Tag Archives: christian living

Fantasy Football, Real Life Jesus. Part One: Preparation

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, it’s not Christmas.  It’s not the Ides of March.  It’s not Canadian Boxing Day.  It’s fantasy football season, baby.  <insert wife’s grimace here>

The anticipation is back.  The strategy consumes my thoughts.  The competition starts churning in my veins.  For a fleeting moment at the end of the fantasy football championship season, there are thoughts of relief that you don’t have to set another lineup for nearly nine months.  Then you realize…that’s a long way away.  That’s like…enough time to create a kid.  The NFL draft in April is just a tease, but it’s nice to have talk of football again.  The summer is a struggle.  There’s no reason to watch SportsCenter from the end of the NBA season until the NFL preseason.

But, fantasy football is back.  And it feels good.  Really good.

Some people are a bit obsessive with fantasy football.  These people make spreadsheets.  These people talk about it to anyone who will listen about their upcoming drafts.  These people are in multiple leagues.  These people stress over their draft position and naming their team.

I am one of these people.

I can’t just enter a league for fun.  I have to win.  I love strategy games.  I’ve tried explaining to my wife that this is nearly 20 weeks (including draft prep) of nothing but strategy.  When you win, it’s fantastic.  It’s rewarding to triumph after five months of planning, risk, luck and over-thinking.  When you lose, it’s crushing.  It’s terrible to fall after five months of planning, risk, luck and over-thinking.

If you’re reading this and have no idea what fantasy football is all about, I’m sorry.  Here’s all you need to know:

  • You pick real NFL players to be on your “fantasy” team.
  • You have a starting lineup and a bench.
  • You largely draft only offensive positions like quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.  You also will draft a kicker and team defense.
  • You get points for their performance.  Many leagues award 6 points for a rushing or receiving touchdown and one point for every 10 rushing or receiving yards. For example, if Adrian Peterson runs for 100 yards and scores a touchdown you might score 16 points (based on your league’s scoring, of course).
  • You can trade players with other teams and pick up players who aren’t currently on a roster, just like the general managers in the pros.

I think most fantasy football players will agree that our favorite time of the year is the draft.  There’s nothing like a live draft.  All your buddies sitting in a room filled with unhealthy snacks for hours at a time while ribbing each other with each pick.  For years, I’ve been in multiple leagues and have at least one that drafts in person.  I usually buy a draft board, like the one pictured below.  There are color-coded stickers by position with every player’s name on it.  When it’s your turn, you grab the sticker of the player you want and put him on the big board.

draft

There are a number of considerations to make while preparing for the draft.  How many people are going to be on my roster?  How many bench spots?  Is there a flex position?  How does the scoring work?  How deep is the league?

I’ve also found that there are a number of considerations to make while preparing to serve as a follower of Christ each day.  When is the last time I shared my faith with someone?  Have I had my quiet time lately?  Have I diligent in my prayer life?

Over the next several sections, I’m going to attempt to draw parallels between preparing for a fantasy football draft and preparing for working for a real life Jesus every day.

Format

Fantasy Football

I’ve been in fantasy leagues for over 13 years now.  I’ve been in leagues of many formats.  There are salary cap or auction leagues where everyone gets a set amount of “salary cap” to spend on their players.  It’s up to each manager to decide how they want to spend their money.  Do they want a balanced team or a “stars and scrubs” team?

There are keeper & dynasty leagues which allow each manager to keep a certain amount (either just a few or all) of their players from year to year.  This is very similar to owning your own franchise.  A few years ago, I drafted Aaron Rodgers very late in the draft.  He sat on my bench for several years, just as he did in real life with the Green Bay Packers.  But, then Brett Favre retired…kinda.  The Pack gave the ball to Rodgers and he blossomed into arguably the league’s top QB.  Luckily for me, he was on my team every year and helped me with back-to-back championships.

