Stop Being a Sports Idiot

Idiot – a foolish or stupid person.

Living in SEC country there is a fervor we share as fans for football that is on the razor’s edge of fun and idiocy. At times it is hard to tell the difference. We spar one another when we win or when we lose. Nothing is going to change that. It’s too much fun.

But it is somewhere in the rest of this that fervor turns into something else: when we critique the coaches and players ad-nauseum, when we live vicariously through people of whom we cannot control, for whom we make no sacrifice, and with whom we do not share in any of the suffering they go through physically to do what they do on the field for our entertainment. We go too far when we press upon them an image and an expectation that no human can possibly live up to; one of which we should all be thankful is not pressed upon us. So many times our future happiness is tied up in “a game.” That’s not fun. That’s idiotic.

Trust me, every player and coach that is actually on the field has a TOTALLY different perspective on what’s ACTUALLY happening than we do – which is why I appreciate this clip so much. This is a coach, Mike Bobo, a former player and coach who has been away from the program at UGA for what, 2-3 years now, but this is it. In about 10 seconds he reveals to us “the fan” the reality we tend lose sight of, that these are not idols. They are not even “ours” as if we have liberty to say what we want about them. They are like us. They are humans.

(This video will open in a new window – please come back and read the rest!)

Being a small part of a football team behind the scenes for the past two seasons has reminded me of what it’s really all about. You hear people scream criticism at a kid from the stands, but as a coach you saw that kid sweltering in the heat over the summer and you see his face – the blood, sweat, and yes – many times tears when he takes that helmet off in the locker room. You know his story, but you also feel the pressure of a boy who is expected to fulfill everyone else’s dream, a boy who everyone hangs their happiness on, a boy, or a coach who everyone thought should have done this or that differently – a boy through whom others are trying to atone for their past mistakes and losses – and that boy feels like he failed all of those people BECAUSE HE LOST A GAME. That’s idiocy.

There is no game worth crushing kids, but that’s what idiots do.

What we say to each other, what you hear on Finebaum, the banter on Twitter and Facebook – we forget, these guys – coaches, players – they are human and there is something special that goes on between them. To be a fan of a team that lost a game doesn’t make you an idiot or a loser any more than being a fan of a team that won a game makes you an expert or a god for the rest of us.

If you think that the outcome of a game is a reflection on your value as a person, then yes, you’re an idiot. If you think that losing a game gives you the right to devalue a person who roots for another team, then yes, you’re an idiot.

If you live and breathe 24/7 through a set of coaches and a team of which you are not actually a part of the process of preparation in practice or execution during the game – then yes, you’re an idiot. If you actually try to argue with idiots as if it is your moral responsibility to save face for yourself, your state, or your team – then yes, you’re an idiot. I’ve been an idiot and I just want you to know, it’s miserable being an idiot. There is a better way to watch a game.

Stop being an idiot.

If you want to stop being a sports idiot; root for the kid, don’t put your future happiness on him.

If you want to stop being a sports idiot; enjoy the game, don’t value humans based on the outcome of the game.

If you want to stop being a sports idiot; put what you say in perspective. It matters most only in your mind, it changes nothing. It’s a fun conversation. It’s not gospel truth.

If you want to stop being a sports idiot; think of what it would be like for others to talk about you and your family like that. Coaches are husbands, wives, dads, mothers, brothers, and sisters. Players are sons and daughters. These are people, not your pawns.

If you want to stop being a sports idiot; watch these 10 seconds and appreciate the broken voice and the tempered tears. See the humanity in it.

Thanks coach. I’m sorry for being an idiot.

