Tag Archives: life

Fantasy Football, Real Life Jesus. Part Two: The Prize

First place, Hispanic men’s soccer league, Charlotte, NC.

I am not Hispanic.  I do not live in Charlotte.  I do not play soccer.  But, I must have this trophy.

You see, this trophy, along with bragging rights, is the prize for our church fantasy football league.

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I bought this beauty at a garage sale for a couple bucks.  While driving through my friend’s neighborhood, my wife caught a glimpse of the trophy.  Knowing that I was looking for an elegant, professional trophy for our league, she (against her best judgement) pointed it out to me and we pulled over.  There was a young girl, maybe 8-years-old, manning the family garage sale.  Her father, I assume the owner of the prized trophy, was not around.

“Hi,” I said to the girl.  “I’d like to buy your magnificent trophy, please.  Will you take $3?”

And it was done.

This 3-foot symbol of athletic (and fantasy) excellence is exactly what I had been looking for.  I brought it to our live draft and put a sheet over it.  As all the guys showed up, they wanted two things: homemade guacamole and to know what I was hiding.  Just before we started the clock for the first pick of the draft, I unveiled our statue of fantasy football supremacy.  Immediately, every guy in the room thought the same thing, “My wife is gonna hate this.  Excellent.”

I was able to hold on to the trophy during that season because I won the previous year.  We’ve had three other winners since the trophy was introduced.  The wives seemed to win the battle initially.  The trophy has been outcast to closets and garages, but currently, our league champion is proudly displaying the pièce de résistance on a shelf in his office.  I’m sure it helps keep him motivated on work all day.

The North Carolina Hispanic soccer league trophy is our prize.  It’s what we desire.  It’s the reward at the end of months of planning and strategy and luck and fun.  It’s so tacky and so silly that we (as guys) have to have it.

As believers in Christ, are we living in such a way that we’re making Him our prize each day?  If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably no.  I would like to think that I’m working for the prize every hour of every day.  But, I’m not perfect.  That’s not an excuse, it’s a reason and I’m not hiding behind it.  If it were an excuse, I’d simply stop trying to live for Christ.  It’s a daily struggle of personal sin and selfishness, despite knowing better.

We should be reminded of our prize in Christ.

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:12

We should be refreshed by our prize in Christ.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16, 17

We should be re-energized by our prize in Christ.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

We should rejoice in our prize in Christ.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

We should relish in our prize in Christ.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14.

Obviously, I love that last verse, it’s what this blog is named after.  Despite our challenges, stumbling points and shortcomings, we need to keep a constant focus on Christ.  Remember learning how to catch when you dad would tell you to keep your eye on the ball?  What happened when you didn’t?  You got nailed in the eye or nose or crotch-ular region.  As a basketball player, I know how important it is to focus on the rim when I’m shooting a jump shot.  If I don’t square up and watch the rim the whole time I’m executing the jump shot (it doesn’t take me very long to jump), I know I’m not going to make the shot.

In our fantasy league, the desire to win drives us to constantly adjust our lineups, look at injury news, seek out trades and make the right decisions.  In our daily lives with Christ, we should have a similar desire to constantly readjust our focus, look at others first, seek out Biblical wisdom and make the right decisions.

Yes, I want this beautiful trophy to be back at my residence and display it prominently so people ask me about it when they come over.  But, even greater, I want to live so that Christ is my trophy and elevated on my personal mantel so that others will ask me about him when they see him through me.

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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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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.

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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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10 Life Lessons from the Movie Big

You know the scene.  Josh and Billy are walking down the street after a busy day of being kids.  They start singing –

The space goes down, down baby, down, down the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, sweet, sweet, don’t let me go. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. I met a girlfriend – a triscuit. She said, a triscuit – a biscuit. Ice cream, soda pop, vanilla on the top. Ooh, Shelly’s out, walking down the street, ten times a week. I read it. I said it. I stole my momma’s credit. I’m cool. I’m hot. Sock me in the stomach three more times.

I have no idea what this song is, but I know that I’ll never forget it.

Big_Poster

Big came out the day after my 7th birthday in 1988.  If you’ve never seen this movie before, immediately stop what you’re doing and head to Netflix.  In case you haven’t seen this piece of cinematic wonder in a while, here’s a brief summary.   The movie is about a 12-year-old boy, Josh Baskin, who wishes to be ‘big’ in order to fit in and win over a lady.  The morning after he makes the wish, he wakes up a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks).

I have no idea how many times I’ve seen the movie, but it’s somewhere around 174 (just guessing).  Here are 10 lessons to apply to your life immediately.

1. Be happy with who you are…and when you are.

Zoltar Speaks

Zoltar Speaks

Josh was so frustrated with being a small 12-year-old and he just couldn’t stand it any more. After dropping a coin in the Zoltar Speaks machine, he wishes to completely bypass the most important years of his young life and skip right to being an adult just to fit in.  While you’re ‘growing up’ you have a lot of milestones to look forward to.

  • 10-years-old – double digits!
  • 13-years-old – you’re a teenager!
  • 16-years-old – you can drive!
  • 18-years-old – you can vote / you graduated high school!
  • 21-years-old – you can drink!
  • 25-years-old – you can save on insurance!
  • 30-years-old – you can kiss your youth goodbye!

