“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7

Over the weekend, I came across a challenging A.W. Tozer quote from one of his devotions, “Are we mired down?”

“God will speak to us if we read and study and obey the Word of God! But when He does speak, we should speak back to Him in prayer and devotion. Otherwise, we are among the Christians who are mired down right where we are. Many in our congregations have grown older and yet are not one inch farther up the mountain than on that day when the sun first arose on them in conversion. In fact, some are not even as far advanced along the way with God as they were a few years ago. If these things are true, I can only conclude that there are “common” Christians, men and women who no longer hear the Lord speaking to them as they should. Can they really think that this half-way Christian life is the best that we can know? In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little? It is a tragedy of our time that so many are settling for less than the Lord is willing to give!” (1)

We have the opportunity to seek the best that Christ offers us.  Christ declared,

 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15: 11)

Jesus also proclaimed in John 10:10 – The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Jesus offers us abundant, joyful life. It is not found in circumstances.  It is found through abiding in Him through His word. Ponder his statements to the disciples the fateful night before he was arrested:

 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him” John 14: 21

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words;” John 14: 23-24

“ If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15: 9-10

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:14

Take Jesus at His word.  Let’s continue to delve deeply into our relationship with Him through the diligent study of His Word – as we remain in quarantine, and in our daily lives afterwards.

If you currently do not have a daily reading plan, you are welcome to download the Journey through the Gospel of John reading plan on the GEAR webpage – https://athletics.gcc.edu/documents/2020/4/20//Journey_through_the_Gospel_of_John.pdf?id=587

Images by Gerd Altmann, Free-Photos from Pixabay

(1) A.W. Tozer, “Are We Mired Down?” sermontext.net, http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/index.php?view=article&aid=4874

A Friend In Need

 

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ – Galatians 6:2

 

There is a saying that reads, “A Friend in need is a friend indeed!”

Former NFL quarterbacks Trent Dilfer and Matt Hasselbeck enjoy a special, dynamic friendship. In an article written by Joe Rexrode of the Nashville Tennessean (Feb 21, 2019), Dilfer talked about his journey from NFL player to high school coach. The friendship with Hasselbeck played an important role throughout his journey.

Their friendship had a rocky start in the 2001 season, when the Seattle Seahawks acquired them both to fill their needs at the QB position.  Hasselbeck was brought on board to be the primary quarterback, while Dilfer’s role was to serve as his veteran mentor:

Problem was, Hasselbeck couldn’t stand Dilfer, who talked often of his faith while pushing Hasselbeck hard in practice.

“It was church talk,” Hasselbeck said. “I grew up kind of a punk from Boston, taking the train to school every day, and here’s this West Coast guy, involved in (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and stuff like that. I was just very suspicious, like ‘You say you’re supporting me but you’re trying to take my job.’ I doubted he was authentic.”

That season, Hasselbeck was injured and Dilfer successfully replaced him.  However, Dilfer, in turn, suffered a serious injury in 2002, and the roles were reversed again.  Ironically, through the traumatic two-year period, these two competitors forged a close friendship, that carried them through their injuries and recovery. 

Tough times turned to tragedy, however in March 2003, when Dilfer’s son Trevin got sick.  His illness progressed rapidly, and the family was forced to remove him from life-support on April 27, 2003.  

At such a time of grief, there are no words anyone can offer. Dilfer admits that he understandably suffered from depression during this dark period.  

A phone call from Hasselback and late night video games began the process of healing for Dilfer. 

Hasselbeck called to talk football. He sensed Dilfer was considering leaving the game. Dilfer told Hasselbeck he had nothing more to give. 

Hasselbeck responded by challenging Dilfer as only a true friend can, and convinced him to get to training camp. 

According to the article, Dilfer was miserable during camp:

“I was crying myself to sleep,” Dilfer said. “Of course, I really wasn’t sleeping. I was just laying in bed, crying. Weeping.”  Hasselbeck knocked on the door. He had a Sega Genesis video console in his hand. And so began the nightly tradition of Sega NHL ’94 marathons between these two. As they recall, some went all the way until practice the next day. Hasselbeck always played until Dilfer was ready to stop. 

And this is why Dilfer, on a “Monday Night Football” broadcast in 2012, credited Hasselbeck with saving his life.