Happy Birthday to My Bride

We fell in love in college.  You were finishing your freshman year.  I was finishing my college career.  We dated for two months before we spent the next 22 hardly ever within five hours of one another.  I was in seminary, then an interim youth pastor, then a pastor.  The snippets of time we salvaged together were usually late on a Friday night or a shortened Saturday afternoon.  Why?  I have always been crazy about you.  I would drive every hour of the distance to spend what seemed like just five minutes with you, but you always understood why I had to end every date early – Sunday’s coming.
You never saw it as a chore.  You were always proud that this was us.  
Youth lock-in.
Valentine banquet.
Visitation.
Worship service that morning, a meeting that afternoon, worship again that night.
Some people had steak, we had casserole.  Who needs to go out to eat so much when you have potluck?  Even though it should have been your night, you sat there with me at a napkin-paper cloth covered table in a Baptist fellowship hall and gave everything to every person who wanted to talk.  And you gave me to every person who wanted the same.  You never complained.  You knew this was our call. 
We didn’t do a lot of things young couples do.  Even though it was hectic, every minute we spent together during those days was special.  I always hated leaving you.  Now I never will.
You left Charlotte a bride.  You arrived in Crossville, TN one week later the pastor’s wife.  Very few understand what that really means.  With grace you embraced it.  My admiration for you is immense.
For those whose lives are given to ministry there is no such thing as a weekend.  The church demands your all.  Christ deserves even more.  Pointing people to Jesus, serving them in loss, meeting them in crisis, writing the next sermon, making sure you do not lead someone astray – there is no end.  There is no time for a late movie, a Saturday night concert – what’s a 3 day weekend?  There are so many parties we have missed for one simple reason – the sermon was not finished.  Yet you have counted all of it gain, never a loss.  Because you are so sacrificial for Christ and so in love with me, in your eyes, you never missed a thing.  Don’t ever think I haven’t noticed.  You have never taken your eyes off of Christ.  I can’t keep my eyes off of you.  
For some the week ends.  For us, it never does.  You have yet to even realize how much we haven’t missed.  I guess it is true, love is blind.
Even though our early dates may have consisted of three hours of Saturday morning door to door visitation, you loved me.  You did what you did and you continue to do what you do because you love Jesus.  Because of Him, you have sacrificed everything you are for what we do.
You are so much more than people realize – sacrificial, beautiful, teachable, humble, special, stable, flexible, available.  I think the hardest thing about being a pastor and a pastor’s wife is that it demands everything you are, but at the same time the grind and expectations of it all make it nearly impossible to be who you are.    
But I know you.  I know the things we laugh at that no one will ever know we said.  You know I love it when you’re sassy – but be careful with the choir.  You are dead on right about that – but you can’t say it.  The things you have forgiven in me and protected about me, making sure no one will ever see – you are soft for me when I need your comfort you are a shield for me when I need your strength.  You are beautiful to everyone, but I am gifted most when you are simply mine and I get all of you.
Life in ministry makes friendship complicated.  Every connection is complex, every person tied to someone else, every relationship intricate and delicately balanced between what you may be going through as a person and what must be done for the sake of The Kingdom.  The personal side is always slaughtered on the altar of Romans 12:1-2.  The most beautiful thing about you, Shannon is your life of sacrifice.  You love Jesus way more than you love me and that makes me crazy in love with you.  Every friendship, every decision, every word, every choice, every weekend, every day you somehow bring it back to Christ.  You are His treasure and that makes it so much more precious that you are also mine.  You are my bride, but I am blessed that you are my most uncomplicated, take me as I am, yep – I really said that, friend.
Today is your birthday.  All I can say is that as wonderful as you are in the eyes of so many, I only wish that the world could know you like I do.  But that is my privilege and delight as your husband.  I’m an insider to a gorgeous soul.  
Happy birthday to my bride.     

