False Sense of Safety

We love driving our Jeep with the top and doors off.

There's just something about riding in a vehicle and watching the pavement speed by. I used to drive a delivery truck for Ziker Cleaners when I was in college for extra money and would drive with the door open so I could hang my foot out. There's just something fun about it.

The other week we hung out at our friend's house after a leadership conference. As we were walking out to our Jeep, their then seven year old daughter followed us out, walked through their front yard and proceeded to climb in the backseat. She didn't say a word. Just climbed in and buckled her seat belt.

"Well, I guess you're coming with us," I said, as we proceeded to drive off with her in our backseat much to this little girl's surprise. "What!? Where are we going?" As we drove away I told her that we needed to pick Carter and Morgan up from their practices and then we would bring her back home. (I don't think she really thought we'd take off with her in the Jeep... but we did.) 😂😂😂

As we were driving she was throwing out questions while she was trying to keep her hair from whipping her in the face.

"What happens if we get into an accident?"

"Well, we have a roll bar so you'll want to keep your hands up by your shoulders... kind of like if you hug yourself."

"How fast are you going!?"

"100 miles per hour..." Her response... "Whaaaaaaaaaaaat!? 100 miles per hour!" (We really were only driving 45mph.)

Then Jami jumps in... "Todd, she's only seven."

Then there was a bit of quiet as she tried to keep the hair out of her face.

Then she asked one final question...

"What happens if they start shooting at us, I don't feel safe!?"

"What!? Who's shooting at us? Who are "THEY?" And why are THEY shooting at us? You're seven? Who's shooting at a seven year old? What type of work are you in? SHOOTING AT US? WHAT?"

Her response... "There's no doors!"

What? Doors won't stop bullets I tell her. Which blew her mind. She thought she was safe in a car from people shooting at her because of the doors. But doors don't stop bullets. When she thought she was safe, she really wasn't. Sure, she could duck. Or not get involved with people who would need to shoot at her in the first place. She could make choices that would help make her more safe. But believing that car doors would simply stop bullets isn't true. It's a false sense of security and it took a ride in a vehicle with no doors to make her realize that.

I still don't know why this seven year old would think someone would be shooting at her... is she pushing cocaine? Is she working for the mob? Is she a spy? Needless to say, we picked up Carter and Morgan and returned this girl back to her parents safe and sound... with no shots ringing out.

But this Jeep ride got me thinking a bit... well, the seven year old got me thinking.

How often do we run through life thinking we're safe? We're in control? And then BAM...

Covid hits.

We get laid off of work.

Kids start school at home on the computer.

We or someone we know gets seriously sick.

And we realize that we've been living in this false reality that we might be in control... in a false sense of security... like car doors would actually stop bullets. When in reality, there's a lot that we don't control.

I don't know why bad things happen... why some people get sick and others don't... why life is really hard sometimes. Sure, sometimes it's because of the choices we make and we bring it on ourselves. But there are things that happen that are outside of the control that we thought we had. 2020 has shown us all and given us plenty of examples.

It's easy to get caught up in life... when things are going well... when things are going as planned... "We've got it all under control" we think. And then boom... you get in a car with no top and no doors and you start to wonder "what happens if they start shooting at us" only to find out that even if you have doors, the bullets will still impact the inside of the car.

For a lot of us, 2020 has been kinda like riding in a car with no top or doors. We've fully come to realize that, as human beings and parents, that most of what happens to us is out of our control. Sure, we can make good decisions and place ourselves in better positions... but in the end, those are just doors. Ultimately, we don't and can't live in total, complete safety.

So the question is...

Where does your hope come from? What do you place your hope in?

Our hope comes from God. May  He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

When we put our hope in our leaders, or our relationships or our health, we will for sure be let down. People will let us down. Our health can fail us. Money can run out. Safety in our eyes won't stop bullets from penetrating our cars. But there is one who won't let us down. There is one whom we can trust. Jesus is his name... it's in him where our hope should be... the giver of life. I pray this for my life... and I pray it for your life.

Will this make our problems go away? Hardly so. But it will change our outlook on life's circumstances. This isn't a rose-colored glasses kind of outlook. It's an outlook of hope IN SPITE OF the circumstances that we face. It's the kind of hope that changes what you post on social media. It's the kind of hope that changes your words. It's the kind of hope that fills you with hope and peace. And it's this hope that I'm praying that will impact my life and yours.

