Thursday, December 19, 2013

Duck Dynasty Debate

Ok, so I am sure I will offend someone by the end of this blog post. If you want to drop me as a facebook friend that’s okay with me or not follow me on twitter and I think I will survive. If you want to have an honest discussion then we can do that as well but please let’s don’t get to the level of some things I have seen on Facebook lately. Yep, here’s my take on the whole Phil Robertson thing that happened in the last 24 hours.
First I have read the entire article on the GQ website. If you want to read it you can too but be warned that it was not Lifeway approved and contains some words that might cause you to go blind if you were homeschooled. See there is the first group that will be offended. I am just kidding; it just contains words that are not socially acceptable. Oh wait, I hear those words all the time on the campus and in the stores and in the songs, so maybe they are now socially acceptable. And that is from the ladies who I see out there. Oops that’s the second group.

The leader of the Duck Dynasty family doesn’t compare Homosexuality to Bestiality any more than saying drunkenness and gluttony are the same. There was a comma there people. He just says in response to a question of what sinful is to just start at homosexuality and kinda morph from that to a whole list of other things. His comments while rather crude in the way they were expressed are not off base from what the Bible teaches about the issue. He is stating his opinion and plainly says so in the article as quoted by the writer doing the interview. That’s where it gets to the tricky part.

You see I have several gay friends and while I don’t agree with their lifestyle and do agree with Phil that it was, is and will always be a sin against a Holy God as defined by the scripture, I think they have the right as Americans to live in the lifestyle if they so choose. I didn’t read anything hateful about the way Phil addressed the issue. It was crude, borderline rude, but certainly not hateful. I think most heterosexuals have a hard time understanding the same sex attraction. I don’t get it either. I also don’t get what a lot of heterosexual couples see in each other and how that works out either. But saying I don’t understand why a guy would want to be with a guy instead of a woman isn’t hateful or ignorant for that matter, it is just a statement of my thoughts on the subject. That’s the third group, I’m sure.

A&E were bullied into making the statement they did and by suspending him as an employee. I just thought I should throw out the buzz word of the year in a blog at some point! Fourth Group now offended. They have every right to fire him if his contract has a clause allowing for them do so based on his statements in the press. I just think it has gotten crazy when you can get fired for saying something off the clock and you can’t fire someone without due cause for something like lying while they are on the clock. Or a host of other reasons that could all be demonstrated by someone I am sure.

The most aggressive group of people using their power to bully those who disagree with them are the highly political gay and lesbian support groups. Which is ironic given that they often appeal to the fact that gay and lesbians have been so bullied in their past and that is why they must be accepted in the present. I believe they should be allowed to speak and say what they believe, but I also believe that Christians should be allowed to speak and say what they believe, even when those two don’t line up so nicely.

I don’t agree with Ellen or Neil Patrick Harris or other celebrities who support an openly gay lifestyle but that doesn’t mean that I want them to lose their income over it. I don’t agree with celebrities who bash Christians over different issues but again that doesn’t mean I want their sponsors to fire them. I didn’t agree with Tiger Woods when his issues came out that ruined his marriage, but I still use Titleist balls and have a Tiger Woods Nike golf cap. Somehow we have to learn how to let celebrities have their own opinions without insisting that they keep them to themselves if we don’t like them. I just choose to not watch Ellen or How I Met your mother. So if you don’t like what Phil said, then don’t watch the show.

Finally to offend all my ultra-conservative brothers and sisters, let’s not go off on everyone over this issue. If you don’t want to watch an A&E show again, then just say it, then do it, and move on. That’s what I plan to do. If you want to change the culture in the entertainment industry, do it by affecting ratings. The next time you get that call from the Nielsen group, take it and fill out the survey. Show that you didn’t watch that network and when they realize they killed their golden goose, they will know better. If you don’t like what Phil said, then watch the network and make their ratings go up for all the other shows.

Really Phil probably could have said it in a more respectful way, but if you watch the show you know that just ain’t his way. If you ask him a question, then be prepared for an answer that you might not like either in content or delivery. But if start questioning whether his views are in line with Biblical teaching then you need to go back to school, cause his words may be strong but so is his allegiance to truth of the Biblical teaching on the matter at hand.