Excellent Preaching – Prepared and Powerful

A few nights ago I watched the final half hour of the Kennedy Center Honors.  The Kennedy Center website states the following about how the honorees are chosen, “The primary criterion is excellence, and artistic achievement in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, and television is considered.”
Before I went to bed that night I spent some time reading the Bible and reflecting on the idea of excellence in my craft, preaching.  While preachers do not preach for the accolades of an arts guild, there should be no less concern for excellence.  As ambassadors of The Kingdom our aspirations for excellence in what we do should be exponentially more.
Excellence in preaching requires that we be prepared and powerful.
There should be a passion in our process from preparation to delivery, a thirst for excellence, an attention to detail.  Like a gifted songwriter who makes a deliberate choice with every word, our desire to communicate effectively should be not less, but again, exponentially more.  We have the greatest text of all to inspire us; a manuscript breathed by God from which every thought is gleaned.    
A boring sermon is a tragedy.  An unprepared man rambling in the pulpit, searching for a thought, is a criminal of the Kingdom, not its herald.  
I consider 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 to be one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible when it comes to preaching.  
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV)    
The mistake made with this passage is in thinking that an unprepared message is a more powerful one.  That somehow it is more of a work of the Spirit if the rest of us are left to sit in the pew for a half hour while the preacher meanders from thought to thought, verse to verse, searching for something decently said that he can somehow attribute to God.  Such a show is not the Spirit working, but rather a testimony that you do not care to be prepared.  It does not mean you have made more of the Word of God, instead it means you have thought very little of it for days.
I have heard many singers stand up on Sunday morning to share a song and preempt their attempt with the words, “Y’all pray for me, I haven’t practiced much this week.”  Some sympathetic soul will say, “God bless”, but I say, “Then sit down!”  If you did not care to prepare then why should the rest of us care to listen?  Is this not for the sake of Christ that you sing, or preach, or teach, or do whatever you do?  If it is, then be excellent by being prepared.  Otherwise you are being careless.
But there is something important in Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2 that we should not miss concerning power.  Preaching something well prepared, but lacking divine power is human persuasion in the pulpit, not gospel proclamation.  Preaching something not well prepared with passion is just yelling for the sake of distracting everyone from your bad preaching.  I can’t remember the book in which it is contained or the exact quote, but Calvin Miller quipped something to the effect that a lot of bad preaching has been covered up by loud preaching.  Power is not a work of the diaphragm, it is result of a preacher well prepared in study and prayer.
Paul was not saying he lacked preparation.  He was not even saying that he regarded himself as a bad speaker.  What he was saying – he was saying to a hyper-sensitive, overly critical culture that was schooled in the art of rhetoric.  Paul was dealing with a group that was so attentive to form that they failed to recognize power.  They listened for logic, but had little skill to discern whether they were being moved by the Spirit or by clever persuasion.  As guilty as we are in some churches for preaching with power and no form, we are guilty in others of regarding form with no thirst for power.  We have heard many good sermons by gifted pulpiteers, but we are in a drought of God ordained power in the pulpit.    
Paul was not saying he lacked any form.  What he was saying was that he may not have met their preconceived ideas of the mannerisms and forms of the culture’s most gifted speakers.  I think Paul was actually saying that he was rebelling against their form (lofty speech, wisdom, or plausible words as they would judge it so) for the sake of one thing – power.  I would argue that such a feat in that culture would not have taken less preparation, but more.  To them it looked foolish, but it was powerful (2 Cor. 2:14ff).  Well done Paul!
We must be prepared, but we must also be powerful.  Not powerful in our own abilities or in cultural formalities, as Paul sought to purposefully avoid, but powerful in Spirit.  Personally, in my meditations of these things over the last week or so I am convicted not only to work more diligently to be a better communicator, but to work more deeply to be a more powerful one.  
As an athlete there were times that we worked on form and there were times that we worked on power.  Good form enhances power, it does not diminish it.  As a preacher I am often guilty of studying the form of preaching, working diligently to exegete the passage and massage the message, but failing to prepare myself for power.  Long hours of reading and writing must be done, but not to the neglect of prayer, meditation, fasting, and suffering.  These things are often formless, but they are powerful.  

As preachers, we will never be invited to the Kennedy Center to celebrate the excellent art of preaching, but we do stand in a more noble cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12).  The prophets, the apostles, the saints of God from every nation, the author and finisher of our faith all surround us to see what we do with the Word of God in preaching.  We should be excellent both in preparation and in power.

12 Days of Christmas Bid-A-Way for Adoption

My friends Sammy and Michelle Tice are raising money to adopt two boys from Ukraine.  I had the honor of serving the Tice’s as pastor when we were in Birmingham and I can attest that their decision to adopt is only the latest testament to their ever expanding vision of the gospel.  You can read more about the Tice family and their journey in adoption on their Facebook page, Trust Without Borders.   

Numerous businesses have contributed items to the Tice’s fund raising effort and they are offering them for bid in a unique campaign, 12 Days of Christmas Bid-A-Way.  This is a great way to get involved with their adoption effort.  I encourage you to bid on their items, learn more about the Tice family, and get involved in bringing their boys home!

Some of the things you can bid on – win – and help, include:

Starbucks items – I’m for that!
A Sephora Gift Card – I have no idea what that is, but it sounds expensive, and woman-ish.
An Augtographed Karen Kingsbury book – I wonder if Karen has read #TheWalk yet?
An ESV Bible – The Word!
An Epiphone limited edition, autographed guitar – very cool!
An Amazon Fire! – need I say more?
Younique 3D Fiber Lashes – 3D lashes? hmmm, well girls, go 3D or go home!

lots of other stuff – check it out, click here:  12 Days of Christmas Bid-A-Way for adoption! 

