State of the Game

State of the Game

Last night, the Baylor Bears topped defending champs Notre Dame to win the NCAA women’s basketball championship. It is the third title for the Lady Bears and coach Kim Mulkey, and firmly plants the program among the elite in women’s college basketball.

Three hundred and fifty miles up the road from Baylor in Lubbock, Texas, lies the campus of Texas Tech University. Their men’s basketball squad will be looking to make it an all-Texas affair as they face off tonight against Virginia in the men’s NCAA title game in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is the first appearance in the national championship game for the Red Raiders (as it is also for Virginia), and Tech has a Husky effort to bring a title to the Lone Star State in the same year as their peers at Baylor.

The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament was inaugurated in 1982, with the Lady Techsters of Louisiana Tech defeating Cheyney University of Pennsylvania 76-62 to claim the first title. In the thirty-seven years that have followed, there have been two times women’s and men’s teams from the same state have won the title in the same year. What makes this statistical nugget more interesting, however, is both instances occurred at the same university.

In 2004, Jim Calhoun won his second national title at the University of Connecticut, leading the Huskies to an 82-73 victory over Georgia Tech. That same year, Geno Auriemma guided the women’s team to a nine-point victory over Pat Summitt‘s Tennessee crew in the championship game. It was Auriemma’s fifth title at UCONN, his fourth in three years, and his third in a row. However, it was only the start of the dominant run for UCONN women’s basketball. Ten years later, Auriemma would secure his ninth title (he currently has eleven) with a victory over Notre Dame. In 2014, the UCONN men also played in the championship game, defeating Kentucky to give Kevin Ollie his first title and the fourth championship for the men’s program at Connecticut.

From left to right, Geno Auriemma, Jim Calhoun, and Kevin Ollie.

If you’re wondering how close other teams have come to accomplishing the in-state victory celebration, both squads from Duke University lost the title games in 1999. In 2011, the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team of Notre Dame secured the championship, while the men of Butler University lost to Jim Calhoun and UCONN. Notre Dame and Butler are both in Indiana. Two years later, as Rick Pitino‘s Louisville Cardinals cut down the nets in victory, Jeff Walz‘s Louisville women’s squad fell short to Auriemma’s Lady Huskies in the championship game.

Tonight, UVA is a 1.5 point favorite over Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders are playing like a proverbial team of destiny, and the Cavaliers have needed blunders on the part of their previous two opponents – Purdue and Auburn – to eke out victories and advance to the championship game. For Tech coach Chris Beard, he’s planning to ensure Kim Mulkey is not alone in celebrating in the Lone Star state.

Texas Tech’s Chris Beard. Photo via Yahoo Sports

It’s About Caring

It’s About Caring

I was speaking last night to another member of my church small group and we were discussing how we do not like shopping at a particular supermarket. It had nothing to do with the prices or product selection, but rather with the lack of care displayed by the employees of the store. As she was describing her experience, I nodded my head in understanding and told her I will always pay more if it means receiving the level of service I desire.

It’s amazing how much caring makes a difference.

My wife and I have been struggling to find employment, and the hardest part has been the empty void into which our applications seem to disappear. On occassion one of us will receive a notification saying the application is being reviewed, but then the waiting continues and frustration simply mounts.

This morning, however, I received an email from Johnson & Johnson. It was in response to an application I submitted yesterday. Yes …. YESTERDAY! As in, “J&J replied to my application within 24 hours!” Take that, empty void!

It was a rejection letter – to be honest, I knew I did not meet Johnson & Johnson’s requirements – but it was a letter crafted on a foundation of gratitude and empathy. Sure, perhaps J&J have the ability to automate responses. I would assume they receive thousands of applications on a daily basis. Still, someone at some point took the time to ensure a process is in place to respond to all applicants. And the genesis of that decision making is a genuine concern for the human being who submitted the application.

Johnson & Johnson cares about the individuals seeking employment in their organization. If you read their Credo, you’ll know they care about a whole lot more, too. In reading their email this morning, I honestly felt they cared about me.

We appreciate your interest in joining Johnson & Johnson. When you submit your application to us, we look for certain minimum requirements essential for the role. Though your achievements are impressive, they didn’t exactly line up with what we’re looking for in this particular job. For example, you may not have met the required years of experience, education or other minimum requirements.

We understand that being rejected is always disappointing no matter how far along you’ve made it in the process. But, don’t let it hold you back. Your relationship with Johnson & Johnson doesn’t end here and there are some things you can do to open yourself up to other possibilities: ….