These are just my views and you are more than welcome to agree or disagree with them. It won’t make me love you or respect you anymore or any less either way. I apologize in advance for my attempts at humor along the way. Living in grace doesn’t mean we condone everything, it means we agree that we all need Jesus and His forgiveness daily if we are to inherit the Kingdom of God. Merry Christmas to all my friends from one sinner to another!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Low times in Gainesville!

From the beginning of the Muschamp era I have been less than impressed. I didn’t think it was the right hire then and I am even more convinced of it today. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t think the Texas program was heading in the right direction at the time, so why should we get the guy who was second in command of a dying program to continue the success at Florida? Or maybe it was the fact that he played at Georgia. Or maybe the fact that he hadn’t been a head coach and I didn’t think Florida is a good place to get your feet wet as a head football coach. But let’s be honest, Jeremy Foley has a pretty good track record for hiring successful coaches. So I was in the minority of those who didn’t like the hire at the time.

Three years and a lot of “firsts” later and Foley is apparently still sticking by Muschamp. That is after the first losing record since 1979. The first year of missing a bowl game in 22 seasons. The first loss to a FCS team since the end of World War II. The first time we have lost 6 games in a row since who knows when. Heck, even the 0-10-1 team didn’t do that! The losing streak is hard on everyone I know. I have only been around the Gators since 1987, so I am a spoiled fan. I need to get a grip right coach!

I can understand a couple of 8-4 seasons with the schedule we face every year. It’s hard to be in the top 5 every year now with the reduction of scholarships. But let me ask you a question if you are a Gator fan. How many times since Will took over the program have you felt good about the results of a Gator game? How many times even after a win in the Swamp have you felt like this team had a legitimate chance at winning the SEC East? Even during last year’s run to the Sugar Bowl, I kept telling people outside the orange and blue nation that we were doing it with smoke and mirrors. We won 4 games that we could have just as easily lost. This year’s team is only 4 plays away from last year’s team and the team before that one!

Some of you will say that is why he deserves another year as the head coach. But do you really want a team that is that close to mediocrity each year? Don’t you want a team that dominates the teams they should and has a better than average shot at winning every game? Remember when you used to go to the Swamp and the question wasn’t “if” we win but the margin of victory. That’s why I am not in favor of keeping Muschamp as coach. But I don’t get a vote and apparently neither do the 25000 or so that stayed away from Saturday’s game. And it will be worse this week. There will be more fans from the clown college than orange and blue for Saturday’s noon kickoff. Noon, are you serious, this is UF and FSU! We’re prime time material baby! Oh, my bad, I forget how far we have fallen.

But if you are going to keep the Head Coach, then please keep the Coordinators and the other coaches too. I have always hated how a head coach blames the assistants when things are going badly. Hey, you are the head coach, if you don’t like the offense or the defense, change it! Tell the OC to do something different, throw it more, run it more, or change the scheme, whatever!  But don’t sit there the entire year praising the way we do it and then the last game roll them under the bus because you lose to Georgia Southern. The offense has been ranked lower than 100 in each year under Muschamp and there have been two different OCs. Both of them had the reputations as creative play callers and running high octane offenses. What happened when they got to Florida? They got under a coach that doesn’t want to take chances. Keep things tight, don’t turn the ball over, shorten the game and let the defense do the work. That style just doesn’t work anymore against teams with equal talent and apparently not even against FCS schools. Apparently there a number of FCS programs with better talent and better coaches since they figured ways to stop the option and outscore mighty GSU this year. Enough of them did that GSU didn’t even make the playoffs!

Maybe the Gators can right the ship and pull the upset over FSU this weekend. Maybe the staff was holding back everything the last few weeks so they wouldn’t have good tape on our new offensive strategy. Maybe Gator fans will fill the swamp this week and make it the home field advantage the Gators need to pull one of the greatest upsets in the historic series. And maybe every turkey in America will survive this Thursday. The odds are about the same. I will be there until the end either way and cheering for the Orange and Blue.