Redraft are another option.  Redraft leagues start over each year.  Selecting players happens in a “snake” draft.  This means that if you have the last pick in the first round, then you also have the first pick in the second round.  Redraft leagues are a great equalizer and put a lot of emphasis on drafting a good team immediately, rather than building a good team over time.

Real Life Jesus

Just as it’s important to know what kind of league you are getting yourself in to, it’s important to know the type of team we’re playing for.  As Christians, not only are we on a dynasty team, we’re on an eternal team.  Everything we do has a forever impact.  The team we’re playing for is not only the winning team, but it’s the team that has already won.

Ephesians 1:13b says, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.”

God drafted us to his dynasty team when we placed our faith in his son, who died to forgive our sins.  It’s nice to be wanted.

Scoring

Fantasy Football

My favorite kind of league are PPR scoring leagues.  PPR stands for point-per-reception.  PPR leagues add a different twist to standard scoring leagues awarding a point for every time a player catches the ball.  PPR scoring makes certain running backs and wide receivers immensely more valuable than they might otherwise be.  Wes Welker, now with the Broncos, is a great example of a standout PPR player.  Welker spent the last several years catching balls from Tom Brady in New England, which made him valuable.  But, it has not been uncommon for Welker to catch 7-10 balls in a game.  For five out of the last six years, Welker had at least 111 receptions.  His abundance of catches makes his value skyrocket.  This scoring model really makes you think about each player you draft.

From 2008-2012, Michael Turner has been a touchdown machine for the Atlanta Falcons, scoring at least 10 TDs each year.  But, the most passes Turner caught during that time was 19, and that was just last year.  As a result, there have been a number of other running backs drafted before Turner each year because of his futility scoring in a PPR format.

This year, I’m in a scoring-only league for the first time.  Simply, this means that yardage doesn’t matter. It’s down and dirty and only scoring matters.  This is another huge twist in how I needed to prepare.  Remember that remarkable season Calvin Johnson had last year?  Megatron had 122 receptions, 1964 reception yards and 11 games with over 100 yards receiving (including 8 straight).  He was a complete monster.  But, 39 other players had more touchdowns than Johnson, including Scott Chandler, TY Hilton and Santana Moss.  So, in this scoring-only league, none of Johnson’s yards and receptions would not have mattered.

Real Life Jesus

Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

The points don’t matter.  That’s right.  Once I put my faith in Jesus, there is nothing else that I could do to earn my spot in heaven, gain his favor or change his mind about me.

I could go to church every Sunday, have lots of Scripture memorized, put lots of money in the plate and help dozens of old ladies cross the street, but without belief in Christ and the willingness to follow him, nothing else matters.

Strategy

Fantasy Football

As of this writing, all drafts have happened and Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season is nearly in the books.  The Eagles & Redskins are on TV and the new Philadelphia high-octane offense has run 19 plays in just about five minutes.  The Redskins have had the ball for eight seconds.

A few days ago, Peyton Manning threw for seven touchdowns.  Some guy named Julius Thomas scored two touchdowns for the Broncos and Julian Edelman scored twice for the Patriots.  Heck, the Jets won a game.  These are things that you can’t predict.

Some leagues do a random drawing just minutes before a draft to pick which draft spot you’ll have.  I hate not knowing.  Knowing in advance which spot you draft from is kind of like knowing the gender of your child.  You get to pick out a name, pick the paint for the room and start looking at bedding (or toys).

When I prepare for a draft, I do several mock drafts and take notes of the which players go in which round.  I will chart each player I take by round based on different strategies.  Do I start with two running backs?  Do I take a tight end or quarterback early?  Where do I want to grab my #1 wide receiver?  I’ll add up all the projected points and then move forward with a strategy.  But even my strategy has level of other strategy.  I identify up to three players I want in each round for the first six or seven rounds.  You could say I get in to it.

Real Life Jesus

I have realized over the last several years how “involved” I’ve been with fantasy football and I’ve stripped back a lot.  (Yes, I used to be even more involved.)  A few years ago, I was in up to six or eight leagues.  Two of them were dynasty or keeper leagues with very active owners.  I spent too much time analyzing trade scenarios, scouring the waiver wire and projecting starting lineups.