My Favorite Player

Here’s a great article about a dear friend of our family, Hayden Nelson.  Even though I own him in NCAA Football on XBox (and he knows it!), he’s still my favorite player.

TRUSSVILLE — Kenneth Hardin believes Hayden Nelson is in hog heaven on The Mall in Trussville’s Cahaba Project, surrounded by parked SUVs that form an imaginative stadium wall, cheered on by proud parents in outdoor chairs.

Hardin is the coach of the Trussville Youth Flag Football Redskins, a Trussville Parks and Recreation team that plays against other fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. Nelson is an 11-year-old fourth-grader from Moody, and he is the Redskins’ center.

Nelson is the team’s ball-hiker because he has cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture, and sometimes cognition. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 323 children in the U.S. has cerebral palsy. The disorder affects Nelson’s legs and his arms a little bit, and he’s aided by a lime-green walker with orange grips.

But don’t let the four-wheel walker he pushes fool you, Nelson comes to play for the 40-minute games.

Take Sunday, for example. The Redskins, wearing bright red jerseys with “Trussville Youth Flag Football” emblazoned in white across the chest, scored on their first possession against a team wearing orange, a long run down the right sideline. Nelson wanted his teammate to spike the ball in the end zone. Nelson has talked about wanting to play cornerback, that he will smack passes to the turf. He’s competitive.

“He’s a good one,” Hardin said.

Allen Nelson, Hayden’s father, said this is his son’s third season in the flag football league. He played last spring and in the fall. He’s also played baseball in Moody’s Miracle League. On Sunday, mother, Wendy, and sisters Hannah, 15, and Hope, 13, watched him play his first game of the spring season.
“He has a love for football,” Allen said.

Hayden is a diehard Alabama fan, though his mom pulls for Auburn.
“It’s fun around the house,” Allen said.

After the Redskins converted a two-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead Sunday afternoon, Hayden made his way to his dad on the sideline, where the elder Nelson asked his son who his favorite player is.

“Hart,” Hayden told his dad.
“Who?” Allen replied.
“Hart. You don’t know him? He’s No. 1,” Hayden told his dad succinctly, referring to the former Alabama running back. Hayden also wears No. 1.

Allen said that Hayden playing flag football is great because he can’t experience everything that most little boys can. The sport provides him some “normalcy.”

“It’s just fun to watch him play with the other kids,” Allen said. “I think the other coaches thoroughly enjoy having him out here.”

Nelson was provided the opportunity to play by Hardin, with whom the Nelsons attend church at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Trussville. Hardin knew how much Hayden loved football, as evidenced by his playing college football video games, though he has more of a tendency to compete on “Call of Duty.” Hardin said he took it upon himself to get Hayden involved, not knowing if someone else might have given him a chance.

“Everybody’s been supportive, and it’s been great,” Hardin said. “(His teammates) pitch in, help him and there’s never a comment made. It’s pretty cool.”

But how would he involve Hayden in the games? Hardin said it popped into his mind one day that Hayden could snap the ball, facing the quarterback like it’s done in adult flag football games. Once the left-handed Hayden has tossed the ball to the quarterback, he turns and watches the play unfold, though in the past he’s scored in games in which the team is too far behind. Sometimes, just five players — the games are five-on-five — have shown up, and he’s played linebacker because there are no reserve players.

“He loved it,” Allen said. “He didn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Hayden is not treated any different. There is no special treatment, other than his dad or Hardin occasionally pushing him up the field.

On Sunday afternoon, the Redskins allowed a touchdown in the final two minutes to cut their lead to 22-20. The orange team came up about a yard short on the two-point attempt, and Hayden’s team held on by running out the clock near the middle of the 50-yard field. After Hardin spoke with his seven players, Hayden walked over to his dad, all smiles, and told him they had won.

“He likes being out here,” Allen said. “He feels completely normal like all the other little boys out here on the football field. He just thoroughly enjoys it, loves it.”

The original article appears at:  http://www.trussvilletribune.com/2014/04/02/boy-with-cerebral-palsy-plays-flag-football-in-trussville-2/

Feel My Facelift

I am working to upgrade FeelMyFaith using a new template.  Expect things to look a little quirky for a few days.  You may even see some strange menu items such as “health” or “politics.”  I’m not going Oprah, I’m just moving through all of the changes as quickly as I can.  Thanks for your patience.