And for my Nole friends, and this is not meant as a slight because I think you win either way, would you rather have the news break now that Famous is charged so you can get a game under your belt without him or have him charged next week right before the ACC championship game or sometime before the BCS game if you win them both? I am sure the answer for Nole fans is never! I feel sorry for the girl involved and for Jameis. I hope he’s not guilty but if he is then I won’t feel any sympathy for him. The whole thing has been poorly handled by the TPD and the State Attorney’s office. This should have been resolved months ago either way.

The first question I have for Saturday’s game is whether the Noles will score more than 45 points and break the record for points scored in the swamp by an opponent or score 63 and break the all-time record of points given up by the Gators. A second question is will the Gators be able to score and keep their consecutive non-shutout streak alive. Time will tell, but while it is always great to be a Florida Gator, some weeks it’s tougher than others and this week promises to be a real challenge. Enjoy it Noles, you have had to work for over a decade to experience it, but you are the better team this week. Let’s just hope you pull a Nole and lose a game you really have no business losing. So there is always hope!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One of the Best Days to be a BCM Director

It is the way it is supposed to work, but still when you have been doing the work for as long as I have, it brings tears of joy to your eyes.

Yesterday was an incredible and incredibly long day. Because our BCM meets on Tuesday nights, I don’t always arrive early in the office. Usually, Tuesday mornings are filled with a long bike ride with my training partner and fellow campus minister Bob Gailey from Campus Christian House. But due to some knee pain, I have taken a few weeks off, so I was in the office at 8 after dropping my wife off at her office on campus. A normal day of finishing tasks, planning for the week with fellow BCM staff, visiting with students followed.

Lica and I try to eat dinner together on Tuesdays before she heads off to the house and then to praise team practice at church and I head back to the BCM for our weekly Gator meeting. Yesterday we met Zach Allen who came into town to be our guest speaker and bring one of his girls from First Baptist Church in Tallahassee who is transferring to UF in the spring. Zach is a great friend and previously served here as the college pastor at North Central Baptist Church. He is a true partner in ministry and is a blessing to Lance Beauchamp the BCM director at FSU. Lica and Jaclyn got to spend more time with Zach and his entourage of interns and students while I went back to the BCM to get ready for the evening meeting.

Zach did a great job of talking with our students about the necessity and value of local church membership to wrap up a two week series of messages on being connected to the local body of Christ. Pastor Craig Canton spoke last week about the way God puts the various parts of the body together through spiritual gifts to strengthen the whole body. After Gator was over, I spoke to one of our guys that I have wanted to meet with to see when we could get together and he said why not now.

I knew Alex had been dealing with the decision to trust Jesus as his savior so I was glad to share the gospel with him again as we talked. He was open about his questions and his struggles but he knew he needed and wanted to trust Jesus. And so I got to witness Alex giving his life to Jesus and accepting his gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life in my office last night. But it gets even better!

When I asked him where he was going to church he said he had been thinking about attending where some of his fish brothers and sisters (freshmen bible study members) go to, North Central Baptist Church. I knew Matt Seitz the current college pastor from there was still in the building so I was able to introduce Alex to Matt. They share a similar faith journey and spent some time talking together as I prepared to go home for the night.

That’s the way it is supposed to work. The BCM is a bridge for people like Alex who are exploring the idea of faith and returning to church but don’t want to fully commit yet. At least in our BCM the work isn’t done until we can share the gospel with them, love them during the journey, and help them get connected to the local body of Christ. God used invites to an event, Fish Parents who shared the gospel, fellow students who encouraged his questions, a local BCM director talking about being connected to the vine, a FSU college pastor talking about church membership, and a local college pastor who hangs out at the BCM until almost 11 pm to create a path for one of His children to come home. That’s why we do what we do, for His glory!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Newest Action Thriller Stait of Hormuz from Best-Selling Author Davis Bunn

“Marc Royce had never been to Switzerland before. He was there without backup. He was not prepped. He had come because the one person in the world he could not refuse had asked for his help.”

And with that the readers of Davis Bunn’s latest novel in the Marc Royce Trilogy, Strait of Hormuz, are engaged in a new plot with some familiar characters. Although Royce thinks he is alone in Geneva, he has allies. One is so familiar it is painful. In a few chapters we come to learn that Kitra Korban has been sent to assist her recently ex-boyfriend. Bunn has done a masterful job of weaving an intricate and intimate romance within a page-turning edge of your seat action novel.

