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Grace, Freedom and the NFL

Boy, what a firestorm! The tension and controversy in America has reached a fever pitch over the last few years to where we have arrived at today. Not long ago it was just 49’ers  (ex) quarterback Colin Kaepernick (still doesn’t have a job) who intentionally thrust himself into controversy by refusing to stand for the playing of the National Anthem in protest of what he deemed to be wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States. Well, it’s a free country….and I don’t argue the subject of free speech. But, what we do with that freedom is an entirely different topic that oftentimes reveals the character of those who might use, or misuse it.

You may wonder about the above title and question how grace, freedom and these protests could be connected. I think, in principle, they’re very connected. Let me explain; Grace is an extremely important Biblical subject. It’s a wonderful thing! But it’s also one of the more controversial topics in the church today. It’s controversial mostly because it has been miscommunicated, ….and therefore misunderstood, ….and when all that happens it can easily be misappropriated. (used in an unwise manner)

Paul, in one of his letters, said it this way, “Brothers and sisters you have been called to liberty (freedom), but don’t use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh”. More clearly put, don’t use your freedom as an excuse to sin. It’s only the unwise, or maybe innocently by the immature, who would accept God’s perfect gift of grace and then use it as an excuse to sin. That would be an undeniable, gross misuse of grace! That’s where I see grace, freedom and these NFL protests intersecting.

The freedom that we enjoy in America is like none other in the entire world. It’s a freedom that has come at an extremely costly price. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives on the battlefield, here and around the world, in the name of freedom. I appreciate that; I’m grateful for it and it’s something that I would never, ever take lightly. So, it only makes sense to me to use that freedom in a wise, mature and conscientious manner. Everybody doesn’t agree….and that’s OK. But my opinion is that those who choose to dishonor the national anthem and the flag, are thus dishonoring the nation and those whose lives were sacrificed for our freedom. It appears to be a very immature, arrogant and unwise use of something so precious….and that cost so many, …..so much.

The NFL has some unbelievable athletes; best in the world for their God-given talent and abilities. But many of these young men have been coddled, babied and catered to since they were old enough to be involved in organized team sports. It’s a historical fact that many of these athletes making millions today won’t have any of it left after their careers are over. And, if the old adage rings true that “we all have 15 minutes of fame”, it’s a crying shame that these boys are using theirs’ this way. They’re influencing another generation of little boys in a very adverse, and negative way. I wouldn’t want that on my resume’!

Someone will probably cry, “racism”; But, c’mon …..give us a break! It’s not that. It’s called patriotism, …..and it’s makin’ a comeback!

“All things are lawful, but not all things edify; all things are lawful, but not all are helpful” – Paul

The way you handle grace….and freedom will tell the world just how deep your character actually is. 

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“Loosen Up, Sandy Baby!”

“I Don’t Know How We’re Gonna Win….I Just Know We’re Going To!”

Life’s Like Football, It’s a Game of Inches

It Takes a Village to go Back to Back…..to Back to Back!

 

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March Madness

I love college basketball! In fact, college sports are a lot more fun for me to watch than the pros. It’s about the only sport that I don’t really care who’s playing, I can get into the game. I think it’s the fact that there’s not six points difference in a team that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament and the one that wins it all. I love to watch the coaches as much as I like watching the players. Great sport, great watching!

Here’s a little analogy you probably haven’t thought of. The Sunday church service is much like the timeout in basketball. In most games both teams usually uses all their timeouts. The timeouts are critical and are used very strategically in every close game. I’d say the same about the Sunday church service. There are no points scored during the timeout….but what’s done there is always critical to the overall outcome of the game. If you think about it, it’s much the same with the church service. And, while many would argue that the Sunday service is the ‘big show’, wise people realize that the real game is outside the walls of the church.

I’m watching Roy Williams, the great North Carolina coach, during the timeout of tonight’s NCAA National Championship. He’s very animated, he’s passionate about getting his point across, he’s ‘coaching’ his boys about what they should do, and how they should do it, when the whistle starts the game again. He’s making sure everyone knows their job, knows their place. Mark Few, Gonzaga’s phenomenal coach, is doing the same. It’s coaching intensity at it’s very best. Nothing like it in any other sport, in my opinion. You’ll notice that they use every single second of every single timeout. It’s what the Bible calls “redeeming the time”.

The Sunday service should be just like that. It should be, above everything, very strategic. In my case I want to do the best job I can do to tell my ‘players’ what I’m hearing from the Lord. I don’t want to just throw a ‘sermon’ out there….I want it to be strategic and relevant for what my ‘players’ are facing in the game (real life!).