There's one more question I want to ask my already believing friends... where does your hope come from regarding those you disagree with? It's a question I had to face. Those that I really, truly disagree with regarding everything that's going on in our world and culture today. It's a question that will be answered by simply looking at how we interact with the very people I was just talking about.

When we look at the life of Jesus, we can see what hope really looks like regarding those that we disagree with. The very man that would betray him, Judas, had a seat at the dinner table of Jesus the night before his betrayal. The man who would deny Jesus three times had a seat at the dinner table of Jesus.

Do the people whom you disagree with, maybe even dislike, have a seat at your dinner table? Are they welcome?

 


Spiders and the Web of Fear

So, I'm driving home the other day...

It was a great day to drive home with my car windows down. Radio was up. I was singing... loudly. The people in the car next to me were staring as I pulled up to a stop light. As I was in the middle of doing a drum solo on my steering wheel, this little thing caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. As it was running across my windshield, out of reach of my wipers, I audibly said, "Noooo," in a slow motion type of voice. (At least that's what it sounded like to me.) At that point, it was a race. A race to see if I could get my windows up faster than a spider could get inside my car. Luckily for me, I won. The spider was denied entrance into my vehicle.

But for the next 40 minutes, on my way home, I chose to drive with my windows up. I really wanted to enjoy the weather. I so wanted to have my windows down to enjoy the fresh air. But I let a fear of spiders win out. I let the fear of something so small prevent me from doing something I really wanted to do.

I've noticed something, I've let this happen in other areas of my life as well. I've let fear be the determining factor in whether or not I do something I know God is asking me to do. I've let fear prevent me from trying new things. I've let fear prevent me from being the person that God's called me to be. I've seen it in my kids, Carter and Morgan. I've seen it happen in the lives of students. And it sucks. Because, in the end, for me at least, I look back in disappointment and sadness. I look back with regret. But, that's what fear does. It traps us in its sticky web and sucks the life out of us.

You see...

I could have crushed the spider had he entered my car. He was a lot smaller than me. It wouldn't have even been a match. But I let fear rule my world for that 40 minutes. And I've let fear rule my world in bigger areas of my life and endeavors.

But, here's the thing...

God can crush whatever we're afraid of - whatever fear that holds us captive. But we've got to open the window and let God do what God does. Because that fear, whatever it is, is a lot smaller than God. It's not even a match.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7 (Amplified) 

Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3-4 (NIV)

One last thing... I've noticed that when I'm letting fear rule my life, I'm making it out to be about me. When in reality, this life isn't about me - it's about God. Everything I have... everything I have to offer... talents and abilities... comes from God. And when I turn my focus off of me and focus on God, my fear turns off.


The Right Tool

I've had a couple of cars in my time that needed a "specialty tool" to open things up.

The last car that needed a "specialty tool" was our Honda Civic. It was a great car. It served us well. But I needed a pair of pliers, specifically needle nose pliers, to open the hood to this car.

The thing that you would typically pull to open a car hood had broken. So, if I didn't have these pliers, I couldn't open the hood.

It's a tool that's not typically thought of to open the hood of a car. Yet, it's the only tool that would open my car's hood. I knew this, because I drove that car. It was my car. You wouldn't have necessarily known that you needed to use something different to open up my car's hood unless you looked closely. I only knew how to open it up because I was in it everyday, I knew my car and what it needed to open it up.

And, here's the thing...

This is true when it comes to students... when it comes to our own kids. Each student is different. You can't always use the same tools on every student you come in contact with. Morgan is very different from Carter. I can't talk to them the same way. The words I use. The tone. The jokes. If I want to connect with both of them, I need to find what works with them. How I like to connect isn't necessarily the same for Carter or Morgan.

You have to use what works. You have to work to find connection points. Connection points that are ever changing... because our students and kids are growing up. And the only way to know that, is to get to know your students. To take the time to get to know our ever-changing kids. To look closely into their lives and be with them.

If you do that, you'll discover what you need to open up their lives to you. I can't promise that it will be easy or that it won't take time. It's tough. It's hard. Sometimes you'll be frustrated. But as parents, as youth leaders, it's our job to not give up. It's our job to push forward and to love them through the tough points. Because in the end, everything that is worth it is rarely easy. And if nothing else, take heart in knowing you're not alone. Keep pushing. They're worth it.