As in the other two books in this trilogy, Lion of Babylon and Rare Earth, readers are treated to detailed descriptions of locations in several countries. Bunn takes the time and effort to thoroughly develop the settings of the events in order to bring the reader along on the incredible and dangerous journey facing Marc and Kitra. It is hard for me to imagine anyone reading these pages and not develop your own mental imagery of the surroundings. I hope one day to see these come to life on the big screen and compare my images with the real or created in Hollywood backdrops.
Without giving away the story, the plot revolves around an international incident and a national crisis that confronts several nations. The delicate situation involves multiple parties from multiple cultures and countries that must trusted allies fast in order to save many lives. There is a common thread, but that is only found in time and through the initial trust of the parties involved. As usual, Bunn manages to write an action novel that includes faith without coming off as fake or forced. The story of Marc’s faith and how it affects his life as an agent continues to unfold in way that will seem natural to those who have read the previous two volumes but will also make sense if this is your first foray into the world of Marc Royce.

Without apology, I am a fan of Davis Bunn the man and the author. While his life may not been as action packed as his characters, I do recognize some of the stories he has shared with me from his personal life of living in Europe that serve as a back drop for some of the action in Strait of Hormuz. I was a bit perplexed when I finished the book because I am not sure that the title actually fits the story totally. I expected more action on the open seas and more of a salty version of the story than there actually is. Since most of the story takes place in locations other than the Strait it seems a bit of a stretch to title the book the way it was. I don’t think you will worry about the title and I wouldn’t have either if I were not writing this review.

Overall, the book was a wonderful read. I just wish I hadn’t finished it so soon. If this is the last time we read of the exploits of Marc and Kitra, it will be a sad day! Their story has so much more to develop and tell! Maybe if all of us who read the book, press and press, then like a musical act at a concert, Davis Bunn will give us an encore appearance of the couple. Or maybe it’s just better that we all write our own endings!

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to submit this review on the date of the book release.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Who's the backups in ministry?

Who Is Waiting to Step Up in your ministry?

Gator fans now know the value of the backup after our starting Quarterback Jeff Driskell went down with a season ending break of his leg in the first quarter of our game with Tennessee on Saturday. The Backup had to go in and play the rest of the game. Now he will have to play the rest of the season. His name is Tyler Murphy and until Saturday, he had never taken a snap in a real game for the Gators. There were those who wanted him to after Jeff didn’t play very well against Miami, but the coaches were not about to go there. That is until the injury forced them to play him. He did well in relief and in many ways was the reason the Gators won a very ugly football game on offense. Now time will tell if Murphy is really ready to be the starting QB, but unless something happens to him, he is going to be for the rest of the season. Now the question becomes who is the new backup? The coaches will have a plan and they will get either Skylar Mornhigweg or Max Staver ready should something happen to Tyler.

A facebook post by my friend Kevin James about his episode of a dislocated hip during the middle of his sermon made me wonder just who do we have in place in our ministries if something happens to us? Do we have a backup preacher or BCM director? Are we getting them ready in case something happens to us and we can’t go? While I don’t think many of us think we are indispensable, most of us don’t think we won’t be able to fulfill our duties either. So often we do ministry as if we are the only one who could possible get it done. That’s just not a smart way to approach it really. We all need to be working ourselves out of a job. Could your ministry not only continue but continue to thrive if you were absent for an extended period of time? If you are not building up leaders underneath you to even do a better job without you, then in my opinion you are not building up the kingdom and maybe you are just building up your own. Maybe they can’t do it as good as you could, but are helping them close that gap each and every week?

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the home of Elna and Bert Harris after preaching about the Maguire State Mission Offering and the BCM ministry at Faith Baptist in Lake Placid led by my old friend Bill Cole. Bert is 94 and Elna is a young 85! She leads their WMU organization and they always exceed their goals for all the mission offerings. After meeting her, I can easily see why. She is charming, direct, tactful and a true Southern lady in every respect. I doubt anyone could say no to anything she asks! This morning as I was reflecting on the day and meeting this godly couple who have served the Lord and His church so faithfully for so many years, I couldn’t help but wonder who will take their place when the Lord calls them home? Then I began to wonder not just about their church but in so many of our churches we have elderly saints that have carried the load for many years and who is going to take their places?