“You’ve got to put this into context: This was Matt’s first chance and his last chance,” Dilfer said of Hasselbeck proving himself as an NFL starter. “His chance to be the dude. He should be getting rest. He should be watching film. He should be integrating with his teammates. I can think of 100 things he should be doing besides what he ends up doing.”

Friendships are forged through shared experiences and passions.  The bond of true friendship can fuse so deeply, it is closer than that of brotherhood:

A man of too many friends may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” 

True friends are proven when trials of life face us, when we are in our deepest pits of despair.  It is in those moments that the law of Christ is fulfilled. Today’s passage is a challenge.

We are indeed our brother’s keeper.

As we struggle through life, we are to help each other. Life is not a competition. It is a journey – and Christ wants us all to reach the end of the journey together, celebrating with Him at the Great Wedding Feast of heaven.  The term “fulfill” in this passage suggests that helping each other is exactly what Christ expects of believers. By doing so, we fulfill the two great commandments to love God and love our neighbors. We in turn fulfill Christ’s command in John 15 to love one another. Let’s run this race together, let’s finish strong!

For further study: 1 Samuel 20, the friendship between Jonathan and David

All quotes from

Rexrode, Joe, Trent Dilfer’s journey, from Super Bowl to tragedy to Nashville high school coach by The Tennessean Online, Feb 22, 2019, https://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/high-school/2019/02/21/trent-dilfer-matt-tim-hasselbeck-lipscomb-academy/2784091002/

Used by permission 

Photo 1 by Bas Masseus from Pexels

Photo 2 by Bob Galbraith, AP

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.

Colossians 4:5

In 2011, NFL WR Antonio Brown became the first receiver in NFL history to have more than 1000 yards in both returns and receiving in the same year.  At one point in his career, he was the highest-paid receiver in the league, an acknowledgement of his value to his team and the game. 

When asked about his receptions in one interview, he commented,

“I don’t have a number, I just want to catch them all. That’s always my goal is to maximize every opportunity and every throw that’s coming my way.”(1)

In Paul’s epistles to the churches at Colosse and Ephesus, Paul exhorted both churches with similar challenges. He encouraged the Colossians, 

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. -Colossians 4: 5-6.

Similarly, he urged the Ephesian church to:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5: 15-16

In both epistles, Paul used the Greek word, exagorazo, which means “to ransom, to rescue from loss.”  Paul paired it with the Greek word “Kairos,” for time.  In this context, Strong’s concordance’s expanded translation reads, “making the most of every opportunity (Kairos), turning each to the best advantage since none can be recalled if missed.”(2)

Paul was giving instruction to both churches on how to live out their faith.  Likewise, he challenges all believers to walk in the wisdom that comes from Christ. We embrace Godly wisdom as we absorb God’s word and apply it to our daily lives.  It influences how we talk, how we act, and what we believe.  

As coaches and athletes, we want to make the most of our opportunities in our particular venue.  As many thousands learned this past spring, those opportunities are not guaranteed. Don’t take your opportunities for granted. 

Christian, now is the time to maximize your opportunity. You are given today. Make the most of it!

(1) “Antonio Brown Quotes.” BrainyQuote.com. BrainyMedia Inc, 2020. 1 April 2020. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/antonio_brown_868339

(2) James Strong, LL.D, and S.T.D.  and John R. Kohlberger III. “Redeem.” The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Red Letter Edition,  Thomas Nelson,  2001, p. 710.

royalty-free images from pexels.com.

Field photo by Juan Salamanca from Pexels

Where is our hope?

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful”Hebrews 10:23.

(Today’s blog was originally written by my friend Taylor Hasty. I am delighted to share it!) 

I don’t know about you, but in these dark, difficult days, hope can be hard to find. It seems like everywhere we turn, we see news articles, TV programs, and social media posts that are hopeless. But, I have been reminded this week that we are not without hope! In fact, we have a Living Hope!

Remember, hope implies a positive view of the fulfillment of a future promise, the confidence that something we want to happen will actually happen! Our hope is alive because our hope is in Jesus, and He is alive! He has the power of life having defeated death. He is the Lord of all, and thus it is in Him we have hope.

The writer of Hebrews tells us:

 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” – Hebrews 10:23.

You and I can be assured God is in control; He is at work even in the midst of our current, worldwide crisis.

