Grace and Lane Kiffin

When I woke up this morning, I awoke to some interesting news.  Lane Kiffin, head football coach at the University of Southern California (USC) had been fired overnight.  For those that are not sports people, it is rare for a coach to be fired in the middle of the season.  It is even rarer for them to be fired hours after a game.  But that is what happened to Kiffin.

Now let me preface what will follow by this.  I am from Tennessee.  I was born and raised in Tennessee.  I grew up watching the University of Tennessee football team play.  They were my favorite college football team growing up and they are still one of three teams that I root for every week (along with University of Washington and Wofford College).

So I know who Lane Kiffin is.  He is the coach who was the coach of the Volunteers for one season before leaving for the job at USC.  That in part has led to the last couple of years not being good for UT.  At the time it happened, I was mad.  I thought it was stupid to leave after one year and go to USC (granted I didn’t like USC because they are a rival of Washington too).  As time has went on though, I’ve let that go.

So when I woke up this morning to hear that Kiffin had been fired, my first thought was literally “Oh”.  Now granted part of that was I was still waking up but still.  But I turned on TV and got on twitter and it was everywhere.  And I saw a lot of people that are UT fans celebrating and all that.

It got me to think and as I was sitting through the worship I thought about it some more.  The sermon this morning talked about grace.  Grace.  I once heard a great definition of grace.  Grace is getting a gift we don’t deserve.  God shows grace to us in that while we are sinners, He still loves us and showed that by sending Jesus to die for our sins.  God shows us grace in that he forgives us when we ask for repentance.  He gives us new life and the opportunity to be called children of God.  That is grace.

So what does grace have to do with Lane Kiffin?  I plan on showing grace to Lane Kiffin.  Followers of Jesus are called to be like Christ and one of those ways is by showing grace.  It is easy to pile onto Kiffin right now.  But he’s human just like I am.  He’s made dumb decisions just like I have.  He’s said dumb things just like I have.  And I know if I was in that position, I would hope that grace would be shown to me.

Sports is a fun and cool thing.  But like a lot of things, it needs to be in it’s proper place.  It can be a useful tool in pointing to Christ instead of trying to replace Him.  So today, on a day that is a day of corporate worship of Jesus, I’m going to show grace to Lane Kiffin.  And hopefully that grace shown to him will point to Jesus.

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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Twitter

Twitter.  Everyone today knows exactly what you mean when you say the word Twitter.  It has become not just a cultural phenomenon but a part of every day life.  You can’t go anywhere without seeing something that somebody tweeting or what’s trending.  Before twitter, the pound sign was just that, a pound sign.  Now it’s a hashtag.  Tweets help break news and communicate life.

I was not an early adopter but I did get into Twitter before it really broke out.  I started on Twitter in January of 2009, while I was still in seminary.  Back then, I guess it was in the late stages of being hipster (which is funny cause I’m not the hipster type) because it hadn’t broken into the mainstream.  I grew to like Twitter and over 21 thousand tweets later, it is one of the big ways of expressing myself on social media.  But through the years, I’ve come to understand like a lot of things it is useful but it can also be something to watch out for as well.  So for this post, i wanted to look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Twitter.

The good:

This is the fun part to write.  There are a lot of good things about Twitter.  First off, it’s a good way to express ideas or thoughts quickly.  I like to write as has been documented and Twitter is a good means of doing that.  Twitter is especially good at expressing what I’m thinking in real time.  While blogs are good for sit down thought provoking means, Twitter is in the moment capturing thoughts and ideas.  Major sporting events, TV shows/movies or news events are now covered on Twitter.  It has been cool to be able to share my thought in real time to those events and to follow those events as well.  Twitter has been a great way to keep up with friends that are far away as we can have quick little conversations about life and events.  It has also been a really cool way to connect with celebrities and athletes in a way I never thought I would.  I have had twitter conversations with some pretty famous people and it has been really cool.

The bad:

There are some downsides to Twitter.  One major one being the 140 characters limit.  It is hard sometimes to express all you want with those limitations.  Sometimes it takes a couple of tweets in a conversation to convey one’s thought completely.  Also it’s hard to have very extended dialogue on twitter with someone.  Twitter is a great starting off point and a way to have some conversations but it doesn’t substitute other means of conversations.

The ugly:

Like most things, Twitter can be used for evil as well as good.  The ugly side is how some people use Twitter.  They use it as a means of attacking other people.  I’ve seen it (and some ways experienced it as well) how mean and cruel some people can be on Twitter by the things they say.  Curse words beyond belief, vulgar language and even hateful threats are thrown out by people.  Not even that, there is the tendency to be snarky and mean on twitter that seems to be prevalent at times as well.  It is sad but this is a part of the way of life on Twitter.