Young men and women who have served with me through the years in the BCM, I believe it is you! So many of you are already serving faithfully in your local churches and I am encouraged by that. If you aren’t, then why aren’t you? Our role as a leader in the church is to make sure you are fully engaged and equipped for ministry. If I have failed to prepare you, then I am sorry. But you still have to get in there and do what the Lord needs done. Just like Tyler Murphy stepped up for Gator Nation this past Saturday and will now be looked on to carry the load the rest of the season, the Kingdom of God, needs many of you to step up and carry the load for all those Saints who have gone before you. I believe in our backups! I believe in you!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Real Celebs of Disaster Relief

I am glad when celebrity types help during the immediate days after a disaster. I think everyone who can should help their neighbors during the days after a disaster. The press gets all over it and we hear about what all they are doing and how much money they are contributing. And I know that some do much more even after the cameras are gone. But just once I would like to see the media do a story on the real Celebs of Disaster Relief.

They are the ones who are still onsite at places in New York and New Jersey. Helping people rebuild their homes and their lives. They are the ones who uproot their own lives and spend months living in hotels and other types of housing to coordinate teams of volunteers and resources to assist the local people in getting their lives back to normal. Many of them are Southern Baptists. Others are not. All of them are just ordinary people doing extraordinary things in difficult places and times.

A group of our students and our associate David Wood are on their way today to New Jersey to assist the North Carolina Disaster Relief team for 10 days. They are planning on helping rebuild houses, but you never know what you will be called on to do until you actually get there. They will drive 16 hours today to get there and then on the back side of the trip make that same day long drive to get back home to Florida. They will pay their own way, sleep in tents most likely, and eat food prepared by volunteers in a disaster relief kitchen. They will work long days, sleep little, sweat a lot, and will talk about the fun they had forever when they get home.

Our students are not special. Well we think they are special, but they are just like other students around the country who have come or will come to help. They are skilled contractors, but they are willing to work hard and help the ones who are. They love people in Jesus' name. They want to help the churches in that area show that Jesus' love extends to the physical needs as well as the spiritual needs of people's lives. They are going because they can and because Jesus has called them to go on this trip. Would you join me in praying for them during this 10 day adventure in faith?

In my mind, they are the real Celebs of Disaster Relief!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fantasy Football Ruins Franchises and Players

Ok, so sometime back I wrote a blog about why I hate fantasy football. In brief it was because it changed the way I watch the NFL so I no longer have a team, now I just want my guys to do good each week. It seems that now that mentality has taken over for owners and general managers as well. Ok, so maybe not they don't want the team to do well part. Let me explain.

Today the Jets released Tim Tebow. You can also read my blog about Tim and my thoughts on him as a NFL quarterback. During the ESPN spot on his release the talking head waxed on and on about his dismal stats. How he's in the bottom of QBR rating, passing efficiency and so on. What she didn't say is his won-loss record as a starting quarterback in the NFL.Then they went on to say he probably wouldn't find another team willing to open a spot on their roster for him. Their NFL gurus talk about his lack of arm strength, his inconsistent throws,etc. What they are really saying is he doesn't produce enough statistical numbers to justify keeping him on a roster. So instead the Jets are going to hitch their wagon to Geno Smith. Smith who did lead his team twice to be co-champions of that powerful Big East Conference also had a couple of guys on his team that were all-americans, a title he never got. But because he has excellent arm strength and a quick release he is projected to un-seat Mark Sanchez as the starting QB for this coming season according to one ESPN personality. So you take guy like that over a guy who won a Heisman, numerous awards, works hard, is good in the locker room, and has an 8-5 record as a starter and is 1-1 starting in playoff games.