I had to shift my priorities.  I’m only three leagues that take up much less time.  I’m trying to make sure that I have a quiet time each day and I’m striving for a strong prayer life.  Rather than sorting through spreadsheets, I need to be involved in the lives of other Christians.  Instead of studying stat lines, I should be memorizing scripture.  I need to substitute conversations about lineups with conversations about Christ.

See, if we’re going to be disciples and grow in our faith, we have to have a strategy.  We have to be aware of who we are hanging out with (our roster), how we are going to be effective (our point potential) and even have a list of people we want to share our faith with (our waiver wire).

Reality

Fantasy Football

Well, going in to the last couple games of Week 1, I’ve locked up a win in one of my three leagues and I’m desperately wanting Robert Griffin III to score me some big points (not looking good so far) in order for me to catch up in the other two.

On paper, I have very good teams.  On paper, my opponents might not.  In reality, big things happened on the field this week and I’m down so far.  I have no control over these players.  I can’t prevent them from throwing interceptions.  I can’t help them turn the corner and blow by the defense.  I just have to sit back and watch and pray everything comes together.

Real Life Jesus

The only thing stopping me from reading more, praying more, sharing more and giving more is me.  My fear of rejection, my selfishness, my comfort level and my ego get in the way.  Unlike my fantasy teams, I have some level of control.  I can determine who I speak to, what I read and what the condition of my heart is.  I just have to commit, take action and pray everything comes together.

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Take your tractor to work day

As I was preparing to leave for work this morning, Rylan insisted that I take his Matchbox tractor with me.  Since it’s perfectly acceptable for grown men to have toys in a corporate workplace, I obliged.

So, I headed to the car with my coffee, iPad and banana.  And tractor.

I’ve had to travel a lot recently and I’ll be gone for most of the rest of September.  I figured that any way I could connect with Rylan while I’m at work, it would help him feel like he was part of my day.  So, I decided that I would start taking photos of his tractor throughout my day and message them to my wife to show him.  Here are the shots.

I’ve been reading through Joshua recently and this exercise got me thinking about how God is with us and desires to connect with us throughout the day as well.  Joshua 1:5 says “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God is a promise keeper.  God guarantees us that he will be with us on our toughest days, in our lowest valleys and on our highest mountaintops.

Joshua 1:9 continues on to say, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God is a constant comforter.  He knows that we can become unsettled, stressed out and over-anxious.  He knows that we struggle to keep our priorities set on him.  He knows that we get cut off in traffic, spill coffee on our notes, burn our mouths with pizza cheese and struggle with jammed printers.  We need God to remind us throughout the day that he constantly loves us and is with us, just as Rylan knew from our tractor experience today that I was thinking of him and loved him.

Even though I was not physically with Rylan between 7:30a – 5:15p, his father was still thinking of him and loving him all day.  Here’s the awesome part.  God is with us all the time.  Physically.  If you’re a believer in Christ, then you have God’s holy spirit living inside you.  If you haven’t yet placed your faith in Christ and you feel like you have a void in your life, he will fill it.

In my upcoming travels to exotic places like Kinston, NC and Sarasota, Gainesville & Ocala, FL, I’ll have to find a way to sneak the tractor out the door and continue to remind Rylan how much I miss being around him, his sister and his mommy while I’m at work.

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Ctrl+Alt+Del

That time when your computer instantly starts working when the IT guy comes in.  We’ve all had it.

The blasted thing can’t print, won’t launch a browser, find your draft, download a file, open an attachment or stream Indie music while you have 9000 windows open.  But, as soon as IT shows up, boom, everything magically works and all of a sudden you’re the idiot.  Thanks, technology.

Or, the alternative, we had the ability to solve the problem on our own the whole time.  “Did you reboot it?”