I think Charles Colson said it best:

“The hope that each of us has is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.”

 My question for you today is this: where is your hope? I trust it is in the same place as mine, in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.

  • Originally posted by Taylor Hasty on Facebook March 27, 2020 – Taylor served as the FCA Huddle student-leader my first year at Bryan College. I had the privilege of working alongside him as he  graduated from Bryan and matured into an outstanding college baseball coach.  He is currently the Athletic Director at Silverdale Baptist in Chattanooga, TN.

 

 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 

  • Ephesians 4:29

“When someone speaks a word of blessing to me, it’s like a sincere hug to the soul” – Jeff Myers, Handoff

 Last week I shared highlights of an email I received from a current player.  It was a great example of what it means to “bless” another person.  This week, I want to dig a little deeper into this art of “blessing.”

Although we are currently unable to utilize the power of our presence in the lives of those around us, we still have tremendous opportunity to bless through the spoken and written word.  My player’s email blessed me tremendously through her affirmation and encouragement. It is the perfect example of what we call a eulogy.

Have you ever considered the purpose for a eulogy at a funeral?  It is a speech praising the someone who has passed away, yet it has no benefit to that actual individual. It is designed to help the family and friends left behind.  Last week, I introduced the phrase, “art of blessing,” which was first coined by Dr. Jeff Myers.  I recall that particular lunch conversation years ago when he introduced it to me.  We were discussing a new direction I was sensing at the time, as I was learning to embrace writing and speaking opportunities to further my personal platform in disciple-making.

Dr. Myers gave me a copy of his book, Handoff (a great short read on how to disciple and mentor effectively).  He shared an extract from his chapter which discussed the term Eulogy, and posed a question that has motivated and guided me since then:

“Wouldn’t it serve a greater purpose to eulogize a person while alive?”

Consider what it would look like if we practiced this concept together.  Study for a moment the definition and true function of the word, “eulogy.”

Dictionary.com defines the word as,

  1. “a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially a set oration in honor of a deceased person.
  2. high praise or commendation.” (1)

The word is derived from two Greek words, eu (well) and logos (word); in other words; to speak well of.(2)  In the New Testament, we see this word written as Eulogeo. Strong’s Concordance translates it into our English word, “bless, blessing.”(3) Eulogeo and its derivative, Eulogea, are similar to the Hebrew Barak, which meant “to bless and to praise” in the Old Testament. (4)

In scripture, a eulogy was not addressed to someone who was deceased. Rather, in the Hebrew tradition, a Eulogy was given for the LIVING by the elder or a person of high stature.  It was very important to receive the blessing of the elder. Why?

It was considered the pronouncement of the future, the pronouncement of inheritance, and the setting up of the hierarchy of leadership within a clan or tribe.

Throughout the scriptures, the concept of blessing was meant to build others up, to encourage them, and to motivate (for examples, read Genesis 27, Genesis 48-49, and 1 Kings 2)

In the New Testament, there is a great passage that I believe is the true and proper place for the eulogy. In Ephesians 4: 29, Paul wrote

  • Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 

 

Paul challenges us to edify with our speech; in other words, speak only what is good to build up another. in today’s social media-influenced society, we find the enemy has corrupted what could be a beautiful tool to build up others. More often than not, we see people using the written word to tear others down. We are losing the gift of giving a spoken (or written) BLESSING.

However, as we are forced to step back from our normal lives and interactions, we are compelled to consider new ways to communicate and influence.  Now, more than ever, we should return to the gift of the spoken blessing!

Quoting from Handoff, Myers writes “When someone speaks a word of blessing to me, it’s like a sincere hug to the soul…To receive a blessing is to be released from the insincere expectations of society. To give a blessing is to set others free.” (5)

 

As you ponder today’s blog, I encourage you to practice being a healing balm, and a light in the darkness.

  • Build up those around you. Speak blessings into their lives!
    1. Be intentional to speak life – Ephesians 4:29
    2. Follow Christ’s command to “bless those who curse you, bless and do not curse.” – Matthew 5:44
  • Be diligent to speak the Truth in Love – Ephesians 4:15. In order to do so, you may need to heed the words of James:
  • Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. – James 1:19
  • Deliberately utilize words that are good for building up others -Ephesians 4:29

When you seek to intentionally do this, you will find a blessing in store for you. Relationships will be stronger, because you will build love into your speech, and meaning into your words.  Don’t flatter but be intentional about finding the good to build upon. If you must challenge another, allow Scripture to speak for itself, not your opinion.  And remember, now is the time to Eulogize. Let’s not wait until it is too late!