So if you are looking for a winner, Tim definitely deserves a look. If you are looking for a guy who is going to be a great fantasy QB for your fans, then maybe he doesn't deserve a spot on the roster. He's going to make mistakes, but I don't think he will ever top the butt fumble play of Mark Sanchez. He's not going to throw for 5k yards in a season. But what he will do is win when given the chance. It's just a shame that the age of fantasy football numbers has made it all the way to the front office of NFL teams now. It's just a statistical game now.

Except it really isn't. At the end of the day coaches are evaluated on wins and losses. So are the GM's. So why didn't they see that in NY with the Jets. Because of the ego of Rex Ryan. If you have read his autobiography you will know that Sanchez is HIS guy and Ryan can never be wrong about that one call. So you stick with a guy who was last in QBR ranking last year and it got you on the not top ten plays each week on Sportscenter for his infamous fumble. And you miss the playoffs. And then you trade your top defensive player.  And you get rid of the offensive coordinator who had gotten you to the playoffs the year before.

Maybe the best thing is Tim is out of New York. But the fact that they waited till after the draft seems to point that they were hoping to use him as trade bait for the draft and that didn't work out. It doesn't help Tim make another roster now, but that is just the business of the NFL. My guess is that if you want the next Tebow jersey you had better see if you can get it shipped from Canada! Just don't be surprised if the team on the front of that jersey is playing for the Grey Cup in the very near future. And some GM up there will look like a genius for giving a guy with low stats the chance to prove again the old line that is attributed to Mark Twain: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'"[1]

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

Maybe it is because I have lived in Florida for the last 25 years and have been a fan of baseball all my life going all the way back to before I can remember. I have the pictures to prove it! Or maybe it is because I have become a fan of Women's Collegiate Softball over the last decade. But whatever the reason, this is my favorite time of the year. It is the start of the spring schedule!

College softball is just getting underway. College Baseball starts this weekend. And pitcher and catchers report for spring training this week in most places. The balls will be flying all over the yards this weekend. The bats will be swinging and sometimes even connecting. The pitchers will be working on getting into shape or getting batters out in the college ranks. The grass will be cut, sprayed and watered. The lines will be drawn and a new season will unfold before us.

It is also my favorite time because all things are new again. Every fan base believes it may be their year to win it all. Every player thinks this will be the year they win it all or have the best year of their career or both. Managers are hoping they can find the lightning in a bottle to put the pieces in the right place to finally make it to the top or stay there from last year. Everyone has a chance to win it all today.

OK, so we know that everyone doesn't have an equal chance, but at least there is not proof that your team is not good enough to win anything yet! So we have this kind of eternal optimism. Hey even Cub fans think they will win it one year and just think the Red Sox actually did a few years ago! All the college teams are even in baseball at the moment and all of them dream of playing in Omaha in June. For all but 8 teams that dream will not be a reality in three months, but for this day the dream is still alive. College softball players are working to fix the mistakes or capitalize on the good things that showed up in the first weekend of play for many squads in the south and west. All of them dreaming of playing in Oklahoma City with a chance to win the title. That is what is great about this time of year, everyone is filled with hope.

Reality tells us that in a few weeks we will know that our team didn't do enough in the off-season. Didn't make the right trades. Didn't fire the manager or the front office personnel. Didn't do whatever we think would have made the difference. But none of that matters at the moment. It is time to enjoy the game for the pure pleasure of hope it brings.

For those of us who have played the game, we remember what this day was like. The rush of adrenaline even if it was only practice. The feeling of the grass beneath the cleats. The smell of freshly cut infield or outfield areas. The cool air in your face as you run. The warmth of the sun on your back as you take ground balls to hone your skills. We remember the hugs as you greet teammates you haven't seen in a while. You long for that first game and the chance to compete. And while those days are past for most of us, the memories remain, sometimes even sweeter than the actual events.

That's what makes this time of year so special. The memories of the first time you ran onto a field or ran into the stadium to watch your team play. I'll bet you can picture it right now in your mind, can't you. You can remember the smells and the tastes of the day. That's why baseball is the great American past time. It connects us to our childhood and begs us to leave it as a legacy to our children and grandchildren. Now with the advancement of college softball and professional fast pitch leagues we have the chance to pass that on in a new way to our daughters as well. It's time to hear those words that make our hearts flutter!