“Did you reboot it?” you reply under your breath in a snarky, high-pitched voice.  “Uh, well, actually, see what I was doing…” is what you really said while trying to decide if you should lie about rebooting or not.  Naturally, you do the reboot and the computer works like a charm afterward.  “Great, thanks for calling the help desk,” says IT guy.

“Great, thanks for calling the help desk,” you say again under your breath. Technology.

Anyone who has experience with a PC has used the Ctrl+Alt+Del shortcut to try and fix their problem.  Initially, the command was used to generally interrupt or facilitate interrupting a function.  In more recent Windows operating systems, Ctrl+Alt+Del is used to activate security features like logging off, switching users, changing your password or shutting down.

There have been plenty of times where I’ve wanted to simply hit three little buttons and have my real life problems fixed.  Over the last few months, we’ve had a number of hiccups occur that were out of our control.  I’ve realized that when I try to fix things on my own, I’m not very good at it.  I’ve also realized that most of the time, I’m the problem.  IT guys love to joke that most problems are due to ‘PEBCAC’ or ‘Problem Exists Between Computer And Chair.”

We have to hit a figurative Ctrl+Alt+Del to get the guidance we need.  In three steps, we can set ourselves up to be changed, rebooted and restored to fine, working conditions.

Ctrl

We have to submit control over our lives back to God.  We have to admit (or even be convinced/reminded) that God has a great plan for our lives.  When we try to solve everything on our own, we end up just making things messier.

There’s no chance that I could fix my car.  I know how to check my oil.  I know where to put the gas.  That’s really about it.  If my car starts making sounds or stops running, the first thing I’m going to do is take it to a shop.   I don’t pretend to know what I’m doing.  I don’t try to be macho and stand in front of my car with the hood up thinking I’m going to identify the problem.  I might as well be doing a heart transplant.

So, why then, do I try to fix things in my own life and ignore God’s control over it?  Pride, selfishness, greed…I could go on.  Those things all get in the way.  The Christian-y saying is that we need to “lay down our problems at the throne.”  Translated into everybody-speak, it means that God wants us to hand over our challenges, fears, wants and needs.  It means to turn over control of trying to diagnose and treat ourselves.  It means to honor God by acknowledging that he can (and will) tend to our needs.

Ephesians 4:22-24 says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Could God have just made a butterfly a butterfly?  Of course.  But, instead, God chose to make the butterfly into a caterpillar first – a creature that creep out a lot of people – before miraculously transforming it into a beautiful, graceful butterfly.  We experience the ugly so we can be that much more appreciative of the beauty.

Alt

We have to alter our perspective.  We get so caught up looking in the mirror that we forget to look at the one who’s image we were made to reflect. We get so preoccupied looking ahead that we stop looking up.

Back in the early 90s before we had GPS or other affordable radar devices, my family and I set out on our summer vacation to the Bahamas with just a map.  My dad had the whole thing plotted out.  He knew our average speed in the current sea conditions.  He knew the distance we needed to travel.  He knew the tides, the weather and the landmarks along the way.  He studied the map for weeks before we left port.

The crossing took around 6-8 hours and much of that was without having any land in sight.  I’m not sure how old school sailors did it.  After a few hours, I was sure we were going to end up in Africa or on the bottom of the sea.  I don’t remember Dad getting nervous, but he may have just been hiding it really well.  One of our favorite memories (and one of his proudest moments) is when I looked up and shouted “LAND HO!”  We made it!  We saw the outline of an island.  Just seconds before, we saw only the flat horizon and a few white-capped waves.  But, soon we were able to make out trees.  Minutes later, we could see buildings, then other boats, then the marina and then people.

As we got closer to the destination, the journey became more and more clear.  Though the seas may have been rough at times, though I might have thrown up my Golden Graham cereal from that morning and though the destination was completely out of focus for a while, we were able to see that all the things Dad had done were successful.

Ephesians 2:12-13 says “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”

Look at that last part again.  “You who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”  Jesus alters our perspective.  Once removed from the Father, Christ’s blood gets us closer.