The Rosco P. Coltrane Hot Pursuit

I love the Duke's of Hazzard.

Especially Rosco P. Coltrane, when he says, "I'm in hot pursuit!"

The dude is hilarious. But all too often, I find I'm just like him... chasing hard after something I really want.

As I was looking at the 10 Commandments before Covid, it hit me...

"I am so worn out. Just exhausted."

Now this could be the result of a couple of things...

Lack of sleep. Not eating right. Lack of exercise. Work schedule plus the kids' activity schedule.

But more times than not, it's because

I'm

Not

Following

The

First Commandment...

"You must not have any other god but Me." - Exodus 20:3 

More times than not, when I'm exhausted, it's because I'm chasing after other gods in my life other than the One True God.

-Acceptance from my kids
-Success in my job
-Success with money
-Performance in a sport
-Parenting my kids

The list could go on and on. And it's a list of a hot pursuit of "other gods" - Like Rosco chasing after the Duke Boys... I get exhausted chasing something I rarely ever catch.

But...

The 10 Commandments isn't simply a list of do's and don'ts - right's and wrongs - laws... it's a glimpse into the heart of God. God doesn't want me to simply keep Him first (whatever that means) because He's got a big ego, He wants me to pursue Him because that pursuit brings life and not exhaustion.

So what's your "Rosco P. Coltrane" hot pursuit?

Why not switch it up and get in hot pursuit with God?


I Don't Like this Song

Morgan loves riding in the Jeep... like LOVES it.

If it's nice out, she wants to ride everywhere in it, especially to her dance classes. And not only does she want to ride in it, we have to have the radio up loud... especially when we pull up to drop her off.

So yesterday, as we got closer to dropping her off, it became apparent that Morgan "needed" the right song to roll up on. As we approached the last two stoplights, wrong song after wrong song came on. Then commercials. What were we going to do?

As we rolled through the last green light, in my mind I thought, "Well, if we don't have a good song, I'll just drive down the street and turn around... we have time for that." I pushed a button that played a song... "Dad, I don't like that song. It's boring." I pushed another button, "No dad, not that song." As I pushed the third button I realized it was a commercial, so I kept going past her dance studio.

"Dad, you just passed my studio." As I turned in the next entrance, I said, "Uhhhhhhh, I know Morgan. I was trying to pull up with a song on." At which point I pushed the button back to the first station to which she said, "Oh ya! I love this song, let's go." I shook my head, laughed and reminded her that she just said that she didn't like this song because it was boring.

But we kept it on as we pulled up to drop her off... unfortunately for her, nobody was out front as we pulled in to an empty parking lot. It was all for nothing...

We just shook our head and laughed. There really was no other response. It's kinda like when your toddler likes peanut butter and jelly one day, then the next they hate it. I can be like that at times. Everyone can really. Changing your mind isn't a bad thing necessarily. It's simply knowing what you want and what you don't want.

It's ok when it comes to things like this. But when it comes to commitments, not so much. That's one thing as parents Jami and I try to get our kids to understand. When you commit to something, you either finish it out, or you better have a great reason why you need to end the commitment... then end it respectfully. Too many times we try to take the easy way out of the commitments we make... whether it's with work, a sports team, a commitment with a friend or a relationship commitment.

It seems like "changing your mind" is a strength when it comes to commitments. But that's just not true. With where the world is at today, one of the things that Jami and I want our kids to learn, is the honor of following through with the commitments one makes. It's not easy all the time, but it's a legacy that is important to leave behind.


Moving Beyond Failure

Randy Johnson was a beast of a pitcher when I was growing up.

I remember where I was when Randy Johnson became the 24th pitcher in baseball history to win 300 games after struggling early in his career (having won only 64 games by his 30th birthday). That is a GI-NORMOUS achievement. People all over the world were talking about his achievement.

But what people weren’t talking about, were the 164 games he lost.

Before Randy Johnson won his historical 300th game, he lost 164 times. He had to endure 164 heartaches, failures, losing attempts… however you want to look at it. He flat out failed 164 times.

But after each loss, he kept going. He learned from what went wrong, and moved forward. He didn't quit or give up. He went out on the mound when it was time for his next start. It’s easy to look at this 300th win with awe and wonder. But it’s not the win that really matters… it’s the will and drive to keep going. To keep working. To keep moving forward, even in the midst of losing.

