Bob the Builder

One of the cool things I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks in getting things ready to roll with the Man Cave has been getting to know some of the guys. One character I’ve gotten to know is a guy affectionately known as Bob the Builder. We’ve all become familiar with Joe the Plumber, but c’mon, ya gotta love the alliterative nature of “Bob the Builder”. It just rolls off the tongue, like Dave the Dentist, Tom the Teacher, Phil the Phlebotomist.

Bob is a man’s man. Scraggly beard, leathery skin which shows the amount of time he’s spent in the great outdoors, rides a Harley (and has no interest if you ride anything but a Harley), and has been in construction since he could hold his Fisher Price plastic hammer as a toddler.

The thing about Bob the Builder (BtB) is that he has a servant’s heart. Last Friday, Gary and I went out to the warehouse where the church stores EVERYTHING which isn’t kept on site. Our purpose in going out there was to get some ideas, and possibly some material to set the stage for the Man Cave. It was like shopping at The Home Depot, only the stuff had already been bought or made. In talking with BtB, Gary described the stage he had in mind for Wednesday nights. BtB then took the idea, took us over to a pile of wood at the warehouse, and began to load it in the back of his truck.

“I’ll have it built for you by the end of the weekend.”

True to his word, he informed us Sunday morning that the thing was done. In his spare time, BtB put together a stage that previously only existed in Gary’s mind. Wednesday night, it was on display, and was perfect for the occasion.

We’re discovering a lot of guys with hearts like BtB. Guys with many different talents and abilities. But guys who are eager to lend their gifts, donate their time, and do something tangible for the Lord. I’ll be sure to introduce you to some of the guys along the way. They’re really special, and Gary and I know we’re very blessed to have a team of guys who want to serve in any way they can.

Launch of the Man Cave

I’m writing this late Wednesday night, after a marathon of a day, so my intention is to keep this brief. We’ll see if I’m able to accomplish that.

For those who read this who don’t yet know, I am working with and for Gary Zelesky, the new Men’s Ministry pastor at my church. This is not the entirety of our work, but that’s another story for another blog post at another time. For the past few weeks, Gary and I have been meeting together, as well as with many other people, brainstorming and brain-picking for the purpose of January 7, 2009. This was the date of the launch of a new era of men’s ministry at my church, and what we believe, in our nation.

Gone are the days of the sanitized, cliche-laden, boring, androgynous church activity. As the men arrived, we had a live basketball game on ESPN playing on the screens, music playing, not one, but TWO Harleys flanking the stage which, by the way, had a catwalk that jutted out so men could literally surround the stage as they sat at their tables. We had a brick facade as a backdrop, very much like you might see in a comedy club.

The senior pastor, Greg Fairrington, approached us 20 minutes before we were scheduled to start, and said he had never seen this many men, this early, at anything the church has ever done! There were over 100 men there 20 minutes before we were scheduled to begin. By the time we started, we were bringing in extra chairs to accomodate the over-capacity crowd. I haven’t gotten a total headcount yet, but we had 200 chairs set up before the extras were brought in. By all reliable accounts, this was the best attendance the church has ever seen for a men’s ministry gathering on a Wednesday night.

While Gary and I, and the rest of the staff, are encouraged and exicted by these numbers, that’s not what this is about. What literally gave me chills and caused my eyes to well up was when Gary stood before the men and reminded them of our purpose as men. He reminded us of the relatively meaningless things we get excited about, such as sporting events and concerts, yet we are passive when we enter into the presence of the one true God. So with that in mind, Gary shouted, “HE IS HERE!”, and all the men vaulted from their seats to their feet, and lifted up a shout…a roar of praise to the Lord.

I’m telling you, it gave me chills. There is nothing quite like the roar of a room full of men who are lifting their voices to God. But this wasn’t about emotionalism or manipulation. These men are hungry. These men are filled with anticipation.These men are poised and eager for God’s marching orders as we move in to battle to take back what belongs to us as men of God.

Most of the men, naturally, are married. I have personally heard from so many of the wives who have shared with me that they have cried to God in prayer that their husbands would be hungry in their pursuit of God. That they would live lives of passion for the Lord. Following the night’s activity, I bumped into the Women’s Ministry director who told me that one of the ladies in her group, who met at the same time in another room, said her husband had long ago given up on the men’s ministry night at the church. But he came tonight, and couldn’t wait until next Wednesday when we meet again. This wife emotionally shared that this was an answer to her diligent prayer.

