Category Archives: Games


With the Olympics underway, it is naturally fitting that something ought to be said about what we are all to witness over the next week or two.

You may or may not know that many Olympic athletes not only undergo intense physical training, but also–and even more importantly–they undergo intense mental training.  Why do I say that the mental training supersedes the physical training?

Because it all starts with a thought.

Everything you do with your life and in your life first begins as a thought; your body simply follows through with that thought, bringing into the physical realm what was first in the mental realm.  Our thoughts define us as human beings.  That’s why there are true stories of twins born in the slums of a city where one chooses to do something big with his life, rising above his circumstances and achieving his Dream, and the other chooses to remain where he is, his circumstances dictating to him a fruitless and pointless life.  You may have heard the phrase, “Either way, you’re right”.  That certainly applies here.

But it’s even more than that.  Listen:  You were created to be so much more than you are!  God sees your potential and celebrates it; Satan sees your potential and fears it.  Why?  Because he knows that you have been made in the image of God Himself with God-given potential and the ability to see that potential through to achieving truly astonishing things; and that if we fully understood what that really means and how successful Satan has been at duping us into believing and accepting as truth the charade that is all around us, he would totally lose the hold he has had on humanity since the fall of Adam.

The sooner you are able and willing to see through the smoke screen Satan has thrown up, the sooner you will be able to fulfill the Big Dream God has put in your heart.  And we all have one!  Some of us are already doing it; others are in the process of achieving it; yet others are just discovering that they have one and can even do anything about getting it.  The amazing thing is, there are plenty of examples of people being successful at what they do without even having a relationship with God.  That shows the innate power to create and achieve that God has put inside each one of us (there are spiritual laws from the Bible that those people are using and they don’t even realize that that’s the source).  But the clincher is those same people could have been far more successful and achieved far, far more had they done so with a vibrant, ongoing relationship with the living God of the Bible.

So where am I going with this?  We will see many athletes achieve some amazing things, some of them fulfilling their life-long Dream of winning a gold medal in the Olympics.  But what is your Big Dream?  Do you even know?  Whether you do or not, are you willing to include the God who made you and gave you all that potential?  What you do with your life will take on far more importance and have far more significance with a much farther and long-reaching effect if you do.

That’s truly making an eternal difference with your life!

Try it.  You’ll like it!

The Jamboree Campfire Skit

Do you remember me mentioning the  Boy Scouts when I shared some camping stories?  Lots of fond memories about the Boy Scouts.  One of the best involves a “Jamboree Campfire” that was held during a fairly important scout outing.

Just to be clear, we’re not talking your average campfire here.  During these big campfire outings, the scout leaders would build a big five-foot-tall tower of firewood called a “fire tower”.  It was built with the largest logs on the bottom, each layer criss-crossed to the other and of a slightly smaller size, with the top layer being the smallest pieces of firewood.  It was lit at the top at the beginning of the campfire and, with very little else needed but some babysitting, it would gradually burn itself down to the bottom layer of large logs with hardly a thing needing to be done to it.  It was very impressive.

The scout leaders would start the evening with the lighting of the fire and then a variety of things would happen, from various skits thrown together to some unknown talent hiding among the scouts (long before “America’s Got Talent” was even thought of) to some form of a campfire song or two.  Every one of these fires had an “MC”–someone who helped gel everything together by talking inbetween events and introducing the next “act”.

Well, one night during one of these jamboree campfires, the MC was mc-ing and doing his thing to introduce the next skit.  The firepit area was decently large to contain all of us scouts, but it was surrounded by woods.  We all suddenly heard a big commotion in the woods off to our left.  We couldn’t see anything because it was already dark, but we could hear what sounded like someone being chased by someone else and a whole lot of yelling going on.  The thing was, it sounded like they were coming right toward us!  They ran right in front of us through the campfire area, the guy being chased hollering out things like, “No!  Help!  Don’t touch me!  I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean it!  Help!  Somebody help!”, while the guy doing the chasing was yelling out, “I’m gonna get you for that!  I can’t believe you did that to me!  Wait till I get my hands on you!”  And they disappeared into the woods on our right.

We all looked at each other in amazement, our mouths hanging open with what we had just seen.  Even the MC looked surprised and asked some of the leaders if they knew what was going on.  Well, they had the next skit and the MC got up to introduce the next one.  Wouldn’t you know it, these same two guys could be heard in the woods off to our right again, coming our way!  They went tearing through the campfire area again, yelling things at each other, neither one gaining any ground on the other as they disappeared again into the woods on our left.  By now,  the MC was looking a little peeved and sent one or two of the other leaders off to put a stop to whatever was happening with those two scouts.

After the next skit was over and before the MC could even begin, the same two scouts could be heard yelling and running right towards us again from the left!  But as they came into the campfire clearing, the guy being chased stumbled and took a fall, right in front of the fire.  The guy that was chasing him slowly walked up on the guy on the ground.  As we all watched this drama unfold in front of us, every one of us was on the edge of our seats to see what would happen next!  I looked at the “chasee” on the ground and could see the look of horror on his face as the “chaser” slowly bore down on him with obvious evil intent, muttering, “Now you’re mine!  Finally, the time has come!”.  As the chaser got closer to the chasee,  I heard the chasee say, “No! No, don’t do it!”, as he raised his arm in a helpless effort to fend off the chaser standing over him.  At the same time that he said that, I saw the chaser raise his hand up in the air!  Did he have something in it?  No!  But what was he going to do to him?