It’s easy to give up. And it’s hard to keep going.

In baseball. In life. In work. In parenting.

There are many times we’re going to want to give up and give in. But we won’t reach the victory in life, career, family, parenting, etc. unless we keep going. We won’t reach the achievement we want to reach, unless we keep taking steps forward – unless we keep getting up.

I’m sure those 164 losses were hard for Randy Johnson. Some probably harder than others. But he didn’t give in. He didn't give up.

I’m sure there will be seasons in each of our lives, careers, families, that will be hard. Some probably harder than others. Learn from what went wrong…

Get back up.

And keep moving forward.

"Jeremiah, say this to the people of Judah: This is what the Lord says: You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back." Jeremiah 8:4


One Thing You Need to Make a Difference

If you want to make a difference...

If you want to make a difference...

Have More Conversation.

If you want to better your marriage...

Have More Conversation.

If you want to be a better parent...

Have More Conversation.

If you want to be a better friend...

Have More Conversation.

If you want to have peace...

Have More Conversation.

I think I need to...

Have More Conversation.

You?


Ears Not Jeers

If I'm honest, quarantine really hasn't been all that difficult for our family.

We’ve been able to continue working and taking short excursions out to parks and the beach. Steven Furtick talked about a new normal. And I’m on board for that. I don’t want to go back to what normal was. Crazy kid schedules. Dinners on the go. Family-less time - meaning - while we were with each other, we were so preoccupied with other things that is wasn’t really quality time. This time in quarantine has really done something powerful…

It has brought us wholly back together.

This time in quarantine has also put a spotlight on an area we need to grow as a family as well.

Kindness.

There have been more times than I care to admit where I’ve had to redirect our kids’ words to each other or one of us because of their angry tone or flat out rude words. I can redirect calmly and collectedly for a period of time. But there’s a point that I hit where enough is enough and my tone and words reflect what I’m trying to correct in my kids. One evening in my “lighter moods” I redirected my kids’ rude and mean words to each other with a new saying… “Ears not jeers,” I said to one of them. You see, one of our kids thought he/she heard the other say something rude. So, out of revenge, that child said something rude back.

I had heard exactly what the first child had said. It was in fact, kind and encouraging. So because the second child heard wrong and said something rude back, I created a new saying…

“Ears not jeers.”

I come up with “sayings” a lot. They just seem to fly out of my mouth from nowhere. And this one seemed fitting. “Ears not jeers.”

A few days had come and gone. Kids were rude and mean again and again. “Man,” I thought, “This is just so discouraging. They keep not loving each other well.” For a parent, one of the most discouraging things is to witness their children not loving each other well… to be mean and rude to each other. To me, it just hurts to see that play out. At the time, I didn’t know what else to do. We had verbally corrected them. Grounded them from devices. Made them do an afternoon’s worth of chores. Early bedtimes. We even… get this… we even made them spend the night in each other’s rooms. Alternating nights, one would sleep in their bed while the other would sleep on the floor in a sleeping bed (I thought that was pretty funny). But still, more arguing. More fighting. More rudeness. More being unkind to each other.

Then it hit me.

Their behavior had become a habit.

Habits are routine. Habits happen over and over. Habits are easy. Habits are just what happens.

Their behavior had become a habit which had become normal.

And to break their habit, we had to replace that habitual behavior with something else… with a new habit. You see, it wasn’t enough to simply tell them to stop. It wasn’t enough to simply take something away that they knew they would get back eventually.

No. To break this habit meant that they needed to replace it with something else.

But what were we going to help them with to replace the habit?

Their habit, being unkind to their sibling, is ultimately a heart issue… HAM

It starts in their Heart which translates to their Attitude which then transponds out through their Mouth.

And in my opinion and experience, the thing that pierces and changes a person’s heart the most is the Bible. So one evening I told Jami that we needed to sit down and talk as a family. After dinner, we all stayed at the dinner table and Jami told the kids that we needed to talk about our attitudes. And I started to talk… my words to the kids as I looked at them in their eyes…

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being kind all the time. I’m sorry for being frustrated as I’ve tried to correct you guys when you’ve been unkind. That’s not right. And I’m sorry.”