Thoughts:

For all the faults and wrinkles, I think Twitter is a pretty cool thing.  It is a great means of expressing one’s ideas as well as one’s faith.  It is also something that has to be used responsibly.  If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have to watch what you tweet.  I know this is something I always keep in mind when I write something down on Twitter.  I check it before I tweet because I know as soon as I send it that I’m responsible for what I tweet.  Whether I’m tweeting a bible verse, a thought or reflection on something God is teaching me, a quick conversation with a friend or celebrity, or something about a news or sporting event, I want to tweet something that reflects my faith in Jesus Christ and doesn’t deter from that.  That can be hard sometimes, because just like speaking it’s easy to say something and not think about the words used.  We as followers of Jesus are called to be salt and light.  Twitter is another avenue to do just that.  So the next time you break out your smartphone or get online at your computer to tweet, think about what you tweet.  Like I said, Twitter is a pretty cool thing and can be a valuable asset when used responsibly.

Hope and the Fight For It

I tend to be an optimistic guy.  I tend to look at the bright side of things.  Glass half full kind of thing.  Granted, this is difficult when things are going roughly but it’s what I try to do.  Through those hard times, I try to have hope.

Hope, it’s actually a good four letter word.  It’s also something that at times can feel like it is in short supply.  That is something I can attest to very well.  When life feels like it is crashing down on you and you feel all alone, it is hard to have hope.  It makes you question a lot of things.  But yet as followers of Jesus, we are to have hope.

It’s easy to have hope when life is going well.  It feels like hope is in ample supply.  But when the storms of life rage and beat at you from all sides, it seems like hope takes a vacation.  When you are beat up from life and you don’t know down from up, you struggle to see hope.  But hope is there.

It feels like a fight sometimes to keep hoping, to keep trusting.  I know this is true.  I also know that I am not alone.  Even if there is no one else around, God is still there.  He hasn’t left me.  There are some days when that’s all I have to live for and that is it.  What gets me through the day is that God loves me and He has a plan for me and He is not through with me yet.  That gives me reason for hope.  That gives me a reason to keep fighting.

Scars and the Stories They Tell

A couple of years ago while when I was in seminary, I wrote a post on Facebook.  I thought I’d post my thoughts about the topic here because I feel like it’s still relevant.

I have scars. Several in fact. In the physical sense I have two main ones.  One is from having my appendix removed when I was very young (around 4 or 5).  The other is on my left index finger from having a coffee cart dropped on it and smashing it while I was in Seattle.  They aren’t as defined as they once were but you can still see them (especially the one on my finger since it’s in plain sight.)

I also have emotional scars.  Some of my own making because of immaturity, some from others (through their words and actions).  But they are there.  Those you have a hard time seeing unless I open up and share about them.  But they are a part of me as well.

I think for a long time I’ve tried to hide my scars.  You want to be seen as “perfect” even though we all know that’s never the case.  But it doesn’t mean those scars aren’t there just because I try to hide them.  They’re still there and I shouldn’t be trying to hide them for one simple reason.  They are there for a purpose.

As we know from physical scars, there was first a wound.  There was a cut or surgery or something that cause there to be a wound that needed to be treated.  Sometimes those wounds healed quickly.  Other times, those wounds would take a long time to heal.  But when they did heal, there remained a scar.  That scar showed that healing had taken place.

Like physical scars, emotional scars come from a wound.  Whether it’s an action or words that someone speaks, they cut and hurt.  Emotional wounds can cut deep and healing needs to take place.  Sometimes the healing process is quick and other times it takes time.  And like physical scars, there are emotional scars that remain.

I believe that God uses those emotional scars as a reminder of His healing in our lives and how He continues to be with us. I’m not a patient person.  Even though I’m better than I used to be, I’m still not as patient as I could be.  When I’m sick or hurt, I want to hurry up and get better.  But you can’t rush healing.  It takes time.  I think it’s the same emotionally,  You have to have time to heal.  However, when you are healed, you can look back and see how you are taken care of through the whole thing by Him.

When I look at the scar on my finger as I tend to do from time to time, I remember the incident.  However, there is no pain involved.  I don’t experience the pain I felt from the accident each time I look at my scar.  What I do remember is that God was watching out for me, and  He took care of me.  The same can be said for my emotional scars as well.  I can look back on events now that have happened in the past and I don’t feel the pain about them anymore.  I may bear the scars but I don’t feel the pain.  I’m reminded of how He has led me to the point in my life where I am now.  Even though it has not been easy following Jesus, I don’t know anywhere else I could be or should be.  That assurance that Jesus gave His disciples in Matthew 28:20 about being with them “always” (or in the Greek, “all of the days”) is an assurance that I have too.