As quickly as the chaser had his hand in the air, he brought it down hard across the chasee’s shoulder and hollered out, “TAG!!  YOU’RE IT!”.  The guy on the ground leaped up into the air in a fit of rage and took off after the other guy who had already begun running away in stark terror.  The air was filled with, “I’m gonna knock your block off!”, “No!  No! Don’t do it!”, “Wait’ll I get my hands on you!”, “Somebody help me!  He’s mad!  I don’t wanna die!”, as they disappeared into the night.

Never did find out what was going on….

The Raccoon Nightmare

My family and I just completed our only Autumn campout for the year this weekend.  It was a great time with some really great people!  Most of our Euchre Club were the other campers, so we decided to have it at the campground for this month.  We were by a large gazebo shelter that had a lot of picnic tables under it, which we made use of for our Euchre Club night.  (Certainly a first for all of us and probably a last as well, since we were fighting wind and rain during most of our time playing.  We stayed dry and we didn’t lose any cards, but the rain on the metal roof was irritating and almost required the use of sign language to communicate).

Well, some things were left out at the end of the night that brought in some rather unruly and uncouth vagabonds.  These infiltrators wore masks and moved about the gazebo under cover of the wind and darkness.  The only problem with their plan was the wind had picked up again and was snapping a table cover like a whip in the air.  This happened to not only be right by our camper, but right by our end of the camper.  So I woke up at 2 a.m. to the sounds of thumping and snapping from inside the gazebo, along with noises here and there of things falling off tables and crashing onto the floor.  Oh sure, they tried to time it so that it would look like the wind did it, but I was on to their silly little games.  But being awakened like that reminded me of a camping incident from years ago….

My Mom’s brother and his family were visiting from Arizona.  Both sets of parents decided that we would all go up to Wilderness State Park in the northern tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula and camp there.  I’m not sure why, but my Mom and Dad decided that this time the four of us would stay in a tent instead of the pop-up camper that we had.  It was an old canvas tent that was an old shade of yellow and the four of us just barely fit into it.  My parents were on either end on cots and my brother and I were inbetween them on the tent floor.

Northern Michigan is beautiful country!  The wilderness that surrounds you up there is breathtaking.  But that also means that there are animals in that wilderness.  Animals that don’t necessarily appreciate you treadin’ on their turf….crossing the line….gang wars and all that.  We knew that we were in bear country–along with all kinds of other animals in their respective countries–so for a couple of early teenagers who knew that the woods surrounded three of the four sides of the campground (the fourth side being the beach of Lake Michigan), we went to bed with just a little trepidation.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I was slowly aroused from my slumber by a hideous growling and snarling that seemed to vary in pitch from deep disturbing tones of something big and ominous to higher tones of something small and ominous but with no less danger attached to it.  At first it seemed to be coming from just outside the tent, which happened to be about a foot away from my head.  As this realization began to cause my brain cells to fire in rapid succession, it seemed that whatever was just outside that tent wall was about ready to come tearing through that thin shell of old yellow canvas with razor-sharp teeth and claws, ready to carry off one of us into whatever country it had come from.

But as my disorientation became oriented and I finally got my bearings on where I was and what and who was around me, it slowly began to dawn on me what kind of creature this was that I was hearing with so great an interest.  As I lay there listening to its sounds, I began to realize that this creature was leaping from one side of the tent to the other!  And then, as I became fully awake (as hearing something so hair-raising will do to you), I finally came to the realization that at the same time this creature leapt to my Dad’s side, the lower tones were heard; and when it leapt over to my Mom’s side, the higher tones were heard.  Amazingly, this creature’s growls and snarls coincided perfectly with the snoring that was coming from my parents as they blissfully slept their night away.

Another moment of being an unhappy camper…..

Going Alone

Being from Michigan, I am very familiar with Euchre.  Since it’s possible you are not, let me tell you a little about this card game…..

Euchre has been around since the early 19th century, possibly originating from German and English immigrants in the U.S.  Even the earliest written teaching of the game in the U.S. is around 1850 in Philadelphia, so we’re talking about a card game that has even been in this country for a very long time.  It has apparently waned in its popularity, but it is still going strong in some of the midwest states like Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

I’m not about to go into telling you how it’s played because it isn’t an easy game to learn (especially just reading about it).  But suffice it to say that once learned, it is a very addicting game and loads of fun with the right people!  (By the way, one of the best ways to learn this game is to have only one person instructing you–instead of everyone giving you their input and opinions–and just start playing, but with all of the cards visible to everyone.  Do that enough and you really start to get a handle on the game and how it’s played.)

I grew up with my parents being a part of a Euchre Club in the area, which was really just a group of good friends who played who knew other friends who played who knew other friends….so needless to say, from what I remember of my parents’ involvement, there was rarely a shortage of members or subs.