I didn’t notice it, but later, Jami told me that Carter’s mouth dropped and he shifted in his chair to listen. She said that she could see him physically open up to hear what I had to say. Had I not opened by apologizing the conversation and their behavior in the following days might have been different. What I said after, might have gone in one ear and out the other. Sometimes as parents, we need to initiate the apology. For me, a lot of times, I get caught up and focused on correcting their behavior… and rightly so. But there are times where it’s right and appropriate to own up to the mistakes we’ve made. That night was the right night for me. The kids didn’t expect it and I believe God used it to soften their hearts.

That wasn’t the end of the conversation. I then took my phone and went to the Bible app and read James 1:19-20... check it out:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

“Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” “Ears not Jeers…” Get it? The kids laughed when I said that after reading the verse.

It wasn’t enough for me to apologize. It wasn’t enough to simply have an after dinner discussion. Remember, this behavior, the words from their mouths, came from their attitudes which originated from their hearts. It had become a habit. So I wanted to replace it with something else. Not only did I read the verse, I let them know that we were going to memorize it.

God’s word is the replacement. Memorizing God’s word is the replacement for their habit. Being quick to listen. And slow to speak. And slow to anger. Memorizing James 1:19-20 and really letting that live within our hearts and minds is the exact right replacement for their habit... for our habit.

For the last week, we’ve been intentional about memorizing that verse. And I know it’s working. The rudeness and unkindness have been melting away. Will they be perfect? No. No one is. Will they be unkind again? Probably. But I want that to be the exception.

So now, when I say “Ears not jeers,” the kids are reminded of James 1:19-20.

Be quick to listen. Be slow to speak. Be slow to become angry. Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.


The Masks We Wear

I loved wearing masks when I was a kid... LOVED them!

It didn’t matter if it was Spiderman, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Zorro. Whenever I could wear a mask, I would. Halloween was a highlight growing up because that meant I could get a new costume with inevitably came with a mask. But unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to wear it before October 31, no matter how hard I tried. I. Simply. Loved. Masks.

The thing about masks, for me, was that as soon as I put the mask on, I was instantly transformed into that hero. I was no longer Todd Ruth. No. My identity was Batman. Or Spiderman. Or my favorite, Zorro. And the garage at 242 Altgeld in South Bend, Indiana, was transformed into Zorro’s lair.

The era of me wearing masks had come and gone… until now. Now, I find myself having to wear a mask to walk into certain businesses. Before, I chose to wear masks and pretend I was someone else, protecting humanity at all cost. Now, I’m made to wear a mask if I want to enter certain businesses… to protect myself and humanity.

This isn’t a political statement. And I’m not arguing about the benefit or lack of benefit in wearing masks. No.

As I look back at my life, over the 44 years, I can see time and again how I wore certain masks to pretend I’m something I’m not… to pretend I’m something other than myself. Sometimes as a kid and as an adult, it was because I was self conscious of what I looked like. Sometimes it was because I was insecure about what people might think I am. Other times it was to fit in and gain the approval of others. All to protect myself.

I’ve seen this in myself. And I’ve seen this in my kids as well. Instead of physical masks, masks come in the form of social media. Photos we post (both adults and students). We hide behind our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok profiles. Girls post photos of their bodies in an effort to gain approval and likes. Guys post photos of their cars or watches or anything that gains them more status in the eyes of their followers. It’s all masks. We wear masks to protect ourselves at all cost. And all of us have worn them at different times. We pretend we're something we're not. On and on and over and over we wear our mask only to lose who we really are and who God has called us to be.

One of the reasons I do TikTok videos with my daughter is in an effort to rip off any mask I may want to wear. It’s super clear that I can’t dance. And. I. Don’t. Care. I want my daughter to see that I’m posting content that shows who I truly am… no mask needed. And it's ok.

I want my kids to learn and know many things. But top of the list, I want them to know that…

They. Are. Enough… without masks.

I want them to find their identity in Jesus… not in a mask they might wear in search for acceptance.

When we find our identity in Jesus, no other mask is needed. Jesus tells us we are enough, not for anything we can do. No. We are enough because He is enough. And when we rest in that truth, peace and protection and love overcomes us and we no longer feel the need to wear a mask and we can live as God has called us to live.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” - John 1:12


A Week of Summer Hell

I hate running.

