Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Coach K Memory

I spent three glorious years on the campus of Duke while attending Duke Divinity School.  Growing up with no real ACC allegiance, I only really need the acceptance letter to become a Duke fan.  For the next three years I attended as many Duke basketball games I was allowed.  One of my fondest memories was watching them win their third National Championship from the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2001.  Then the crowd walking, chanting, and smashing together into the quad to burn benches to celebrate.

My roommate and I would play racquetball in the gym next to Cameron on occasion and there on the court next to us would be Coach K.  We would watch him play and you could tell he was a competitive person.  One day he was walking out as we were and for the first time I put two and two together on exactly how tall he is.  He looks short when he is coaching his 6 foot umpteen inch players.  In reality he is 5'10", my height.

It was in 2001 that I was able to go to my only Duke/Carolina game.  Me and some fellow soon-to-be ministers had seasons passes to the games that year (students in graduate schools camp out of a weekend for the chance to buy season tickets to the games).  But if we wanted good seats we would have to join the ranks of the undergrad students and camp out a few days before the game.  For two nights we slept in a tent just outside Cameron and I was able to score a seat in the middle of Graduate Student section, second bench up from the court.

The night before the big game Coach K would always gather the students waiting to get into the game and thank them for their dedication.  He would tell us to represent Duke with all the passion and energy we could but also with all the respect and pride.  It was there that I first his illustration of the fist.

In basketball there are five players, like there are five fingers on a hand.  If you attempt to attack with only one of those fingers you won't make too much of an impact and probably break the finger.  Yet if all five fingers work together, bury their pride as individuals, they turn into a fist.  A fist can make a huge impact.  If the five individuals work together on the court then a great impact can be made in the game.  He told us we needed to hold his players up to that standard and he counted on us, the Cameron Crazies, to be a part of that fist.

The next day, at the joyous occasion that is the Duke/Carolina game in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  As the teams came out, we the students, stood silent and simply holding out a fist.

Coach K can capture the imagination of anyone and fill that person with confidence and pride.  This season has been one of milestones for him.  He added to his status and the winningest coach in the NCAA and also, as of last night, the ACC (passing Coach His class and how he holds his players, coaches and people around him, including the Cameron Crazies, to the highest standards possible only deepens my respect and admiration for him.

This video sums it up beautifully...Congrats Coach K!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A.D. & 50 Shades

While watching the Super Bowl this past Sunday NBC ran this promo for their upcoming series A.D.

The song being played is a version of Phil Collin's "Something in the Air Tonight".  As I tried to figure out the song and place why it was chosen for this promo, it reminded me of something else NBC keeps promoting.

Warning this trailer does have strong sexual content because it is for the movie 50 Shades of Grey.

Does anyone else think they are eerily similar?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winning against Cancer: Reflections on Death and Stuart Scott

I remember in college being excited about watching Monday morning's Sports
Center.  Stewart Scott was usually on as one of the top broadcasters and I loved the catch phrases he would use.  "Boo-yah!" "Cool as the other side of the pillow."  Rich Eisen does an awesome job summing them up in this highlight reel.

Yet, what caught me was the quote from Scott's ESPY award speech.  "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer.  You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."

As a pastor, as a Christian, I never like hearing someone say that they 'lost their battle with cancer."  Stuart Scott seemed to be a man of faith and walked, the final days of his life, as one who goes on to live.  Another quote points to this.  This quote comes from ESPN magazine back in 2010 while discussing Tim Tebow's scriptural eyeblack.  When asked if he would be offended if someone wrote "There is no God" on their eyeblack Scott replied, "Dave, if that [is] what you want to do, I don't care.  But Tim and I and billions of other believers in the world know you'd be wrong.  I've seen the workings of God many times in my life...If you don't believe in God, watch a child be born.  Then if you still say you don't believe in God, that's okay.  The thing is, I think He'll watch over you anyway!"

I just did a funeral from someone who passed away from Alzheimer's.  At any funeral when someone has gone through a long battle with illness and disease I remind the family of what Scott echoes.  You never lose when you have faith.

During the committal service at the graveside this is what the United Methodist Book of Worship reads, and something I love, "Listen, I will tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will all be changed.  For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  Then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."  "Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting." But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

We will all change, we will all die, but it is through the salvation work of God through his Son Jesus Christ that we can go on to live.

I remember distinctly the pastor of my church as a youth (Bruce Jones) announce, "Mr. ______ just won his battle with cancer."  It caught me off guard at first but then the reality sunk in.  As people of faith, God's love wins.  No disease, illness or tragedy ever has the last say.  Scott seemed to understand that, echo that, and live that out in the last part of his earthly journey.