Citations:

  • https://www.dictionary.com/browse/eulogy
  • Handoff, (Dr. Jeff Myers), page 63
  • Strong, James, “Eulogio.” The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2001, Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, 2127, pp. 105-106
  • Strong, James, “Barak” The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2001, Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary, 1288, pp 46-47
  • Myers, page 71.

The Art of Blessing

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

  • Ephesians 4:29

Yesterday, Axios online posted an article by Ursala Pemano. In the article, she reviews a CNN interview from that day with Senator Ann Klobucar.  Klobucar, whose husband tested positive for the coronavirus said that the hardest part of her experience is that “it is such a lonely disease.”

She went on to say,

“You can’t see your loved one. You can’t hold their hand. You can’t give a hug to their health care providers, who are there all day. All you can do is talk to them on the phone.”(1)

Klobucar’s comments echo numerous testimonies from health care providers and illustrate the powerful images of nurses and doctors caring for patients isolated on ventilators.

I believe her comments echo a much deeper concern: It is absolutely true that patients are forced to suffer alone without the physical support of loved ones.  The importance of such support has been documented for years.  However, the loneliness is felt at every level:

  • By the loved one who cannot be there
  • By the health care professionals who deeply desire to give the best care that they can
  • It is also being felt by individuals left to shelter at home alone, cut off from society: whether they are a senior citizen, or a 20-something alone in an apartment complex.

One truth that this virus reveals is just how interdependent we truly are.

Another truth it reveals is how much this world needs to know the personal love of Christ, to feel His presence in their lives.

Now, more than ever, the body of Christ needs to understand the power of our words. We need to be about our mission, to convey the Good News that Christ has overcome the world.

Romans 10:15 proclaims,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace,

Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Now that we are reduced to only using our words to others, we must embrace the power of our words. James challenges all believers in James 3:10,

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

Paul echoes this challenge in today’s opening passage.

Dr. Jeff Myers, a friend from my tenure at Bryan College, calls the challenge in verse 29 “the art of blessing.”  I want to consider this art, and how we can live it out as disciple-makers.

I originally wrote most of next week’s text a couple of weeks ago, and was awaiting the right time to publish it. I am glad I waited, as I received a beautiful example of this art in action. It was an email one of my current players sent me last week.  Here is a glimpse of what she shared:

I don’t know if this is strange for me to send to you or not, but for some reason I am just really feeling prompted to send it to you… I was writing in it (her autobiography) this evening about my return back to volleyball after my brain surgeries and as I wrote I found myself very grateful for the way you handled the situation even as a brand new coach. I copied the paragraph below. As I wrote it, I realized what a perfect picture of grace and truth it was. I just figured that each of us could use some encouragement in this crazy time and figured I would send it your way.

“Heading into our first day of spring practice, I was beyond excited. However, as soon as we got started, I realized just how much catching up my body still had to do. It felt as though I had lost all muscle memory. My legs weren’t shuffling to the ball, I wasn’t angling my platform correctly, and I was just straight up slow. I was so beyond frustrated at the end of practice when my brand new coach, Coach Sayles, came up to me. He asked me if I was frustrated, knowing full well that I was far beyond frustrated. He then said to me, “I’m not frustrated with you, so you have no reason to be frustrated with yourself. You need to learn to have as much patience with yourself as you have persistence.” I stood there, stunned and unable to find a comeback to something I knew was true.  I’ve never forgotten that. I still use that saying going into challenges in my life. I have begun to have patience with myself because of this.”

 

My player’s email blessed me tremendously through her affirmation and encouragement. Her reflections built me up as a coach and affirmed my personal mission and vision.  She spoke grace into my life.

Today, let’s all do the same. Let’s be intentional to speak grace into the lives of those around us.

How?

  • Ask for God to give you the eyes to see who needs a word of affirmation today.
  • Ask for wisdom to determine what to share.
  • Ask for boldness.
  • Make it real
    1. Keep it short and specific
    2. A word of gratitude, a memory you have, appreciation for a quality you see in the person.
    3. Be personal.