Del

We have to delete the negative influences in our lives.  We need to be bold and part with the people, habits, media and situations that make us vulnerable and prone to sin.  This is not an easy thing to do.

There was a time when I didn’t think twice about having an alcoholic drink.  In college, I drank to fit in and that was about it.  I didn’t drink to escape.  (I didn’t have anything to run from.)  I didn’t drink to have a good time.  (I can have a good time anywhere.)  I just drank because everyone else drank.  Everyone loves the idea of “drinking”, but nobody relishes in the “effects of drinking” the day after.  Over time, I started to really question why I was spending money on alcohol or why I was wasting time fighting a hangover the next day.

As I entered the workforce, I learned that a lot of networking was done on bar stools.  Again, I drank because my colleagues were drinking.  I would travel to other markets and people would want to take me out for dinner and drinks, so I went along.  But, I still battled with being sluggish the next day and feeling like I wasn’t being myself.

As I started growing in my faith, I started drinking less.  Not out of guilt, but out of reverence for God.  This meant that I needed to separate myself from my college friends who were having “Beer Olympics” on the weekend.  This also meant that I was ordering a “Diet Coke on the rocks” while the rest of my coworkers were socializing over martinis and draft beer.  I definitely started getting alienated.  My friends called a few less times than normal (many are now incredibly strong in their faith and active leaders in their respective churches) and my coworkers invited me out a lot less.  At work events now, I see the looks when I don’t order a drink.  I hear the jokes the vendors say when I won’t help them fill up their expense tab.

And I’m completely fine with it.

See, I had to delete that part of my life because it wasn’t helping me grow closer to God.  It wasn’t helping me protect myself from gossiping, speaking ill about someone else or using profanity when my guard was down.  A good friend of mine shared with me that he stopped drinking because he didn’t know what struggles with alcohol the people around him might have had.  He didn’t want to enable them or make them feel like they needed to drink when they were around him. I also realized that I could never give a good testimony of God’s great love while I was intoxicated.

Earlier, we looked at Ephesians 4:22-24, but stopped short of the final verses in the chapter.  Verses 25-32 read,

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Once I turned over control of my life and altered my perspective, I had the ability to walk away from an area of my life that wasn’t helpful and where the devil could have gotten a foothold.

Much like in the video above, sometimes we have to just “MOVE!” and let God take over.  With just a couple keystrokes, he shows that he knows exactly what’s going on.  He knows how to troubleshoot our problems.

After all, he wrote the manual.

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I don’t think I’m ready for that jelly.

I’m addicted.

Ever since I was introduced a few days ago, I couldn’t wait for my next fix…in 30-minute increments.

Yes, I’m addicted to the Candy Crush Saga.

candy_crush

I’m a grown man.  This is a game with silly cartoons and ridiculous candy icons.  It’s a modern-day candy land.  It’s something kids play online and solicit lives from their friends on Facebook.  And now I’m part of it.

I blame my mother-in-law.  She just HAD to show me what Candy Crush was all about.  I had no interest in playing the latest and greatest game.  I was completely content with the few Words With Friends games I was involved in.  I didn’t have room in my life for Candy Crush.  Just the name turned me off.  It sounded like something you played while you waited to see if the girl in homeroom texts you back.  It seems like something you play while listening to Taylor Swift or Ke$ha (or as I call her, K-dollar sign-ha).  I would not give in.

I gave in.  And I took my wife with me.  (Sorry, baby.  We’re going down together.)

Me: Are you going to connect with Facebook?

Wife who is not going to like that I’m posting this: No way, I don’t want people to know I play this thing.

Me: Me neither.

Well, I guess we should connect now.

Today I had to fly out of town for the week to work from Fort Walton Beach, FL.  My flight out of Daytona Beach was delayed, which meant that I had a meager few minutes to teleport through ATL.  Of course, I had to change concourses.  Of course when I got to my gate there was a flight going to Jacksonville, FL.  Of course when I asked where my flight went (though I got there slightly before the doors were supposed to close), no one knew where it was.  Luckily, I was booked on the next flight about 90 minutes later.