I am excited to be part of this ministry. I am sure I don’t understand 1% of the reasons God brought me to this church at this time. I am sure I don’t understand 1% of why me, of all people. Frankly, I’m not going to lose sleep over the reasons. What I know is, He brought me here, He has ordered my steps, and I’m just following His marching orders. What I experienced Wednesday night wasn’t emotionalism. That fades when the lights go down, or that next bill comes in the mail when you’re already tapped out for the pay period. What I experienced was the power of God flowing through men who are eager to become mighty men of valor. Men who are hungry for more of God. Men who aren’t afraid to humble themselves in a posture of prayer. Men who aren’t afraid to raise their hands and their voices in a room full of other men, or a sanctuary filled with men, women and children. Or even at home, when no one but God is there with them.

This is a new era. A new day.

Bring it on!

(OK, so much for “brief”)

Lessons From Man’s Best Friend

I went and saw the movie Marley & Me over the weekend. Maybe you haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll warn you now that there is a bit of a plot spoiler coming, so if you don’t know yet that the dog dies, you may want to not read the next couple sentences. Of course, if you read the previous sentence, you now know the dog dies, so nevermind.

I knew going in that the dog dies. I KNEW IT! I knew it would be sad. I KNEW IT! I knew it was only a movie, and that the real dog is actually alive and well. I KNEW IT! I knew I would cry, and I did.

I KNEW IT!

I love dogs. I couldn’t help but think of the dog my family had as I was growing up. She was every bit a part of our family as I was. She had personality, she showed emotions, she was sensitive, she was truly a best friend. Dogs are wonderful, however, they’re not necessarily the smartest creatures. For example, do you know what would happen if you were to leave home for a few days and you decided you’d leave food out for the dog to ration over the time you’re gone?

You’d come home to an empty dog bowl and a fat dead dog.

Dogs will eat everything you put in front of them in one sitting. If not one sitting, definitely in one day. So you can’t put out 3 or 4 days of food out and expect them to budget the food to last.

I really believe God has to sometimes treat us the way a good dog owner should treat their dog on such an occasion. God can’t, and won’t give us all that He has for us at one time. Imagine what damage we would surely do if we knew everything about our future when we were, say, 15. Think of where you are right now, and where you’ve been in the past 5-10-15 years. If you knew as a teenager the route you would eventually take, would you have been as motivated to finish school? Would you have married the person you married? Would you have taken the job(s) you took? Would you have lived where you lived? Would you have dated that person? Would you have bought that car? Would you have __________? (fill in the blank)

If you’re anything like me, you answered a couple with “yes”, but most with “no”. However, God wants us to learn from everything in our lives, including (and especially) the things to which we answered “no”. Sometimes God actually wants us to experience circumstances we would have avoided had we known what lay ahead. If you answered “no” to any of the “would you have…” questions, the answer would also be no to the question, “would you have learned that lesson?”

God gives us wisdom for today. He gives us what we need to get through today and the situation we’re in. He is not limited by the perimeter of time. He is every bit in the moment as He is in the future. However, we can only live in the now. Tuesday, my boss’s wife got a print to hang on our office wall at the church. It says, “The future is just a collection of successive nows”. Is that dead on, or what?

If God gave us more than we needed to get through today, we would devour it until we were sick or dead. We cannot eat tomorrow’s food today. We must be in the moment, deal with today. When tomorrow comes, He will provide us with what we need to get through it.

Girl’s Basketball and Good Friends

Saturday was a really great day for me. There is a family back in San Jose with whom I have been very close for many years. For the past several years, this part of the year has been largely occupied with girls’ basketball games. We started out by coaching Troy’s daughters when they were in elementary and middle school, and took secondary roles when they entered high school. There was no way we could simply be spectators…we’d go insane.

Troy and Marlo’s eldest daughter, Brittany, is now in college, but the younger, Alyssa, is a junior in high school. Alyssa’s games are typically on Tuesday and Thursday nights, so it’s virtually impossible for me to make any of her games. I have missed only a handful of her games since she was little, so this year has been quite an adjustment for me. But I knew she had a Saturday game in early January, so I circled that bad boy on my calendar a couple months ago.

That day was untouchable.

The game was at 3 pm, so I got there a little early to see the coach and spend some quality time with Troy. It was just like old times. Like we just saw each other earlier in the week. It was just nice. Right before the varsity game started, the head coach told the guy who took my place at the scorer’s table to instead take video of the game, and let me take my normal place at the table running the shot clock for the game. It was very sweet of her to let me do that. She told me after the game that anytime I happened to be in town, the job was mine. I have to admit, it’s a silly thing, but it meant a lot. It made me feel like I’ve contributed just a little something in the past several years.