Let's play ball!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ray Lewis and the Gospel

I like so many others watched the Super Bowl last night. I have to admit it was the first time in my 51 years that I watched it with an all female audience. Yep, I was the only man in the house. Well if you don't count my two male kittens that is! It was definitely a new experience watching it with only female voices. The commercials and the half time show got more attention than the football but that is usually the case regardless of the male/female ratio of the Super Bowl party.

I didn't have a favorite team in the game but I thought that the Ravens would win the game. The two teams were pretty equal in talent and both were playing some of their best football of the year heading into the big game in the big easy. I missed the score by a touchdown each side but I thought it would be a very close game and it turned out to be so after someone turned off the lights! I'll bet there were some anxious Superdome Officials running around trying to find out who pulled the plug on that one. But the reason I thought the Ravens would win was simple, they had Ray Lewis and the 49ers didn't.

I know some don't think it matters, but when he said he was retiring, I believed that meant that this team would win it all. Talent tends to equal itself out in the NFL. But the will to win, that is rarer than pure gold these days. Most players would have shut it down and waited till next year if you tear a bicep muscle mid season. Not Ray Lewis. I don't even care if he did use Deer Antler spray to get back quicker. How many other guys would have gutted it out on one arm like he did for the playoff run? Sure he couldn't cover like he did when he won the first Super Bowl for the Ravens twelve years ago. But what he could do was look those other ten men in the eyes when the game was on the line and say there is no way we are going to lose this game like this. I would bet if they told what he said it might be something along the line of I didn't come back through all that pain to let it slip away on the last drive. Now let's stop them four times and win our trophy! And that is what they did.

Then there is the fact that all through the playoff run Ray has been spouting scriptures after the games like Tim Tebow on steroids. Don't read anything about either man's choice of supplements in that phrase. Sometimes he got them right and sometimes well it didn't quite fit the real meaning of the verses. But still the word of the Lord was being proclaimed right? It kinda reminded me of what Paul wrote in Philippians 1 when he said:

12Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel, 13so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in ⌊the cause of⌋ Christ. 14Most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly. 15To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. 16These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;17the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment. 18What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice 

Then someone asked me today whether I thought Ray Lewis was indeed a changed man. I am not qualified to judge him on that one. I don't know him personally. I don't know what he does when the cameras are not on him but I would like to think he is the same man. From other's accounts it seems that he is indeed a changed man. Why is it that we say that Jesus can save any of us and make us more like His Son Jesus and then when He actually does it in a person's life who happens to be a public figure that we want to doubt it?

Ray Lewis should be a poster child for the gospel. If Jesus can transform a loud-mouthed, associate of murders, thug from Miami, then isn't that good news for all the rest of us? I have always admired Ray Lewis for his style of play and his choice of numbers. This year I have come to admire the fact that he is willing to go out on his own terms and talk about his faith in an open way before a doubting nation. And if he falls, then I will still admire him if he repents and returns. That seems to be what Jesus would do. That seems to be what Jesus did when he elevated this team and gave them the biggest platform available in the NFL. When a coach is saying how much of a difference faith in God makes and players are talking about God having a special plan for a team, then just maybe the rest of the league will take notice and more players of faith will step up and be a Christian who happens to play football rather than a football player who happens to be a Christian. And believe me that makes a huge difference!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One of those moments

You know how people always say that was one of the best moments of life? I'm sure they really don't mean the best, but close up there behind surrendering to Jesus, getting married to the woman or man you love for a lifetime, watching the birth of your children, and the really important ones. But you know, the kind of moments that we remember 20 years later.

Last night was one of those nights for me. Several months ago, I finished "The Book of Dreams" and noticed a website in the back for the author, Davis Bunn. I had read most of his works and really enjoy his style of fiction with a distinctive Christian flavor. So I just took a few minutes to write an encouraging email. I was astonished when a personal response came back to my inbox. Several exchanged emails led to an invitation for Davis to speak at one of our weekly BCM meetings. We worked out the dates and he graciously agreed to drive to Gainesville for the evening.