What’s worse than having to sit and sweat in the Atlanta airport after missing your flight?  Doing it without any Candy Crush lives left.  If you haven’t (yet) jumped on the Candy Crush bandwagon, when you fail a level enough times, you eventually run out of lives.  The makers of the game must have found that 30 minutes is an appropriate amount of time to stew on your frustration because you didn’t “clear all the jellies.”  (Seriously, how stupid does that sound?).  Once all your lives are out, a timer starts and after 30 minutes you start accumulating lives again.  Oh, how painstaking it is to wait for your next life to regenerate.  Or, you could just buy some.  I read that this game makes over $600,000 per day from people with no restraint.

This game is interesting.  You fail and fail and fail and eventually just sit back and wait/buy/beg others for a new life to be given to you so you have hope of moving to the next level.  That sounds a lot like life, dontcha think?  We face adversity, we struggle to pay bills, we toil on work projects, we tussle with home improvement projects or we get lost in our own sin.  We end up getting let down, beat up and knocked back.  At least, I do.

Years ago, when I got sick of my ways and fed up with the sin in my life, I sought after God and pleaded that he give me new life.  Of course, he did.  Romans 6:4 says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

I received that new life.  A guaranteed, spoken for and undeserved eternal life.  But, that doesn’t mean that the day-to-day gets easier.  Recently, I’ve encountered challenge after challenge.  Whenever I feel like I’ve moved past one level, the next has something completely different in store for me.  To compare it to Candy Crush, it’s like moving past the jelly and having licorice wrapped candies instead (wow, I’ve never used a more lame metaphor.)

Anyway, the point is this: I’ve been stuck in a valley and I want out.  I have to rely on God, the giver of life, instead of myself.  There’s a lot of things that God wants me to do.  I truly believe that.  He’s given me vision, passion and desire.  But, the waiting is painstaking.

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10 things to teach our kids

My friend Chris and I have a history of creating top five lists.  We would make lists at work, at home, on road trips – top five rock songs, top five comedies, top five things we miss about our old lifeguard jobs – lists about anything and everything. 

Today, Chris sent me a list of five essential things he wanted his daughter to learn.  So, I’m combining his list (and blatantly stealing quotes of his) along with many of my own.

Top 10 Things to Teach Our Kids.

1. Love others unconditionally.

Our values may not line up with what our friends, family or society believe, but it’s important that we love others no matter what.  Not only is it God’s command to love each other, but it’s just common sense.  We have to tolerate each other.  We have to love people because, frankly, we need to be loved in return.  We all want to be loved.  No matter how big, bad and macho we are, inside we still crave human compassion.

2. Hugs are completely OK.

My kids give awesome and sweet hugs.  There’s comfort and security when I hug my wife.  I enjoy a brotherly hug from my male friends.  A hug is more personal than a handshake, but not too intrusive to be inappropriate.  Hugs can show appreciation.  Hugs can show congratulations.  Hugs can be consoling or forgiving.  Hugs are quite versatile.

3. Winning is important.

I used to play recreation basketball in middle school and junior high.  At the end of each year, we got the stereotypical participation trophy that basically said, “Hey, you played in a bunch of games, though you won only a couple.  Thanks for the $30 season fee.” Chris is a cross-country coach and had a parent complain that the varsity team was too competitive for her daughter.  This is not acceptable.  Winning is important.  Winning builds character and rewards hard work.  Losing forms humility and identifies areas that need improvement.

Additionally, as parents, we should want to always support our kids, but not fight their battles for them.  One of my close high school friends didn’t make the basketball team, even though I did.  His dad was convinced that he was better than me and others on the team and demanded that his son get another chance.  Luckily, our coach stood his ground and didn’t let that happen.