After a while, there’s not a lot of personal milestones to anticipate.  Soon, you start getting excited about those milestones for your own kids.  No matter what age you are, you’re going to feel somewhat unfulfilled, too young, too old, too early, too late, too awkward, too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall, too carefree, too worrisome, too too too.  If we spend all our days waiting for what’s next, we’ll forget to pay attention of what’s going on now.  In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

God made us in his image.  He planned for our existence at this very time.  He didn’t plan for us to be around in 1730 or 600 or 300 B.C.  He chose for you to be here now.  He chose the way we look.  He chose our skills.  He chose our weaknesses.  When we try to force changes or wish upon a Zoltar, we’re telling God that we think our plans are more important.*

*(They aren’t.)

2. Don’t forget about your friends.

big_joshbilly

As we get older our circle of influence grows wider and wider with the people we work with, go to church with or parents of the friends our kids hang out with.  But, I think over time our inner circle of really close friends thins out.  Graduation, relocation and reproduction all pull us away from the friends we used to see all the time.

During one scene, Josh and Billy are arguing because Josh’s job is consuming all his time.  Josh tells Billy that job is important.

Billy replies, “I’m your best friend. What’s more important than that, huh?”

We need to embrace our friends, both literally and figuratively.  Take the time to call people.  I struggle with this.  I get selfish with my time.  I might be on a three-hour drive across the state, but I just want to zone out and listen to music.  I truly miss several of my friends and I love that I can pick up where I left off with many of them.  It’s been hard moving to a new city and having to build my friend base over again.  I miss cutting up with my friends.  I miss serving my friends.  I miss being able to give them an actual hug (my man-card says I can do that from time to time.)

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

3. Realize that things are temporary.

big_apartment

Greatest.  Apartment.  Ever.  What kid (heck, what adult) didn’t want this bachelor pad.  Josh had a Pepsi machine (mine would have been Coke, but still…) in his apartment!  He had ridiculously high ceilings and a massive trampoline outfitted with rubber balls.  He had a basketball hoop.  Inside.  He had bunk beds (“I get to be on top!”)  He had a 6′ godzilla-blow-up-thing and pinball games.  This place was awesome.

But, Josh started to fall in love.  As he did, more and more of his time was spent at his girlfriend’s place, or out on dates.  Eventually, he started realizing how out of place he was and how much he just wanted to be back home as a kid.  His things became less and less important.  You could walk in his apartment and think he had the world on a string, but inside Josh was insecure and scared.

Who are we once you strip away all our belongings?  How much do we rely on our things for joy instead of relationships with God, family or friends?

4. You’re never too old to have fun.

This is probably the most iconic scene in Big and one of the most timeless scenes ever.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…”

5. Speak up if you don’t understand something.

A co-worker and I have created our own term.  When a vendor is trying to explain something to us and we just don’t quite follow what they are saying, we say that we “Tom Hanks it.”  Simply, this just means that the value proposition or main point is not being clearly communicated.

In this scene, Josh doesn’t understand how anyone could have fun with a building that turned into a robot.

6. You don’t have to blend in.

big_tuxedo

For the record, I believe that everyone should own a great piece of thrift store formal wear.  I have a couple of pretty stellar suits that haven’t been in style since Big came out.  I quite enjoy wearing them when I get the opportunity.

Josh made a heck of an entrance when he showed up to a company event dressed in an all-white tuxedo.  He didn’t blend in with all the other traditional black penguin-style tuxedos in the room.  If we were all preoccupied with being someone else, no one would be themselves.

7. Do things on your own terms.

big_dollars

Josh Baskin’s first paycheck working for the toy company was for $187.30.  Josh went to the bank (this was way before auto-draft) to cash his check and the cashier asked him a profound question.  “How do you want that?”

“Three dimes, a hundred-dollar bill and 87 ones.”

We should do what we want every now and then.  God still wants us to have fun.  He kinda invented it.  We have the physical ability to feel fun, excitement and spontaneity.

Ecclesiastes 3:13 reminds us that God wants us to have enjoyment, “Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”

8. Do what you love.

Billy: So you got a job, where you play with all these toys.

Josh: Yup!

Billy: And they’re gonna pay you for that!

Josh: Yup!

Billy: SUCKERS!

Colossians 3:23-24 tell us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Whether we are working in ministry or in secular careers, we should be working to benefit the Lord and we should love doing it.  Not everyone is called to work in ministry.  Some are called to serve in other industries that keep the world moving.  We need doctors, teachers, farmers, assembly line workers, white collars, blue collars and volunteers.  We need to prayerfully consider how our career could impact the church body and how our own personal ministries can penetrate the workplace.

9. Throw thermal pod.

big_wizard

Early in the movie, Josh is playing an old-school computer game and he can’t get past a certain level.  He is standing among slain ice dwarfs and has to defeat the evil wizard, but has no idea how.  Eventually, as Josh’s life experiences influenced him and gave him wisdom, he revisits the game and conquers the evil wizard with the command “throw thermal pod.”

We need to intentionally pray for wisdom to overcome our current and future dilemmas.  Solomon prayed and his “wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.”

There are over 200 references to wisdom throughout Scripture.  Job 12:12 says, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

10. Hug your mom.

big_mom

For heaven’s sake, hug your mom.

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