch up at the end of the day.

But does Facebook really help you relax or reduce any stress at all?  I guess it depends on what your “friends” are posting at that time.  If they are angry, critical, sarcastic, or down… be careful and don’t let their thoughts get you angry, critical, sarcastic, or down.  Facebook attitudes can be contagious.

People turn to Facebook as a better alternative to e-mail.

I know I have.  It’s easy to get in touch with people and keep up a conversation, even as a group!  I love that!

Why do you turn to Facebook?  Did you know that more than 33% of divorces these days are caused by affairs and emotional connections that started over Facebook?  Did you know that most people spend twice the amount of time on Facebook than they think they spend?

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook can be a GREAT tool.  A GREAT avenue to connect with friends, encourage people, and keep up-to-date on what’s going on with the people that matter most.

But you have to get control of Facebook.

You can change the settings.  You can limit your time.  You can designate certain posts or pictures to certain friends.  You can get a Facebook accountability partner.  You can think through WHY you use Facebook and how much you will use it.

Personally, I enjoy Facebook, but I have learned to watch how it affects my time, my thoughts, my pride, my “need” for any affirmation from people, and my conversations with people.    If you use it, use it with thoughtfulness and take control of Facebook!

 

Connected: Follow Me on Twitter

22 Sep

Smartphone behind logo Yesterday at Delaware Grace, we concluded the “Connected” sermon series about faith and technology.  Or, as the tagline said, “Following Jesus in a Digital World.”

Alex McCue, our Student Ministries Pastor, gave a practical and powerful challenge for followers of Jesus to think and act like it when we go online or in real life.  Galatians 3 reminds us that we are sons and daughters of God!  Matthew 5 calls us to act like salt and light in a rotten and dark world!

Personally, I thought Alex’s challenge and the entire message put compelling words to how I’ve felt as a Christian online and as I’ve observed Christians online.

If you’re a follower of Jesus… does your social media presence reflect Jesus in a positive way?  Or do your status updates and Instagram photos reflect something far from Him?

Cell phones have made the internet and social media posts available on a 24-7-365 basis.  That’s all day, all week, all month, all year.

Once you put it out there, it’s out there.

Once you click send, it’s sent.

Once you post it, people are seeing and reading it.

Your online life is a matter of the heart.  What kind of person are you?  What do you want people to see in you?  Why do you want them to see that?

Next Sunday, we’re having a one-night forum about technology at Delaware Grace – “CONNECTED: THE NEXT STEP” – at 6:00PM at Delaware Grace, in the chapel.  I hope you’ll join us.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear any questions or concerns you hope we will address that night – shoot me an email at garyunderwood@mac.com.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” – Proverbs 4:23

 

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follow Gary Underwood on Twitter at @garyunderwood

and Alex McCue at @admccue

and Delaware Grace @delawaregrace

 

Everyday Courage

04 Nov
Samwise_the_Brave

He’s called “Samwise the Brave” in Lord of the Rings. But, as far as we know, he’s never had to raise kids, pay the bills, deal with health issues, or solve any 21-st century problems. What real-life situations are calling us to be brave?

The word “courage” comes with a Hollywood vibe to it.  As if “courage” is only for the warrior in battle or the guy that climbed Mount Everest.

It’s so easy to think of “heroes” who have done something courageous.  Our imaginations and minds fill up with memories of Luke Skywalker, Batman, Jason Bourne, and William Wallace.

Who is your fictional hero?

He or she is probably someone “strong and courageous.”  Someone who saved the day.  Someone who faced their fears and ran towards the battle.  Someone who never gave up.

Mine is probably Rocky Balboa.  Or the aforementioned Jason Bourne.  Or the “against all odds” Die Hard hero, John McClane.

In real life, we tend to use the word “courage” when we describe our servicemen or servicewomen in the armed forces.  Our police officers, firefighters, first responders, emergency teams, and everyone who helps in times of crisis.And these people deserve our full support, encouragement, gratitude, and prayer!

But what about courage “for the rest of us”?  What about everyday courage – the willingness or perseverance that us “non-heroes” may need just to face the day.

Or, as a friend of mine said yesterday, “sometimes, it takes courage just to get out of bed and face another day.”

Another day of grief.

Another day of physical pain.

Another day of rejection by loved ones.

Another day of uncertainty.

Another day of loneliness.

Another day of waiting.

Another day of wondering when God is going to show up or answer that prayer you’re tired of praying.

You see, the world still needs each one of us to “be strong and courageous” at times.

Each day, I must choose to move forward, press on, fight a good fight, and seize the day – and this requires an inner-strength and a God-given courage.

You may never carry a world-saving mission on your resume.  You may never crack an international spy code or destroy evil’s attack on a grand scale.