4. Ask for help.

Be confident in your abilities, but don’t be too filled with pride that you don’t ask for help.  We need to learn to do things on our own.  Our culture is becoming concierge society.  We want someone to wash our cars, change our flat tires, buy our groceries, run our errands and even teach values to our kids.  There are so many things I want to learn.  I want to learn to paint.  I want to learn to change my own oil.  I want to learn how to do home improvement projects.  In many cases, I’m too busy to take the time to learn and would rather pay someone to install something for me.  There’s something special about learning and accomplishing something on your own.  There’s also something endearing about asking for help…and receiving it!

5. Hard work is essential.

In addition to being a successful coach, Chris is also a very gifted teacher.  Over the years, he has had several conversations with students that all-too-often sound like this:

Oblivious student: Why did I fail the test?

Chris: Well, did you study?

Oblivious student: A little.

Chris: So, you didn’t study, you didn’t do any homework and you didn’t actively participate in class.  I have a pretty good idea why you failed.

If you want to truly do well in sports, school, work or in your walk with God, you have to put in the work.  Nothing just “comes naturally.”  LeBron James is an amazing athlete and a talented basketball player.  He’s won four MVP awards and two consecutive NBA championships.  He didn’t just pick up a ball and start scoring at will.  It took work.  A ton of it. 

I didn’t study much in college, but I graduated with honors.  As an art major, many of my final exams were actually final projects.  In other academic classes like psychology or art history, I just understood concepts and remembered art pieces well enough to excel on tests.  I put in the time to my regular lessons and then cruised on through the tests.  But, in an American government class, I got a low C on our first test.  It was nearly a D.  I had never gotten a score so low.  Ever.  I’ve always been a stellar student.  Getting a C terrified me.  So, I had to put in extra work in that class so my GPA didn’t suffer.  After that first test, I got an A on every other test including a perfect score on my final exam.

My Drawing 1 class was a nightmare.  I had to take the class in order to meet my core art requirements.  I couldn’t move on to courses in my photography concentration until I completed the core work.  On the first day of class I was handed a piece of coral and told to draw it.  Huh?  How do you even start to draw a chunk of coral?  “Just draw it,” the teacher said.  “Can you help me?” I asked.  “No, just draw it,” said the teacher as he sipped his coffee (rumored to contain shots of liquor.)  “I’ll be transferring classes soon,” I said.

And I did.  My new professor gave me a lot of help.  I was not an “art kid.”  I only used charcoal to start a grill, not to draw with.  I’d never used Gesso or those fun erasers that you can pull apart.  I struggled to learn drawing and fought all semester to earn my grades.  For our final project, our assignment was to draw a still life scene our professor set up (he created WEIRD still life arrangements) on a 48×36 paper.  Yes, four feet by three feet.   Holy crap.  I sat in our classroom and drew the still life for 18 consecutive hours.  I started in the afternoon and drew through the night.  I took a break only to get a soda and use the bathroom.  I didn’t sleep.  I didn’t eat.  Other art kids came and went and finished their masterpieces in a few hours.  Meanwhile, I was burning both ends of the midnight oil.  I worked incredibly hard on that piece and got a B-.  For me, that was huge.  I still have it today and it remains a very proud accomplishment for me.  Hard work is essential to our careers and our character.

6. Try everything once.

My mom had a rule for me while I was growing up.  I had to try every food once.  If I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to have it again, but I needed to try it.  I follow that rule still today.  I’m a very adventurous eater (the weirder the better).  But, I keep the same mentality with experiences.  I want to enjoy life for what it is, a collection of moments that are gifts to us.  We’re only around for a small amount of time.  If God places an opportunity in front of me, I want to act on it.  I want to be available to experience his glory.

7. Stop and relax.

Life gets busy.  Too busy sometimes and it is important to recover and relax from the stresses of the world. God knew this and that is why the Sabbath was so important.  Chris has coached many runners who continually pushed themselves harder and harder.  The human body cannot do that without getting injured. Recovery runs and rest days are just as essential to a good runner as a hard workout.