Next week, we’ll dig a little deeper into the art of blessing. Let’s be the church at work this week!

Keep the faith!

Press On

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

  • Philippians 3: 13-14

Growing up, I fell in love with the Olympics through the work of Bud Greenspan. Greenspan produced a series titled “The Olympiad,” a multi-segment documentary with various stories.

One particular segment that resonated with me was the story of John Stephen Ahkwari. Ahkwari, a Tanzanian marathoner, competed in the 1968 Olympics.

His is not the story of victory, but of perseverance.

During the race, he struggled through severe cramps and also a dislocated knee, deep leg gash, and shoulder injury resulting from a collision and fall. Most observers expected him to quit, but he received quick medical attention and limped on.

Slowed with the injury, there was no chance of medaling or eclipsing his own person best. However, he refused to quit. More than an hour after the top finishers, in the darkness of night, with a bloodied bandage falling from his leg, he limped his way around the track for his final lap.

Commentators stated that although most of the crowd had left, those who remained gave him a standing ovation for that final lap.  When asked after the race why he did not quite, he responded, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

Leaders – with the uncertainty of today, it would be easy to pull away from everything. However, we were not chosen to start a work. We are all chosen to complete a specific, God-ordained task. I am not just talking about in our overall lives; He has placed each of us in our current roles specifically for this time.

We have a unique opportunity to pass along the baton of faith to our athletes at a unique time that will deeply impact their adulthood. It is not occurring as any of us envisioned when we planned out our year. However, trust that God plans to use you, with your unique personality, gifts, and calling, to minister to your team through this time.

Hebrews 12: 1-2 reads:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Let’s keep in mind those that have gone before us, those who influence our lives, those who built our programs. Let’s remember we are laying a foundation for the next generation of faith.  We are in crunch time. As a former hurdler, I was always taught to look beyond the hurdle in front of me.  We must do the same.  Instead, lets cast our eyes to the finish line. God has our backs. He’s got this.   Stay the course.

Keep the faith!

In the Stillness

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

Most of us have not truly endured many “press pause” moments in our lives.  I have several times. Most of the time, it was not in a good light: I was the rebellious child growing up. I was also quite the extrovert. In my teen years, my mom determined the best way to discipline me was to separate me from my social life.  At particularly rebellious stage during my junior year, I spent the majority of a 6 month period on “lock down,” outside of required school activities.  It was during this same period when I took a leap off a hill after a dare, and destroyed my leg.  I faced restrictions from my mom, and severe physical consequences as a result of my injury. Every time my mom eased my restrictions, I would do something else dumb and end up back where I started.

We didn’t have movies and social media available then. My family did not even own a videotape player at the time. I ended up reading a lot, which led me to investigating my Bible more extensively. Reading scripture eventually led me to genuinely embrace the faith of my childhood.  God worked through many avenues at that time in my life, clearing my life-path and giving me direction. What I do now was a direct result of that trying time.

I mention my past not because we have anything to do with our current situation.  Rather, we are all forced into a similar “restriction” because of the circumstances around us. Sadly, new restrictions are being placed on us daily due to the rebelliousness of a few.

However, as I look at the mayhem around us, I see God at work within His people.

Psalm 46 opens with these words:

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

Many believers are finding solace in this and other similar passages that point to God in times of trouble.
It is important to note this opening passage before we can focus on the key scripture I mentioned at the beginning. God is truly our only solace in trying times!

In verse 10, the Psalm reads,

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

I want to encourage you with a few 4 simple concepts from this verse:

  1. God has forced the world to stand still.  For believers, this is a time we should take seriously. I will not presume to know the mind of God and prophecy about end-times. I don’t know when Christ will return. But I do know this: It is clear that God has pressed the pause button for the world!  What will you do with this moment in time?
  2. Take the time to reset your priorities. Redeem the time, as Paul declares in Ephesians 5:15. Make the most of your opportunities.  As Paul continues in vs. 17,

         “do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. “

a.    Focus on your faith.  What is God’s will for you? That you abide with him. We do so by learning from Him through scripture, communing with Him through prayer, and engaging within His body, the church. Be intentional to ensure your relationship with God is the first priority in your life.

b.     Focus on your family.  God’s will is for you to LOVE.  Christ commands us to love one another, as He loves us (John 13:34). This starts with our physical family, extends to our church family, and spreads to a world in need of Christ’s love.  More than at any other time in our lives, we probably have space and time now to ensure we are investing in our family. Be sure to do so – and when life starts to return to something similar to our old routines, don’t allow the busy life to take family away from you.

c.    Focus on your future. God’s will is that you become more like Christ. We grow in our love for Him as we keep His commandments.  As we become more like Christ, we also must prepare for our earthly future by investing in our personal growth. Make the most of your educational opportunities. Be creative in finding ways to sharpen your skills.  Don’t allow yourselves to settle into a life of Netflix/hulu/youtube and social media.