But you can take heart and live a life of courage – every single day.

 
 

Friday and the YMCA…

06 Apr

I’m glad Delaware has a YMCA.  I remember when our family moved here in 2004.  I said it about four times a month – “the only thing I’d change about Delaware, besides moving all of our friends here, would be to give it a YMCA.”

You see, I loved working out at the Warsaw/Winona Lake (Indiana) YMCA when I was at Grace Seminary in the late 1990’s.

You see, I loved working out at the Benton Harbor/St. Joe (Michigan) YMCA when I was a youth pastor in Southwest Michigan in 1996-97.

You see, I loved working out at the Green YMCA when I was at The Chapel back in the day.

I also enjoy starting sentences with “You see,” you see?

Hey, I even worked at the Milwaukee Metro YMCA in 2000 when Jennie and I were first married and living in Milwaukee off of the infamous Brown Deer avenue.  As if Deer came in other colors!

Now that Delaware has a YMCA, I’m down.   Thanks to Paul Weber for directing more than one YMCA but giving a lot of time and energy to this community right here.  Thanks to people like Jeremy Byers and Roger Hanafin, who oversee huge programs and community initiatives to help us all get healthy and make more out of our lives.  Thanks to Kathleen Maynard and everyone else there who loves working with kids.

I’m glad we have a YMCA, that’s all I’m saying.  In fact, in March, I was there more than ever, pushing into the “Body of Iron” challenge.  I had to run 26.2 miles, bike 112 miles, and swim 2.5 miles – over the course of the entire month.  It wasn’t hard, but it did push me to get back at the routines and discover my love for running.

I love to run.  Shut out the world.  Turn on the iPod jams.  Push myself.  Think.  Sing.  Pray.  Work it out.

Yes, it’s Friday, and it’s time to go to the YMCA.  Glad we have one here!

 
 

Better to Receive?

20 Dec

receiving+gift

Christmas is not about giving. 

Did I just type that – on purpose?

I suppose it’s a matter of how you view Christmas, and how you view God.

At Christmas, we do recognize an awesome Giver.

God in Heaven, who “so loved” all of us that He “gave” Jesus Christ to the world, is the Giver of every good and perfect gift!  His generous, compassionate gifts are blessings we should never take for granted.

True Christmas begins and ends with Jesus Christ.  He’s the Son of God (John 3).  He’s the “Word became flesh” (John 1).  He’s the “Resurrection and the Life” (John 14).  He’s truly the “Light of the World” (John 8).

Starting with Jesus Christ, God’s gifts are for us, for our good, and for His glory.

God gives… we receive…

He is the ultimate giver.  He gives generously to all without finding fault.  He provides, protects, and forgives.  He also graciously brings to justice (in His time) those who do evil and rebel against Him.

In response to God’s gifts, we are to position our hearts and our lives to actually receive these gifts!

Consider how God Himself refers to Jesus Christ, the indescribable gift – “Yet as many as received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to be called children of God” (John 1:12).

God gives… we receive…

In life, it is hard for most of us to simply receive a gift.  We aren’t very good at “receiving” a gift, and we wrestle with various attitudes in response to gifts.

Some of us wrestle with entitlement surrounding gifts, and fail to appreciate the giver.  “I deserved this,” we think, and it’s just part of Christmas.  Thoughts creep in like, “I wanted something else… something better… more gifts, please!”

Others feel burdened to repay someone for a gift.  A distant relative brings a gift for you, and you didn’t bring one for them.  Before you know it, you’re in the next room on Amazon.com buying their “payback” gift to ease your conscience.  We want to trade even or earn a gift.

But God gives… we receive.

God gives you time, talent, treasure, personality, friendships, and life!  God gives us resources, opportunities, thoughts, directions, comfort, and hope!

Without God, I have nothing.  You have nothing.

Before I have anything to give, I must first receive what God has given.

I must admit my personal need for everything God has already given.

I must express thanks and acknowledge the countless blessings I’ve received.

I must believe that I don’t deserve these and couldn’t earn these things.

I must walk humbly, knowing that (without God) my life has nothing worthwhile to contribute to anyone else’s.

God gives… we receive.

God gives each one of us life and breath, and we are all made in His image (Genesis 1).  Every day is a privilege, full of opportunity to grow and experience God’s world!

Receive these gifts.  This Christmas, thank Him and seek His wisdom and guidance to pursue a God-honoring life.  As we follow Him, we have hope and faith and love to give to others!

God gives us an awareness of right and wrong, whether in our consciences or in Scripture.

Receive these gifts!  Learn to admit your mistakes, confess sins, and seek His righteousness for better decisions and lifestyles.  As we learn from Him, we have insights and experiences and empathy to give to others!