To him I say thank you.  Thank you for reaching a millions with that quote and I pray that they will know the faith and the grace behind it one day for themselves.

Let us pray, "O God, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray.  You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking.  Give to us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity.  Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and of death.  Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.  And when our days here are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you, and that nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us form your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen."  (UM Book of Worship)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gen X = The Forgotten Generation

Is it just me or have we, as the church, forgotten about Generation X?  So much attention is given to the Baby Boomers because of their narcissistic view of what it means to be church (a generalization but based on truth).  A ton of attention is turned to Millennials and we wait on bated breath to know if they really like the church or not.

Generation X is there, stuck in the middle.  X marks the spot of transition in our country, society and church.  We stand between competing generations and at times...well it sucks.  Generation Xers were raised with divorced parents, called latch-key kids, buried themselves in Hip-Hop and Grunge, and were eye witnesses to some of the best and worst humanity had to offer (see image for some examples).

Generation X is stuck on a ladder with the Boomers going no where because they have to work later in life and do not want to give up leadership positions and power.  Then the Millennials, who want to take our place, are nipping at our heels.

I felt like I needed to vent after reading the 2428th article about what Millennials want out of Church.  We need to be looking for what the 35 and under crowd is looking for in a church because we need to adapt what we do for the sake of the Gospel and reaching people for Jesus.  Yet, who will be doing this moving, adapting, transitioning, leading, and calling out to the generation coming if we are going to survive?  Who will be the ones to give up power earlier, relinquish control of committees and leadership roles to make the church more fluid and pliable to work with the next generations?  What Generation has to figure out how to straddle a childhood and worship with limited technology and mix it with an adulthood where both are soaked in it?

The generation that will do that, is Generation X.  Not the Boomers or the Millennials, but the latch-key, grunge, broken home kids that became adults in the last decades of the nineteen-hundreds.  I know we will do it, and we will do it for the sake of the church and mission of being Christ's body.  Just don't forget about us during the whole transition.

Here is an article that echoes my opinion.  Here is a great article that kind of proves my point.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lottery & Money

"When I win the lottery, I'm going to build that new sanctuary we have always talked about."  "When I win it big, we will finally get that new industrial kitchen."  "When my ticket is called, this church will be set for life!"

Ever hear that phrase?  I have heard it at about every church I have pastored.  It tells what we truly trust in.  It is telling where people's 'expendable' money goes to.  It tells me we put more trust in gambling to support inflated government budgets then you do the local church.

Reality is if they gave that money to the church the church would get those improvements much faster then hoping they win the lottery.

Quick math: 1/4 of your 100 person congregation plays the Powerball once a week ($2 per ticket).  For the next ten years they promise to give that money to the church building fund instead (which is kept in our conference foundation earning 1.5% interest).  The chances are 100% that at the end of that 10 years the church will have just over $28,000 more in the building fund.

Another 1/4 of the congregation still plays the lottery once a week.  They purchase the Powerball ticket and will give the church 10% of whatever they win.  After ten years no one wins because the chances of wining are 1 in 175 million. There is actually better chance of getting bit by a shark in the open ocean 175 times then winning.  At the end of the ten years the church has $0 in their building fund.

Please explain which is the better option for the future of the church?

Sure, $28,000 isn't much for ten years of giving BUT it is more than $0.  This is a much better way to 'fund' the church than purchasing lottery tickets.

Below is a great piece John Oliver did on his show about state Lotteries.  PAY ATTENTION NORTH CAROLINA!!!  Yes, 3.5 billion dollars has been raised for our educational system in the last 8 years through the lottery.  But that isn't 3.5 billion more dollars, that is simply 3.5 billion the state government can put somewhere else.  Yet the NC school system is actually worse off then it was eight years ago.  (according to John Oliver's video below around the 11:25 mark)
.    .         .       .    .                . .   . . .
..  .      ..               ..    .                                  . .. .
 .    .       . .   .  .                     .  . . .              .                         .

These dots aren't lining up.

One last point before I jump off my soapbox.  I usually hear the above statements from some of the most tax adversed people.  Those who complain about the government and taking their money via property tax, sales tax, or state and federal income taxes.  IRONIC because the lottery, as Dave Ramsey would call it, is a "stupidity tax."

If you think this is a liberal or conservative take on's not.  Both sides echo the same point.  here is a conservative view from Dave Ramsey.  Below is a more liberal point of view from John Oliver.  (video does include bleeped language and middle have been warned)

To sum up...if you want the God-size dreams to happen in your local congregation, then giver generously and you can do so by first STOP PLAYING THE LOTTERY AND GIVE TO YOUR LOCAL CHURCH.