And, lastly…..the timeout gives the players a chance to get their breath, rest a little and get everything back into proper perspective. No games are won or lost during the timeout….but what’s done there directly affects the outcome of the game! 

There’s a lot at stake when we get back in the real world on Monday! We should be strategic when we gather up on Sunday!

**Gotta quit for now…it’s halftime and I’m doing research!!

 

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They Forgot to Tell the Bumblebee!

Defying the odds. Don’t you just love to hear the stories of people who were put down, ridiculed, told they couldn’t make it, kicked to the curb and ignored….who got back up and proved everybody wrong. There’s no shortage of stories like that out there.

I immediately think of two Oklahoma boys with similar paths; Steve Largent and Wes Welker. *(You really should read their Wikipedia profile!) Both were standout wide receivers in high school but anybody will tell you that there’s a vast canyon between high school success and success at the college level. But these boys made it there, too. They made it, Largent at Tulsa University and Welker at Texas Tech *(only got a scholarship because another recruit dropped out!), despite all the experts telling them that they were both too small….and too slow. Of course, for any athlete, the next step from college to the NFL is an even greater stretch. Again, they were told, “No way”! (Welker-Undrafted free agent; Largent-4th round-117th pick!) If you’re even remotely a pro football fan you’ve heard, and probably watched these two. They both went on to, much more than, stellar careers, Welker with the Patriots and Largent with the Seahawks, all the while hearing the experts on Sports Center saying they couldn’t make it. When Steve Largent retired he held all major NFL receiving records including being the first player to record 100 touchdown receptions. Wes Welker led the NFL in receptions three years and was the first in NFL history to record five 100 reception seasons. He was selected to the All-Pro Team every season of his Patriots career. Largent was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, and Welker surely will be. Not too bad for a couple of boys too small…..and too slow!

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. There’s hundreds of stories like that out there not only in sports but in business, in music…and just life in general. Stories of people who believed in themselves and refused to believe what the, so-called, experts said about them. They found a way to be motivated by the negativity.

What about you? Who’s told you that you can’t make it? Who’s kicked you to the curb and ignored you? You’re created in the image of God; Created to succeed and destined for greatness, maybe not in the NFL….but more importantly in life!

Get back up, get your focus on the Lord and His plan for your life and let’s see what happens.

The laws of physics and aerodynamics say that there’s absolutely no way the bumblebee can fly! Body’s too big, wings are too short….there’s just no way!

They just forgot to tell the bumblebee!

*Tell me your stories of overcoming unsurmountable odds!

Audio Version:

Read these:

It Feels Good To Be “Believed In”!!

A “You Can Do It” Atmosphere

 

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I Did It Just For Him!

*Today marks a year since my Dad left for heaven. I wrote this blog on his birthday back in August. He would’ve been 87. It seems fitting to publish it today.

The 15th of August; For as many years as I was old enough to remember we did something to celebrate my Dad’s birthday. This year was a little different in that, this time, he wasn’t here to enjoy it with us. We did, however get together anyway. Monty drove up from Ft.Worth. We had supper at Rib Crib with just about everyone there, minus Cole and his little family, (Calli Softball practice) and Cade.

As we sat at the restaurant the TV’s were tuned to the Olympics. We watched several events including the preliminaries for the women’s 400 meter hurdles. Then it was time for the women’s 100 meter finals. Allison Felix, the USA’s marquis sprinter and most decorated American woman track and field athlete, was the odds-on favorite to win the gold medal. She had a great start, ran her race, and it appeared that she was clearly going to win the gold. But just at the very end of the race the sprinter from the Bahamas did something that was totally unexpected. Rather than just running ‘through’ the finish line she dove forward at just the precise moment….stealing the gold medal from Allison Felix.

You’re probably wondering what in the world this has to do with my Dad. Well, the 100 meter finals and the miraculous finish took me back about 47 years. I was a junior in high school. One of the things I was pretty decent at was running the hurdles. I broke the school records in the high hurdles and low hurdles that had stood since 1929.

It was at the district track meet. I hadn’t been beaten in the highs or low hurdles up to that point in the entire track season. There were several really good competitors but if I’d just run my race I could beat them. I wasn’t the fastest by any means but no one could beat me out of the blocks and I could navigate the hurdles better than most of them. But on this day there was a new guy. First time I’d seen him. We were in the same preliminary heat in the high hurdles…and he beat me. I ran a good race…and he still beat me. We had the two fastest times in the prelims so in the finals we’re lined up in the two middle lanes.

