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.

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.

9/11

It has been 12 years since 9-11-01.  I remember that day, not as clearly as I once did but I still remember.  I wrote about what I remembered in my old blog and will share what I wrote:

I was a senior in college and was just starting my final year at Union University.  Though I can’t remember every detail, there are some lasting memories that stick with me.  It was a Tuesday and so I had Senior Seminar (I was a History major) as my first class.  I woke up around 8:00am (cause my class was at 9:25) and started to do my normal routine of getting up (turn on the radio, turn on my computer, change clothes, surf the net and eat breakfast).  When I turned on the radio, the station was one that had this morning crew that typically were all funny and played music in between (standard).  Well they weren’t all joking and what finally caught my attention (when I finally became alert and fully awake) was about crashing into towers.  I was like what the heck so I ran into the living room and turned on the TV and that’s when I saw the images of the World Trade Center live on screen.  A little bit afterward, two of my roommates at the time Dave and Kevin woke up and walked into the living room and I told them what was going on.  For the longest time, we just watched the screen.  I finally pulled myself away to go to class although I really didn’t want to go.  Unfortunately, we had class though the students pretty much regretted it as we just didn’t want to be in a classroom at that point.  That ended up being the only class I went to as all the others I had were cancelled.  The rest of the day I remember being split between being in Pam’s (the girl’s RD at the time) apartment with my friend Christy and in my dorm room with my friends watching the news.  The other thing I remember (and what helped us laugh through such a surreal and sad time) was watching ABC and the local affiliate (WBBJ 7) cutting into the national newscast around 3 or so and the local news anchor throwing it to a reporter who was at Mckellar Sipes Airport (for those not from Jackson, Tennesee, that’s the regional airport) and saying that there was nothing going on at the airport.  Me and my friends looked at each other and were like, you interrupted the national coverage to tell us that?  We later laughed about it but at the time we thought that was ridiculous.

Six months later, I was on a plane (the first time I ever flew in my life) to Boston for spring break mission trip.  I will never know a world where flying doesn’t involve screenings and security and all that.  I still remember when we were flying back to Memphis and going through security at Logan Airport and the security guys had machine guns.  It was surreal even six months later.

9-11-01 was 12 years ago now.  It doesn’t seem that long ago but it has been.  Through all of this, it’s important to remember that God is greater than all the problems and hardships we go through.  He never leaves us.  Through tragedies or triumphs, God is right there.  That is something to never forget.

Luke Skywalker and Me

Anyone who knows me, knows that my favorite movies are the original Star Wars Trilogy.  I grew up watching those films over and over again (and would dare say i could pretty much quote at length most of them).  I collected the toys and books and pretty much anything Star Wars.  So I would say that I know that “universe” pretty well.

If you asked me growing up what Star Wars character I would’ve wanted to be, I would have told you Han Solo.  He was cool and flew around the galaxy in the Millennium Falcon.  He had a cool companion in Chewbacca.  When people messed with him, he just drew his blaster.  And of course there was Princess Leia, who fell in love with him.  If there was any Star Wars character to be, it would be Han Solo.

But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand I’m more like Luke Skywalker.  Yeah on the one hand he’s a Jedi and that’s cool.  But compared to Han?  Luke’s not as cool.  But, I do relate more to Luke.  Growing up, I wanted to get away.  I dreamed about what was out there beyond.  Luke was very much that way as he went through his days on the farm that Uncle Owen & Aunt Beru ran.  As he left Tatooine and traveled, I have been able to do the same going on adventures I’d never imagined.

Like Luke, I struggle with anger.  The film The Empire Strikes Back, showed that side of Luke rather well and it’s a characteristic in my life that I still try and work through.  Also like Skywalker, I struggle with being impatient.  I’m not a patient person.  Luke is not either.  In Empire, he hastily leaves his training on Dagobah to try and help his friends against the advisement of Yoda & Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Kenobi even screams out to Luke “Patience!”  There are those seasons in my life (and right now is one of them) where I need that screamed at me and yet I still want to rush off to wherever.  Patience is another thing that I’m trying to work on and get better.

I may not be a Han Solo, but there’s a need for a Luke Skywalker.  So wherever my journey takes me, I know that God has a part for me to play.  And the lessons that I’ve learned along the way will make me a a better person & a better leader down the road.

Lessons That I’ve Learned (Or Relearned) On The Journey This Week

It is good to reflect on a regular basis the lessons learned (or in some cases relearned).  Here’s some of those for this week:

*Pain is a part of life.  I say this not as something that I didn’t know but as something I was reminded of this week.  I helped my brother put on a new roof on his garage.  One day was spent tearing off the old roof and another day was spent putting on the new roof.  After one day, I was sore.  After two days, I was very sore.  It’s been two days since and I still feel a little sore from it.  Pain is a part of life, at least in the fallen world we live in now.  There will come a day when pain will no longer be a part of the equation.  There will be life with no pain.  I do look forward to that day.  In the meantime, just keep trusting in Christ to help overcome.

*All you can do is your part, you can’t do anyone else’s part.  I learned this phrase while I was in South Carolina.  It was in regard to discipleship and following Jesus.  It was this “There’s your part, there’s their part & there’s God’s part.”  You are only in control of your part.  I know for me that sometimes I wish that I was in control of all of it.  But that’s not the way it goes, and that’s a good thing.  It is hard enough to do my part.  But the good part of this is that if I do my part then I can live with that.  If I’m not doing my part, then that’s on me.  This can relate to all parts of my life & in all the different relationships I have.  It’s not easy but it is something I’m working on and trying to get better so I can be a good example of this.

I’ll leave you with this song.  It is the theme song from the movie “From Up on Poppy Hill”.  It is one of my favorite films from Hayao Miyazaki.  The song is in Japanese but listen to the melody and the music.  The title is translated into English as “Summer of Farewells” fitting since summer has essentially come to an end.