After the game, Troy, Marlo, Brittany and I all went to dinner. Alyssa had a team function that evening and couldn’t join us. She was genuinely disappointed that she couldn’t hang out with us, which was rewarding to me in its own way.

These girls are very special to me. They never treated me like “dad’s friend”, but like family. Even as they got older and too-cool-for-grown-ups, they always showed appreciation that I participated in their lives and cared about them.

Brittany and Alyssa have had it pretty good, compared to many of their peers. In just about every game either of them have ever played, going back about 10 years, they’ve had a minimum of 4 or 5 family members in the stands rooting them on. About 4 years ago, when Brittany was in high school and Alyssa was still in middle school, we had to plan some strategy. Many of their games were on the same nights, even at the same times. But we couldn’t be at both places at the same time. So Troy and I would make sure each of the girls had some family representation at their games. Then, in between periods of the games, Troy and I would text each other with scoring updates from our respective games.

I don’t have the words to tell you how special it is to get together with great friends who have been such a huge part of my life. Even after over 5 months of separation, we picked up right where we left off. I miss my friends…my family, but no amount of miles can deteriorate the bond we’ve built over the years. I’m very blessed. And while I miss these very special friends, God has been good in placing good people in my life here in my new home. No one and nothing can replace the relationships I built in San Jose, but I’m thankful that God has surrounded me with such great people wherever I go. In fact, there is no need to replace anything because, in reality, I haven’t lost anything.

I’m a very blessed man. I believe you can tell a lot about someone by the people who love them. When I consider the quality of people who willingly call me a friend, I’m humbled. I have an embarrassment of riches when I look at the special people in my life. The man I am today, and the man I am still becoming, is a composite of the wonderful people who have blessed my life with their friendship. It’s a pretty special thing when you can look in life’s mirror and see the people you love in the reflection.

My New Year’s Eve First

OK, first, put your left hand on a bible and raise your right hand. Now repeat after me:

I promise that what I am about to read is not to be held over Corey’s head, nor to be used for evil, but for good. I realize that out of the goodness of Corey’s heart, he sometimes does things and goes places strictly for the benefit, education and entertainment of his Crossing Paths readers, of which I am, faithfully.

Alright, you can lower your right hand. However, I think you should keep your left hand on the bible as a reminder of your oath.

On New Year’s Eve, I went to a Christian dance. Yeah, I know…I didn’t either. But you know…I had good friends going, I had nothing else going on, blah blah blah. If you’re a people watcher, as I am, this was a ground zero.

Let me preface where I’m going with this by saying that by my observation, every person there had a great time. My philosophy is, as long as people have fun and no one loses an eye…what more could you want?

Most of the people there were north of 40 years old. Some of the songs played were ones I hadn’t heard since my senior prom. I was disappointed they didn’t play Freebird, but you can’t have everything. Can you guess the last song played before midnight? Submit your guess by clicking the comment link below. I’ll post the answer in an update after a few days, so check back.

I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of my experience with you. Here are four guys who caught my attention on New Year’s Eve, and why they did.

Over-Dancer Dude: Let me tell you, there was some BAAAAAD dancing going on. And I don’t mean the 80s, Michael Jackson bad-is-good kind of bad. I mean lots of finger-snapping and little foot kicks. Now most modern songs have 4 beats to a measure. In most dance songs, there is an emphasis on the 2nd and 4th beats. So get a little beat going in your head, and count to four. But put an emphasis and two and four. For instance, one-TWO-three-FOUR, one-TWO-three-FOUR. When dancing, people instinctively bounce their heads, their knees…whatever, to these accented beats. However, I saw Over-Dancer Dude dancing to Thriller in which he bounced, jumped, kicked – you name it, to all four beats of the measure. So in his head, he heard this, ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR, ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR. If you can kind of think of Thriller in your head, those four beats come at your pretty quickly. This guy looked like he was having a seizure…standing up! This guy worked up a serious sweat! Which brings me to another guy.

Sweat Towel Dude: This guy spent some time at the same table at which I was seated. He apparently brought a little wash cloth from home that he kept with his stuff at the table. During his rug-cutting breaks, he used this cloth to wipe his dance-induced sweat. However, he would often toss the sweaty towel on the table as he would leave and head back out to the floor to work up some more.

Uhhhh, yeah.