Dad didn’t always get to be at the track meets but he was there that day. I wanted to do my very best for him. I got off to my usual great start but so did the other guy. In fact, for 110 yards there was never a foot or two lead for either of us. It was literally neck-and-neck. We cleared the last hurdle and he had me beat by a foot or two. Ten feet from the finish line, he still had me beat. But I wanted to win this race in the worst possible way……for my Dad. I felt like I’d be letting him down if I didn’t win. But, for all practical purposes this guy’s got me beat. But at the last possible second I did exactly what the gal from the Bahamas did. I dove….with everything that was in me. My right shoulder hit the asphalt track and it took most of the hide off for about 8 inches……but I won the race!

I was glad I’d won the race….but the excitement wasn’t really for me. I was glad to win  because I was determined to do it for him. I don’t think I ever told Dad that I did that just for him. I wanted him to be proud of me. And for me to ‘not’ put out, and give it everything I had would make me feel like I was lettin’ him down. We learned from our folks that whatever you were doing, you give it everything you got! That’s what they did.

But you know,…..all the hundreds of things he ever did for us, he never once had to say, “I did that for you”.

We just knew!

Try these:

VIP’s #10 – Cliff & Charlene Taylor

VIP #8 – Monty Taylor

Labor Day Out on the ‘Ol ‘Lazy J’

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“I Don’t Know How We’re Gonna Win….I Just Know We’re Going To!”

That’s the words that Dabo Swinney told his Clemson players at halftime of the NCAA Football National Championship in Tampa Monday night. Alabama, on a 27-0 run over the last couple of years, was the favorite pick by the oddsmakers. There were a lot of people who were pulling for Clemson but I don’t think many were willing to bet much on the game. The Crimson Tide has just been too tough. They’re athletic, big, strong, fast, intimidating and very well coached. Nobody has given them much of a scare for a couple of years. The closest anyone has come to beating Alabama came exactly a year ago also in the NCAA Championship by…..none other than the Clemson Tigers.

But the underdog Clemson Tigers believed! That’s what happens when  a coach,….and I’m sure an entire coaching staff, fosters confidence and a winning attitude. People want to follow a leader who thinks he’s going to win! They’ll follow someone who’s not afraid or intimidated by the conditions at hand; Someone who doesn’t cut and run when chips are down….or when the tide (no pun intended) is against them.

There’s a need for great leaders in the body of Christ now more than at any other time in history of the world. But it almost seems like there’s a vacuum; a fear or timidity to ‘stand up’ and really lead. The world is longing for those who’ll defy the odds, go against the traditional religious grain, ….if they must….and empower the multitudes to take their place in the greatest move of God the planet might ever see!

Somebody needs to stand up in the midst of the adverse conditions we’re faced with today and declare, “We’re gonna win…..I don’t know how we’re gonna do it….but I just know we’re going to!”

Oh, and Dabo’s Clemson Tigers…..they did what he said they would…in a dramatic 35-31 comeback victory….scoring the winning touchdown with 1 second left on the clock!

Some more football blogs:

All-Time Favorite Sports Franchise – Canadian, Texas Wildcats

Gun Fightin’, Pool Shootin’…and Bull Ridin’! …….and I Guess, Now, High School Football!

It Takes a Village to go Back to Back…..to Back to Back!

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“It’ll Ride” – Part 2

It seems to be a chronic ailment of mine. You would think that by now I would’ve learned my lesson. But when I look a situation over…and it looks good to me, why waste a bunch of time to try to make it better. In this case I’m talking about loading something in my pickup and not taking precious time to secure said things with a chain, rope, bungie cord or some other means to keep things from slipping out, falling out….or in some rare cases,….flying out of the back of my pickup. If you haven’t read “It’ll Ride”, (click on the highlighted link) you should do it now. You’ll get the picture!

Ten or twelve years ago when our boys were still involved in junior rodeo, the rodeo finals were held culminating with a huge awards banquet at the end of the season for all the winners. The all-around winners (best in overall multiple events) in each age group received a really nice trophy saddle. Those saddles cost upwards of fifteen hundred dollars and it’s the award that everyone really wants to win. That particular year Clay, our youngest son, won the all-around. Of course we were all excited about that and proud of him. He had worked hard and it was a major accomplishment.