So I try to not be ashamed or hide my scars.  Instead, I hope that I can use the stories that come from them to reflect Jesus and the impact that He has and continues to have in and through my life.

Just Write It

I like to write.  Writing is something that I like to do.  Well, I should say creative writing is something I like to do.  I never was a big fan of writing research papers in high school, college or grad school.  Granted, I could write them and did pretty well if I put my mind to it.  Even if I didn’t, I usually ended up with a pretty good grade.  Regardless, writing is something that I enjoy doing and am decent at it.

Writing is an outlet for me to express myself.  Growing up I would write poems or short stories.  Some of those I still have in some notebook that is stored away.  Some have been lost.  I even wrote a novel that I started in high school and worked on for years.  I eventually “finished” it and maybe someday might get around to publishing it.  Then a little over 10 years ago (wow, 10 years) I started blogging.  That was a way to express myself and to keep track of my journey.  This led through several different blogs (LiveJournal and Xanga) and several different states and even a summer overseas.  Through rough times and good times, i blogged about them.

Last year and early into this year, my writing tailed off.  I wasn’t inspired to write anything and wasn’t motivated to write.  I think it was the season of life I was in (and I guess somewhat I’m still in at the moment).  Creatively, I was in a writer’s block.  Blogging wise, there was a lot of things that I was trying to processes outside of blogging and so I wasn’t writing.

Then about the time I started this new blog, I read an article (which the author’s name now escapes me).  But the author was talking about writing and sometimes you have to just write whether you’re inspired or not.  And I thought about how when I was going through rough times in ministry and how writing was a way for me to process things.  I knew I needed to get back to that.  So taking off of the Nike slogan “Just Do It”, I’m trying to “Just Write It”.  Whether it’s this blog or creative writing that I will try to do again, I know I just need to write.

I would encourage you (those who may read this) to find your creative outlet.  Whether it’s writing (like me) or singing or painting or whatever it is, find that thing were you can process and express yourself.  Use it as a means to share your life with others and glorify God as well.

Patience and Forgiveness

Patience.  That is a word that I struggle with very much.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a patient person.  I’m better than I used to be but still not what I want to be.  I want to go when sometimes I have to wait.  And sometimes that means waiting a long time, way longer than I want to but sometimes that is what is required.

I was pondering this today.  Showing patience and showing forgiveness are similar.  They are both hard to do but the the benefits are great.  When we show patience with one another, our relationships develop and grow.  We are able to work things out in a way that not showing patience allows.

We all know the Golden Rule (And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  Luke 6:31 ESV).  I think we all want people to show us patience.  We should be mindful of this and show patience with others.  I think this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.  I want patience shown to me but sometimes I don’t in turn show patience with others.  It’s not fun on the other end of that equation.  Like forgiveness, sometimes you may show patience to someone and they do not show patience in return.  But that shouldn’t deter you from continuing to show patience just like it shouldn’t deter from forgiving someone if they do not forgive you in return.

This season in my life is making me learn patience more so than any other time in my life.  Not just patience for me to wait on the Lord for providing but also in showing patience to others.  No matter who you are or what stage of life you are in, that is a lesson to learn and apply.

Keep Moving Forward: Perseverance and Rocky Balboa

Perseverance is a word that is at the forefront of those who are followers of Jesus.  Throughout the Bible, there are stories of those who had to deal with hard times and had to persevere.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to persevere in our journey of faith.  It is understood that this life will be hard.  The apostle Paul used the analogy of boxing or fighting in several of his letters (1 Corinthians 9, 2 Timothy 4).  It was a good metaphor then and still is today.

One of my favorite film series are the Rocky movies.  I grew up watching them over and over again (except for Rocky V….which in my opinion belongs with those movies that do not exist).  When Rocky Balboa came out in 2006, I saw it in the theaters while I was living in Seattle.  The movie really struck a cord with me.  I’ve rewatched it several times, especially when I’m going through a tough time.

One scene in that film that is very poignant is the scene with Rocky and his son talking outside.  Here’s the scene:

The key line from that scene is this:  “But it ain’t about how hard you hit.  It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  How much you can take and keep moving forward.”  That is perseverance.  We will get knocked down in this life.  We will get beat down.  That is a given.  Sometimes we get knocked down so hard it rocks our world.  It is no fun at all to go through those times.  I can speak from experience (and recent experience at that) that it is no fun.  But as a follower of Jesus, I am called to persevere.  I’m to keep moving forward.  I know that I cannot do this alone.  Each time I’m knocked down by life, Jesus is right there to get me back on my feet and moving forward again.  That’s perseverance.