Just remember, Keep the priorities straight!

God has forced us to be still.

Let’s exalt His name together.

Let’s redeem the time and make the most of this!

Have Faith in What?

As we all settle into our sequestered lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself reflecting today on two items:

  1. “Have Faith!”

I have seen this phrase repeatedly on leadership websites, on a couple of different social media posts, and also in a video I came across yesterday.

Each time I have come across this phrase, I have asked myself,

“Faith in What?” 

The majority of posts were written so generically, you could not tell if the person writing was a Christian or a non-Christian. I know the posts are in response to the many people showing a lack of faith as they overwhelm supermarkets and hoard materials.  Other posts were in response to the outcry for the government to solve and take care of everything, but were then critical of every move that does not provide the answer they seek.

I’m not writing this post to be a depressing one.  But I need to admit, we are in very uncertain times!

Part of the uncertainty of the day is that no one can completely trust this pandemic will pass quickly.  Some distrust the media so much, they refuse to accept what is happening. Others can only see conspiracies.  Others had previously placed their faith in government agencies but were left wanting.

We have reached a point where we live our lives based on faith. Faith in electricity, in the banking system, in the government, in the good in humanity.  We do it so easily, that it is a shock to the system when something disrupts our lives.  Enter an unknown virus that has all of our leading authorities stumped, and faith devolves into distrust.

Why?  By definition, faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

At this time, many of the systems in which we have placed our faith are proving inadequate.

As Christians, we know there is only One in whom we can place our trust, which brings me to the other item I mentioned at the beginning. This week, I found a clip of a Billy Graham message posted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  It was a short but riveting clip and lifted my spirits as I listened.

In the clip, he proclaimed:

“Those of us who know Him (Christ) put our trust in Him and Him alone!

I don’t put my trust in Washington!

I don’t put my trust in the United Nations!

I don’t put my trust in myself!

I don’t put my trust in my money!

I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ!

When all the rest of it fails and crumbles and shatters,
He’ll be THERE!”

This short clip reminded me of the many passages in the book of Psalms that encourage us to place our trust in God alone.  They refreshed my spirit as I read them today. Hopefully they will do the same for you and renew the inexplicable joy we each have access to through our relationship with Christ!

Psalm 18: 30-31

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?

Psalm 20:7-8

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.

Psalm 118: 8-9

It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes.

Psalm 33:20-21

Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
 For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.

Coping with Crisis

As we work together through these unprecedented events, I’ve shared with co-workers in meetings and online. I was asked to share the information below for coaches and parents seeking to help their student-athletes struggling with a sense of loss.  It would also be helpful for other students involved in music, drama, dance, etc who have lost their spring performances.

As a teacher and former youth pastor, I’ve been confronted with tragedy and crises several times (as have many of you veteran teachers and coaches). My role as a crises counselor was tested to no ends in 2003, when I was forced into a new role as a trainer for local teachers in our school system after a tragic accident.  Working with other local counselors, we pulled together different resources to develop a list of ideas and suggestions for supporting students during a crisis. This list has been shared, revised, and tweaked for different incidences over the last two decades, and unfortunately I do not recall the different resources utilized – so I apologize if I cannot cite an original source.

Please feel free to share with anyone else seeking to help their student athletes struggling with a sense of loss.

 

Note – I also want preface that I understand that we are not dealing with the sense of loss of loved one. However, many young athletes and artists (and their trainers) are struggling with a sense of loss and powerlessness during this time.

Sad Teen

Ideas and suggestions for supporting students in time of crisis.

Return to your “Why.”

Before seeking to reach out, we must be honest with ourselves about our own feelings and/or disappointments. Don’t be afraid to own it, and acknowledge your feelings.