I struggle with this concept.  I was training for a 5k at the end of last year.  If I ran for three straight minutes one day, I wanted to run for four the next day.  If I ran three miles one day, I couldn’t understand why I shouldn’t be able to go do three-and-a-half the next day.  One day, I ended up running/walking over 6.5 miles.  This was quite a feat for me.  My body is not built for running, despite my multiple attempts at doing so.  I never ran that 5k because I developed bursitis and couldn’t even lift my legs to get into the bathtub.  I needed rest.

We need rest from our schooling and our work.  If we push and push and push, we will burn out.  We need to reduce the noise and relax.

8. Expression is crucial.

We all need a release.  For me, I need to create.  I need to be taking photos or writing or something.  I wish I had more time (and money and space) to have a studio where I could paint, sculpt and photograph.  I am absolutely fascinated by abstract painters.  I love watching them create and assessing the psychology of what they do, where they place their strokes and what colors they use.  Check out this video of Asheville, NC painter Jonas Gerard.

He’s amazing and inspiring.  He is completely free and spontaneous, but controlled and deliberate.  I have a huge desire to paint huge pieces, but I’ve never tried it before.  These are the things I think about when work gets chaotic.  This blog has helped immensely with organizing my thoughts.  We should never be hesitant for our self-expression whether it’s music, cooking, writing, painting, yoga, drawing or basket weaving.

9. Encourage others.

One legendary coach said to praise three people a day as one key to a happy life. Chris says he is much happier when he’s focused on encouraging others. 

Last year, I wrote letters to the five people who influenced me the most in my Christian life.  It felt great.  I wanted these men to know how much I appreciated their prayers, their example and their involvement in my life.  I get a thrill out of telling the people who have influenced me how they have helped change me.  I found a former high school teacher online a few years ago and sent him an email thanking him for encouraging me to change the way I thought and approached life.  He was all about the “carpe diem / O captain, my captain” movement from Dead Poet’s Society.  He encouraged us to write and explore new music and ask ‘why?’

One day, shortly after my family moved to Florida, all the high school guys I taught during Sunday school texted me at the same time on a Sunday morning.  I missed them so much and appreciated the encouragement.  As a manager, I try to build up my team.  I hope they know that I appreciate all their work, though I know I probably don’t tell them often enough.  I respond so much better to one sentence of encouragement than a tirade of tearing down.

10. Observe.

We should also observe others.  As a husband, father, Christian, employee and manager, I learn from everyone.  I have observed all the managers I’ve worked for and worked with to see how they handle their staff and approach their goals.  I take away all the good things and learn what things I need to leave behind.

For the last 17 years, I’ve been observing the world through a camera lens.  When I travel, I enjoy documenting everything.  I remember my experiences through my photographs.  I might not remember all the details, but I remember my photos, which remember the details in turn.  We should observe the world around us as if we won’t see it again.  God’s creation is beautiful, one of a kind and amazing.  Observing our environment, the smells, the feels, the sensation of the breeze, it all helps us appreciate what we have.

We need to look around with curiosity.

11. Extras are OK, too.

I want my kids to know how special they are.  They should never doubt for a second how much I love them. They should never wonder if I will forgive them for something they did (or didn’t do).  They should know how much I love their mother. 

My daughter should know she is beautiful, no matter what some girl at school says or what some magazine/tv show/music video portrays.  She should know that it’s OK to be tough and competitive.  She should know that no boy will ever be good enough for her, but God will pair her with one anyway.  

My son should know that he will always be my little buddy, no matter how big, tough or old he gets.  He should know that I’ll always love watching him play and compete, even when he plays poorly or loses.  He should know that I am so incredibly proud of him every single day.  He should know that it’s OK to love his mom publicly and protect his sister. 

They should both know that they are prayed for every day and loved unconditionally.  They should know that they are blessings and the answer to many prayers.

Sometimes extras are OK.

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