Yesterday was the day. We had a lovely meal at my favorite BBQ joint, Adam's Ribs after he dissed my 95 mustang as the vehicle of choice. I have to admit, his car was much nicer! Then we returned to the BCM to get ready for the evening. We had the chance to spend an hour or so talking about ministry, writing, sports, cars, family, etc. I have several of his books on my shelves in the office and that is when the moment happened.

He got down my copy of "Gold of Kings" and said there is a particular passage that I feel is some of my best writing. After we talked about how he researched his stories and the locations which he spends great time detailing in his writings, he found the particular passage. And then he read it out loud. I don't find myself spell bound by much, and especially not by another man reading, but this was one of those rare special moments. I found myself remembering how I had read those words and pictured them in my mind and in a flash compared my way with the way he was bringing the characters and setting to life before me. I pictured him working to craft those words the first time and watched as his face beamed with the release of those memories expressed through the intonations of his voice. I might not ever get the chance to hear another award winning author do the same, but for that one moment, I had the chance to see firsthand what makes a great author. Passionate desire to tell the story within them. It came out again as he read the words from the page just as it had flowed from his mind onto those same pages years before.

A wise man once told me, "You will be the same person you are today five years from now with the exception of the places you go, the books you read, and the people you meet." Thanks to Gary Crawford for that wonderful piece of advice. I have found it to be true in my life. Davis Bunn had already contributed greatly to my life through the printed word over the years. Last night, I was invited to attend a graduate level course in the art of being a gentleman and a scholar. I am thankful for the opportunity and know that I am a better man for spending those moments with him. I hope and pray I have many more of those moments, but this one will always be a special memory for me.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Question for 2013

As I begin the new year of 2013 I have a serious question to ponder for this year. One that I don’t know the answer to yet and may never know the complete answer to for years to come. Why is it that the older I get, the more I have to fight from becoming more cynical about everything in life?

As the end of 2012 came and went, I had some downtime and that topic keep creeping through my mind. I don’t want to end up as a crusty old cynic, heck, I don’t even like crusty old cynics for that matter. Yet, if I let my guard down, I find myself slipping more to the cynical side of life and away from the joyful, celebratory, and optimistic side.

Maybe there is something to this on the being on the downside of life after hitting 50 this year. But I don’t think that is all there is to it. I think it has more to do with a realization that I have worked hard to do what the Lord wants me to do and there is still so much to do that you just realize there is a good chance you will never get to finish all you have in your heart to do for the kingdom. It’s like you stop and take a look backward and realize that the dreams you had when you were 20 may not ever come to fruition and that can leave the best of us just a little cynical.

Plus you have the tragedy of Newtown thrown in there and time to watch the nightly news and you just stop and throw your hands in the air and say “Lord, come soon, cause we are just messing this up more and more!” It seems that with the gospel being taken to new places and with new technology faster than ever, you want to think that the end of violence, slavery, sin, and disease could become a reality in your lifetime. And then you take a good look around and say, nope don’t think it is the way we are going now.

That realization that we are not better off than we were a hundred years ago in spite of our modern way of life can make one a little cynical. We just are more aware of the hurt and pain of people we will never meet and never know. We have more creature comforts but are our lives any richer than our grandparents and great-grandparents in ways that really matter. Are our relationships better? Are our families better? Are we kinder to strangers? Do we take better care of the widows and orphans among us? Are our churches better?

When I start thinking like that there is one thought that halts me on my fast track to old cynic status. Jesus said there would always be trouble in the world but take heart because He has overcome the world. He said there would always be wars, rumors of wars, persecution, and poverty until He comes back. I think of what it must have been like to be Jesus and leave this earth knowing that so much more had to be done to deliver the message of redemption and reconciliation to the people and how it must have pained him to have to leave the disciples. But he knew the Holy Spirit would come to finish the work through those he left behind. And that is where I find great joy these days in knowing that the Lord will use those who come behind me that I have influenced to finish the work that I cannot finish.

That’s why I always want to lean toward the joyful, celebratory, and optimistic side of life. I know the end of the story and it has a happy ending. I want to play out the rest of my life investing in those who will carry on till Jesus comes after I am gone. There is no time to be a cynic, when so much work needs to be done to point people to a Savior!