Marcel Marceau meets Milli Vinilli meets Rerun Guy: This guy basically pantomimed the words to each song as he danced. He lip-synced the words he knew, while gesturing to the lyrics. So if a song referred to a heart, he would place both hands over his heart. Yeah, now imagine with me what some of the lyrics to the Billy Ocean song Caribbean Queen actually looked like:

She dashed by me in painted on jeans
And all the heads turned beacuse she was the queen
In the blink of an eye I knew her number and her name yeah
And she said I was the tiger she wanted to tame

Caribbean Queen
Now we're sharing the same dream
And our hearts they beat as one
No more love on the run

So imagine someone acting out those words. And when the lyrics said, “no more love on the run”, yeah, he ran in place. THEN, to top things off, he even dropped a little Rerun action at one point during the night. Remember Rerun from the old TV show What’s Happenin’? Maybe this will help:

Pimp Guy: There were some interesting outfits, as well. One gentleman had a black fedora hat with a very long white feather hanging off the brim, very much like the hat pictured here. He also had a cane. I learned later that he suffered an ankle injury, so it’s possible the cane was something of a necessity. Perhaps the hat was just an accessory to play out the cane motif. I don’t know. But at a church dance, and with the guy being a bit on the older side, it was a little creepy.

With all this being said, I want to reiterate that it seemed like everyone had a good time. I was happy being with friends, watching people, and remembering the songs from my youth. It was a fun way to say goodbye to 2008, and to welcome the New Year.

Happy Birthday Lisa!

Today is birthday number XLI of my very good friend, Lisa. I’ve decided to conceal her age by using Roman numerals because she is a lady, after all, and I’m going to make you work for it if you want to know how old she is.

I think I’ve known Lisa for about 4 years. I’m not exactly sure how long it’s been because it feels like it’s been 20 years, so I get easily confused when using literal time in quantifying our friendship. Those 4 years have been a wild and crazy ride for each of us, and really, the ride has almost nothing to do with one another. I think she would agree that life would have been quite the roller coaster had we never met.

But looking back, it’s clear to see that God intended us to meet, and to meet at the time in which we did. We worked together in a very challenging, very competitive, but very rewarding job in reverse mortgage. Lisa had been associated with this particular business for a year or two before we met, so she was a great resource of information for me as I learned the ins and outs of the job. But soon, our friendship leaped over the confines of reverse mortgage. She is a Christian, so we have that very significant commonality which propelled our friendship to something more significant.


We became brother and sister.

We have had many, many “critical mass” conversations where one had to talk the other down off the ledge. I think we both know more about each other than either one of us would be comfortable with if we were to sit down and write down all the “dirt”. But our friendship has only deepened as a result.

Today is Lisa’s birthday. She is my co-conspirator in mischief. She is the Costello to my Abbott. I’m thankful for her friendship, and it’s my prayer that 2009, and her XLII year on this glorious earth would be filled with great blessings. She has raised 3 great children who are the tangible evidence of the selfless life she has lived. She has hundreds of clients throughout her years in reverse mortgage whose lives she has touched in ways which transcend a complicated financial transaction. She has many friends who have nothing but glowing things to say about her because of her wit, her charm, her sensitivity, her trustworthiness, her wackiness, but most of all, her love of God.

I’m believing for good things for Lisa this year. I think she’s due for a personal breakthrough.

Happy Birthday, Lisa. And you know…with the economy and all…this is your present from me!

Here We Go!

When I coached the women’s softball team from my church in San Jose, one of the ladies used to love to say, “here we go” as the ladies took the field. There was a special way she used to say it that I loved to mimic. She was in the choir with me, so I’d often repeat it to her as she would pass me by as the choir lined up to take the platform before services or productions.

As we flip the calendar over and begin a new year, I find this phrase echoing in my head. It’s game time. It’s time to take the field and do what we do.

Some people look forward to a new year simply because it’s an escape from last year. Of course, there is nothing tangibly significant to a new year. I mean, more than anything, it means you have to get used to writing “’09” on your checks after a year of writing “’08”. But other than that, January 1 isn’t going to look any differently than December 31. But we have this instinctive optimism about a clean slate. The new year means to many a new beginning. But a new beginning isn’t going to mean much if you keep the old habits which caused you problems in previous years.

So with that, I say “here we go!” It’s time to take on 2009. But it’s also a great time to evaluate the way we’ve done things in the past. I’ve never been one to make resolutions. At least, not for a new year. I guess I’ve made resolutions in my life, but they’ve usually occurred at random spots in the calendar. For me, the new year doesn’t promise me anything. Life is going to confront me with challenges and thrills. My goal is to meet the highs and lows with integrity and determination.

Just like a sports team, we need our teammates. We can’t do it alone. Life is a team sport. So as this new “season” begins today, let’s work together to make it a winner. Through the wins and losses as a team, through the trials and successes each of us will experience as individuals, let’s do it together. Let’s be there to pick each other up during the tough times, and celebrate our victories together.

Here we go!