After the awards ceremony I loaded up the horses, half a dozen trophy buckles that had been won in several events….and the saddle that Clay had just been awarded. It was eleven o’clock pm. I had only a twenty mile trip home. The saddle was placed back in the cardboard box that it had been shipped in. The bed of my pickup was full of all kinds of rodeo equipment so I looked the situation over and decided to put the box with the saddle in it on the top of my toolbox. It would be right up against the cab of the pickup so the wind wouldn’t be a factor. I took one good look at it, assessed the situation…..and said to myself, “It’ll ride”!

Driving down the Interstate alone and periodically looking over my shoulder at the ‘precious cargo’ on top of my toolbox, and everything’s fine. The big box with the saddle in it is riding like a charm. (just like I knew it would) I made sure to look back every half minute or so….just to make sure. I looked back and it was there…….but thirty seconds later when I looked back, …….you guessed it, it was gone!!

Oh, sweet Jesus!!! (as I reflect back on that night I’m pretty sure that might not be exactly what I said!! Let’s just leave it at that!)

I hit the brakes like nobody’s bidness! I pulled off onto the shoulder and was out of that pickup in a flash. There’s a dozen eighteen-wheelers (not counting the cars and pickups) going east and west and running at least seventy-five mph. I’m running back down the shoulder of I-40 as hard as I can…..and praying harder than I’ve ever prayed before. (and come to think of it, praying harder than I ever have since, too!!) I just know that one of those trucks has already hit the box with the saddle in it….and I’m imagining in my mind all the ugly things that might happen to a saddle when it gets hit by a semi!! And, on top of that, I’m agonizing about how I’m gonna break the news to the Fam! Can ya’ get the picture??!

I ran at least a quarter of a mile before I saw something in the center median of the 4-lane interstate. I only had the headlights of the trucks going east and west to see. I crossed over to the median and there was the box! I had this thought, “Do I really want to see this?!” It can’t be good! When I got to the box…the saddle was still in it! Between you and me…..I had a little worship service right there! It didn’t last long but it was definitely very vocal…..and heartfelt, if ya’ know what I mean!! lol

I carried the saddle back to the pickup, looked at it under the light…and it didn’t have a scratch on it!

I put it right up there next to me in the front seat, shut the door, locked it good, pulled that saddle over as close to me as I could…..and said,……

“It’ll Ride”!!

*Same rule applies with “It’ll Ride” Part 1; I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention this to Julie. She really don’t like to talk about it!

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Life’s Like Football, It’s a Game of Inches

I was watching a high-school football playoff game a week or two back. It was a very close game involving two really good teams. It caused me to remember what I hear sportscasters, even sports fans, say about football often; “It’s a game of inches”. There was no less than half a dozen times during that game that the ‘game of inches’ concept came into play. A couple of critical fourth down measurements when in one instance the team gained the first down by maybe three inches; another time late in the game deep in the other team’s territory the measurement on a fourth and one….was short by less than six inches and kept the team from a possible touchdown. Another time a wide receiver caught a pass in the back of the end zone with one foot down in play….but only by, maybe two inches. Those close calls were critical in the overall outcome of the game. Football really is a ‘game of inches’.

It started me thinking along the lines of how life can be much like football, in that respect, …..a game of inches. For instance, when we ‘give’ our life to the Lord something truly miraculous, and supernatural, happens. There has been a literal transformation in the deepest, eternal part of us….our spirit. But that transformation takes the rest of our lives to fully manifest. We begin to think differently about nearly everything. And those thoughts, hopefully tempered by the Holy Spirit, lead us to begin reasoning, acting and behaving differently, as well. Most of the time it’s not a huge behavior swing (could be, though!), but more so just a step at a time. You know,……. incremental change. A game of inches! But over the long haul it’s truly an amazing transformation.

It can work in the negative as well. For instance a marriage doesn’t get bad in a moment. More than likely there has been a lot of little things over a long period of time that have steadily eroded the relationship. It’s a game of inches. But, in the same respect, when a couple can agree to start to really work on their marriage it can start to turn around. It’s not a perfect science but a good rule of thumb, I think, to expect the marriage to get good again in about the same distance of time that it took to get bad. That might be years. But the amazing thing is, and I see this all the time, as soon as the relationship starts to move in the right direction both parties immediately begin to feel better about it. It’s a game of inches! I could give a dozen more examples but you get the picture.

Take yourself for instance; we’re often silently disappointed in ourselves because we aren’t growing in the Lord at the pace we think we should. I’d like to encourage you to ‘not’ get frustrated about that.

Relax a little, enjoy the journey and remember….it’s a game of inches!

Try these:

The Silver Bullet Lounge

You Got to Me Too Late!

The Thing About Unconditional Love

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