Football Coach

Remember your why: Why are you a coach? If it is all about the winning, then you need to do a gut-check. However, I am sure most of us are in this for the right reasons. I coach as part of my “calling,” to impact young people. Because of that, I recognize this time is a tremendous opportunity to come alongside and guide young people during a very unique time.

Be prepared to articulate to non-athletes or non-artists why our students are grieving. Be an advocate for them, but articulate in a way that brings understanding and builds bridges

Model right behavior and attitudes

Understand that there are various stages of mourning:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Acceptance/resignation
  • Resolution
  • We are trying to help our athletes reach the point of resolution.

Everyone grieves differently. We need to allow space for appropriate mourning. However, be prepared to guide a student away from destructive behavior (blaming, lashing out at others, discriminatory or derogatory remarks, etc).

Model appropriate balance and maturity. Your athletes are looking to you as they gauge how to handle the moment.

As coaches, we are used to “fixing” things. We try to work out problems, and come up with solutions. At these times, we need to curb our natural inclinations and realize we don’t have the “fix” for this. However, it does not mean we are powerless.

Man praying at altar

Our “power” come through our presence.

More often than not, your presence is all that is needed. Don’t be afraid of silence in the moment. Your presence will be remembered, not words of wisdom offered in an emotional moment.

Your nonverbal responses (eye contact, physical closeness, etc) will be of primary importance.

Young Lady Praying in Church

This is a new experience. The decisions resulting from the coronavirus are unprecedented in this current generation. We are experiencing something new and surreal. However, many of us experienced other surreal moments in time (9/11, the Challenger explosion, etc).  For our student athletes, this is their FIRST TIME experiencing something like this.

Emotions are raw and confusion is normal.

  • Be ready for questions and confusion.
  • BE A GOOD LISTENER! Don’t get caught up in trying to devise and answer.
  • Be patient – allow your students to process at their pace. BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO ASK LEADING QUESTIONS. However, don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions from your perspective as the listener: “I hear you saying…..is that right?”
  • Be honest with your answers: don’t try to speculate too much. This is a unique moment where you want to hold your students’ trust. Don’t squander it with speculation that could be wrong.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t have the answer,” or “I don’t know.”
  • Be truthful, but do so with empathy.
  • Its ok to share experiences where you were confronted with loss.

Remember, this is not about you! As mentioned above, people in pain often lash out, may refocus their anger/doubts/fears, may question authority or place blame. Your feelings may get hurt.  You may feel underappreciated.  Remember your why, and be the advocate. Guide them to appropriate behavior.

Follow up – Don’t say “call me if you need anything.” Someone in grieving will not call. They may not identify their needs, let alone trying to determine who to call at that time.  Instead, be intentional and make concrete offers; “I will stop by tomorrow to check in,” “I’ll give you a call tomorrow,” etc. Then, stick with your plan and follow up.

Educate and advocate: (I found this and added it yesterday) you will find that others will ask for information about the circumstances and the process.  Many outside of our realm of sports will not understand the sense of loss we feel.  Help those understand that anyone who loses something important at a particular moment in life will feel loss:  Coaches and athletes have spent months preparing for this season, and it was taken away. It is like a season-ending injury…and now these individuals must re-think life from a different, unexpected perspective.

Educating Young Adults
Group Fist Bump

Finally, LOVE YOUR STUDENTS. Above all else, show love. Show up, stand up for them, be there for them (and their families). Fill the gap by being present. Love is what will last.

For those coming from a Christian background, below are a few scriptures that you may find useful

Matthew 7:24-27 – our foundation is in Christ. We can withstand the storm with a firm foundation

Matthew 6:25-34 – Don’t worry – (God is still in control)

Phil 4:4-9 – don’t be anxious; instead, pray

Phil 4:10-13 – our sufficiency is in Christ. Therefore, we can find contentment in all things

Gal 6: 9-10 – don’t grow weary in doing good (this is for you as a leader!)

Is 41:10 – fear  not

1 Peter 5:7 – cast your anxieties on Christ

Focus on Christ: Colossians 3:2; Hebrews 12:2-3

Feeling a loss of control:  John 16:33;  John 14:27; Romans 15:13

Fearful, despair:  1 Corinthians 4:8-9; Psalm 43:5; Psalm 27:13-14

Young Man Praying