No. Let me rephrase that. I like the idea of running. But I don’t like the actual act of it. I will only run when I need an immediate mental challenge to overcome. I’m weird. I know that. There have been times in my life where I’ve needed an immediate mental challenge… so I ask myself, “I wonder if I can run seven miles?” For someone who runs long distances on a regular basis, this may not be that big of a feat. For someone who has never ran a mile in their life, seven miles would probably be impossible. For me, it’s not an impossible task. But I don’t run on a regular basis. Actually, I don’t really run at all unless I need that immediate mental challenge to overcome. I did though, run all four years in high school. But that almost didn’t happen.

You see, when I was growing up, my parents required that I play a fall and spring sport. I never really asked them why. I guess they were trying to take up my time to help keep me out of trouble. But that’s just a guess, and I don’t know how good of a guess it is. In any case, for me, football was out. (That’s a different story I’ll tell at a later date.) So instead of football, I chose to go out for cross country. Now I say “go out for” like there were some sort of cuts. Let’s be honest, there weren’t enough idiots like me who actually joined the cross country team.

So the summer before my freshman year at Riley High School (R. I. L. E. Y. Go Riley), I walked into the school “ready” for the first practice. The actual cross country meets were 3.1 miles in distance. What I learned real quick was that the cross country practices were five or six miles Monday through Friday during the summer. And the only time we ran less, was the day before a meet. The easy day, as the coach called it, was 3.1 miles. This presented a bit of a problem… right away. The farthest distance I had ran before that summer day was 270 feet… in other words, in baseball terms… that’s a triple. More likely for me, I would typically only run between 90 and 180 feet… a single or double. So, you can imagine what ran through my mind that first day.

Not gonna lie here. It sucked.

S. U. C. K. E. D.

That first day I barely ran a mile. Then I walked. When I saw coach, I picked it back up and again. Then, when he disappeared, I would walk again. Then, when he drove to the next check point, I would run again when he came into my view. You see, we didn’t practice on a track. We ran neighborhood’s on the South Side of South Bend, Indiana. So the coach had set up check points so that he could make sure that we weren’t getting lost along the six mile course.

I did this on Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. And Friday. It was super clear that I wasn’t giving my best effort. I actually didn’t really want to even be there. Give me a bat and a glove and a baseball, and I’ll give my all. But ask me to run six miles… forget that. But I was fulfilling what my parents were asking me to do… be in a fall sport.

The summer practice ended on Friday and I walked home. Finally, the week of hell had ended and I was ready for the weekend to rest up. What I didn’t know, was that as I was walking home, my cross country coach was on the phone ratting me out to my dad.

When I got home, my dad called me out onto the front porch. I can still remember where we sat on the front porch. My dad asked me how cross country practice was going. “Uh. um. It’s going good. Um, well. Ya, it’s good.” Clearly that wasn’t the truth and my dad knew that. And, he let me know that the coach had called… BUSTED. My dad told me that the coach had called because I wasn’t giving my best effort, that I was walking too much. He said that the coach knows I could do better and actually be a good runner if I would only give it my best effort… or at least a better effort.

I’m sure I whined and complained about how hard it was to run in the summer heat… back in those days, like football, we had “two-a-day” practices. Instead of getting mad, my dad simply said, “If you give it your best at cross country, I’ll quit smoking. And if I pick up a cigarette, you can quit.”

What!? Deal. I said “deal” so quick. I mean, it was a no-brainer. There wasn’t a chance that I wasn’t winning this bet. Even if it took a month, I was in. I knew that I’d be quitting cross country sooner than later.

That discussion and deal took place in the summer of 1990. My dad hasn’t smoked since.

The joke was on me. I finished my freshman season of cross country. In fact, I lettered. Then, I finished my sophomore, junior and senior season of cross country. I lettered all four years and ran 3.1 in under 17 minutes and 30 seconds.

You see, my dad knew I could do just that if I gave my best effort. He believed the best in me. He made a sacrifice… he gave something up to help me eventually see the best in myself. Now, what he gave up helped him as well. I’m sure he’s healthier today than if he would still be smoking. But nonetheless, he made a sacrifice.

My dad could have gotten angry and given up on me. Instead, he believed in me and gave me a challenge and made a sacrifice to push me forward.

Parents, my challenge to you is this… what can you give up… no, what do you need to give up to help your child(ren) believe and see the best in themselves? What can you do today, that will help push them to be a better person now and into their life later?