As I recall, Euchre Club for my parents was usually a Saturday night, which meant that my brother and I had a babysitter while they took a crockpot of food and split for the evening.  Any time that they were away before we were in bed, they would always come in and say goodnight–even if we were asleep.  My brother and I always knew that they were home and in our room because inevitably the cigarette smell on them would be so strong that it would wake us up out of a dead sleep (there were a few smokers in that bunch–interesting the memories that stick with you).

I remember that they had an old desk bell that once belonged to my great-grandparents on my Dad’s side.  My parents used it at the head table of Euchre Club to signal the beginning and ending of each game.  (Euchre Club consists of ten games in a night’s play [the number of tables corresponding to the number of players with one table being lowest and the highest being the head table], each game being scored and points tallied up at the end of the night for prizes of various kinds.)  And interestingly enough, that very same bell has been passed down to me by my parents, because we have had two different Euchre Clubs that we have been a part of and that bell has been used at every one of those games (even as currently as last night!).

In our Euchre Club, we also play with some additional “rules” (taken from the official Hoyle card rule book), which makes things more interesting and also allows for the maximum amount of points since we are playing for prizes at the end of the night.  One of those fun rules is called the “Jamboree”.  Here’s the set-up without going into too much detail:  Each player is dealt 5 cards.  You determine if you have enough cards in your hand to not only determine which suit (diamonds, hearts, spades or clubs) becomes the highest suit for that hand, but also if you (with the help of your partner across the table) can get at least three of the five “tricks” that comprise each hand of the game.  If you feel you can get all five tricks on your own, you can “Go Alone” (and, like in our Euchre Club, you can slide a card you don’t want from your own hand across the table to your partner and take your partner’s best to do so).  Well, it is quite a rush when you realize that, in your hand, you hold the five highest possible cards.  It’s unbeatable!  Especially when you get an additional 16 points for yourself!  Thus the name “Jamboree”, because you do yourself a little dance around your table as you write down your extra points on your score sheet, eyes dialated and beads of sweat showing on your forehead as adrenaline courses through your veins….

So why am I telling you all this?  Because each Euchre Club we’ve been to has truly been a great time with some really great people!  We have come away from both Euchre Clubs (the first one being ’06-’09 and the second one January ’15-present) with some really great memories and growing friendships that really mean something.  And in the Big Picture of things, that’s what really matters when it comes down to it.

So do things with people.  Get to know them.  Make yourself available to be liked by others.  I’ll bet you’re more fun to be with than you realize….

That’s been my experience.

Yard Darts

You know, it sure wasn’t the safest thing to do as a kid……that whole riding a bike down a hilly dirt road with no hands thing.  No helmet, no pads, no protection at all–and those are some of my fondest memories!

What would those kids that were us back then have to say to the kids of today?  (“You wear what?  On where?  Why??”)  What about the parents?  (“You let your kid wear that?  On where?  Why??”)  Especially when it comes to riding in a car!  I can remember moving all around our family van as my Dad was cruising down the highway.  Nowadays, you just about get arrested for that.  At the very least, the video someone has taken on their phone in the car behind you of your kid moving all over your van gets posted on CNBC, Fox News and any other T.V. show that will have panel after panel of so-called “experts” deliberating and arguing back and forth about the merits and pitfalls of such actions in today’s society.

So what would they say about “Yard Darts”?

Remember those?  Two colored plastic circular tubes the diameter of a pencil made two big rings that were the targets (the boring part); then, four darts–two sets of two different colored 12-inch long, plastic-finned, 3-sided tops with heavy metal bases that came to a point–completed the ensemble (the exciting part).  Ours were in a cardboard box with those happy 1970’s family posers throwing the darts at the other team’s target.  Nothing but good, safe, family fun, right?

What did kids do with this family-fun game when the parents weren’t around?  What every kid did!  Throw those sharp pieces of kid-dom fun straight up into the air as high as possible and try to calculate trajectories to see if they’ve gotta run like a banshee to avoid being pinned to the ground.  We had that big side yard to do it in, too!  As I recall, sometimes my brother and I would spread out on the side yard and lob them into the air to see how close we could come to the other brother without him actually having to move.

Yep….not smart.  But it sure was fun.  And very memorable.  Mostly due to the fact that neither one of us ever got hurt playing with those things (God was certainly true to my mother’s prayers for our protection growing up).  So what’s available now?  Maybe a Nerf version of what used to be a thrill ride for a kid–something “safe” and non-threatening.  That’s like giving a kid a chocolate cake without the frosting.  No thanks.  Give me the real thing.  We’ve become too “safe-sensitive” in today’s culture–not that I want to go out and buy a real Yard Darts game for my kids.  But I do recognize a tendency in myself and my parenting to be over-protective and unwilling to just let my boys be the kids that they are…kids that want to do things that in my adult mind seem unsafe and unwise.  Yet what did I do as a kid?  Some of the exact same things I catch them wanting to do.

Us adults need to remember what some of the joys of being a kid are.  And when you stop and think about it, those childhood experiences really all come down to this:  sometimes the best teacher for a kid is the freedom to experience something for himself.