God gives us a Baby in a manger who would grow up to be King of the Universe… who died on the Cross to rescue us from sin and death.

Receive this gift!  Believe in Him and live His way and grow closer to Jesus through prayer and His Word.  As we come alive in Him, we have life and salvation and truth to share with others!

But let’s make no mistake about it.  If we aren’t receiving God’s gifts and work in our lives, then we have nothing of real value to give.  Before we set out to give, to love, or to serve others, we must learn to receive what God has given us.

God gives… do you receive?

 
 

Reflecting on Sunday…

17 Sep

– Sunday’s sermon, entitled “Live by the Book,” was really intended to be an introduction to the Bible… including “Why do we believe the Bible is from God?”… “What can we find in the Bible?”… and… “How should we handle the Bible.”

– Psalm 119 gives us the chance to listen in to the thoughts and prayers of a man who really loves the Bible.  We focused on the first sixteen verses and found so many benefits and so many powerful descriptions of God’s Word in this man’s life.

– Of course churchgoers and Christians know we’re “supposed to” read the Bible, but few can actually explain why we trust it or how we should use it in everyday life.

– I’ve heard (and given) every excuse in the book about why we don’t read the Bible.  Everything from “I don’t understand it,” to “It’s outdated,” to “I’m too busy” – there’s an excuse for every time and season.  Somehow, when I read Psalm 119, I see the heart of one who has no regrets when it comes to pursuing God.  He has an insatiable hunger for more of God’s truth, God’s presence, God’s blessing, God’s wisdom, and God’s movement in his life.

– I’ve said it regularly to our people at Delaware Grace… don’t let Sunday morning be the only time you open your Bible this week.  Take the responsibility and initiative to read on your own.  A little bit each day.  If you need a place to start, I usually recommend John (about Jesus’ life and mission), Psalms (about prayer and knowing God), or James (very practical and direct about our faith).

– I’d love to hear any comments about excuses or questions or barriers you’ve had when it comes to reading the Bible.  Feel free to post them here at the end of the blog!

– Sunday afternoon, I had a great time with Luke (our 6.5 year old son) at his first football practice.  Over 80 kids and many adults showed up for “training day” with some local football players and coaches from the YMCA.  I’m proud to be a part of a community like Delaware, Ohio!

– Sunday night, I was able to meet with a group of people who are heading to the Central African Republic next month, including Dave Martin and Zach Younkin from our church.  Others on the team are from Iowa or Missouri.

– Somewhere during the day, word got to me that the Browns had scored 27 points.  Must be a 10-year record.  But they still lost.  #nosurprise.  #lol

 

 

 
 

Forever Learning (Psalm 119)

11 Sep

“The only difference between the person you are right now, and the person you will be five years from now, will come from the people you spend time with and the books that you read.”  This quote (author unknown) came to me a few years back, and makes complete sense.

Clearly, the people we spend time with have an impact on our thoughts, habits, and growth.  Certainly, the things we read and ponder have the chance to teach or direct us in unique ways.

Whether you agree or disagree with this quote, it’s worth looking at your life and thinking about the influences around you.  You can choose to develop or learn or grow or become someone better than you are today.

Psalm 119 is a chapter of the Bible that is written by a lifelong learner.  By one who realizes that God himself is the most important person we could spend time with and be influenced by.  When you read the Bible, you not only expose your mind to great truths and thoughts, you encounter an amazing Person who is speaking – in some sense – directly to your heart and life.

Consider these words:

“I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws” (Psalm 119:7).

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches” (Psalm 119:14).

“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times” (Psalm 119:20).

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).

This man, this writer, reads the Bible and loves it.  He eats it up.  He finds his heart is not only right and pure, it is “set free.”  He reads the Bible because he knows Someone is speaking to him here.  Someone worth knowing.  Worth reading about.  Worthy of praise, loyalty, and honor.

All 168 verses of Psalm 119 reflect the heart of a person who isn’t cynical.  He isn’t avoiding the deep issues.  He hasn’t shut God out or gotten bored with reading the Bible.

For sure, this “lifelong learner” knows the value of putting in the effort to read the Bible and to know God more and more each day.  In just the first eight verses, look how this man treats the Bible… He “walks according to” it (1).  He seeks God with all his heart (2).  He walks in his ways (3).  He considers God’s commands (6).  He praises God (7).  He learns God’s righteous laws (7).  He obeys (8).

If you dare to read the whole chapter, you see this man’s commitment to the Bible, no question.  But you also can feel his heart, fully in love with God, fully alive and growing, fully humbled to learn and be whatever God wants him to learn and be.

Somehow, I pray that God would give me (and you) that same kind of heart.  Forever learning from God.  Forever committed to His Word and to what He wants us to be.