We wish you the best of luck as you continue your search and we hope that this won’t be the last time we cross paths.

Who wouldn’t want to work for a company like this?

And now all I keep thinking about is how this sense of compassion aligns with my personal belief system. Compassion is such an undervalued sentiment in our fast-paced, instant gratification world. As a Christ follower, I firmly believe compassion is the currency with which we should transact every interaction.

In the NASB version of the Bible, the word compassion appears 92 times. Matthew uses it seven times in his gospel, often to refer to the emotion Jesus felt for the people to whom he was teaching.

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 9:6

When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.Matthew 14:14

And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”Matthew 15:32

Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.Matthew 20:34

To paraphrase Andy Stanley, other people should be important to you because they are important to God. And when times are tough, make the time to give your empathy and express your compassion to those who really need it. Show them you care, because it may be the very thing they need in that moment.

I really think this quote from Brene Brown best illustrates the importance of compassion.

Finding Home

In July 2015, my wife Lee traveled to Eutaw, Alabama, to serve on a domestic mission trip. On her way to Eutaw, she stopped in her hometown of Dothan to share some time with family. Her cousin Kathy invited Lee to join her and her husband at church, and with that Lee was introduced to Wiregrass Church.

Fast forward three and a half years and one heartbreaking missionary stint in the Dominican Republic; Lee and I found ourselves settling into a new life in Dothan, Alabama, and starting over. While in the D.R., however, I had spent many hours listening to Andy Stanley and his sermons via his Your Move podcast. I became captivated not only by Andy’s communication style, but also by his consistent message of keeping Christ first in your life. I knew this is what I wanted in my life in terms of continued spiritual growth.

Having remembered her previous experience at Wiregrass and that Wiregrass is a partner Andy Stanley’s North Point Church in Atlanta, Lee suggested we begin attending Wiregrass Church. The first service we attended was December 23, and from the very beginning we felt invited, loved, and accepted. We met briefly with Pastor Adam Roberson, which led to a follow-up meeting about Lee and me getting plugged into serving at Wiregrass by leading a small group.

We’ve been attending Wiregrass Church for two months now and it’s been absolutely amazing. It feels great to have a church home in which we can reset and continue to process our experiences – both good and bad – from the mission field. It’s a blessing to have a community of believers with whom we can connect, grow, and lean on. By directing us to Wiregrass Church, God resolved my worries and anxieties about starting this new chapter of my life.

God is faithful and wonderful, and I believe He has great things planned for Lee and me. And I believe those plans all start with us diving into worship, fellowship, and community at Wiregrass.

Meet Me On the Mountain – Jill Briscoe

Meet Me On the Mountain – Jill Briscoe

My wife Lee participated this past weekend listening to the presenters of the 2019 IF:Gathering. I happened to come into the room as Jill Briscoe was presenting.

Jill shared this amazing poem, and I simply felt compelled to share it with others. It’s such a beautiful reminder of our need to give all of of heart to Jesus.

You can find the original posting of this poem on the Telling the Truth website.


Meet Me On the Mountain by Jill Briscoe

Have you met Him at the lakeside
   Did you hear His still, small voice?
Did He call you there to follow Him,
   And said, “You have a choice”?
And did half of you say, “Yes, Lord,”
   And have half a mind to start?
Did you think He didn’t notice
   When you gave Him half your heart?

He saw it on the day
   He met disciples on the mount;
And gave them all another chance
   to make their whole lives count.
Some said that day, “What comes
   my way, Oh, Lord, I’ll do my part,
Dear Lord, I’ll be obedient
   and give you all my heart!”

I’ll love for you and speak for truth
   and tell the Gospel story
I’ll live from this day forward
   to give you all the glory.
Where e’er you send me—use me send me—
   I will speak for you,
Help me glorify your name—be with me—
   see me through!

So as we leave the mountain top
   Will you go for Him or stay?
Continue on half-heartedly
   or give it all away?
Will you yield yourself from this day on
   Receive the Spirit’s call?
Say Jesus, “I give all to you,
   Not half my heart—MY ALL!”

Starting Over

Starting Over

We are not designed to do life alone.

In the years since I first began attending Relevant Church in Tampa in 2009, this is one lesson I’ve learned in earnest. A large part of my growth as a Christ follower has been a result of sharing my journey with others. Volunteering, taking part in small groups, serving on mission trips; the fellowship I’ve shared with others and the time I’ve invested for others has brought me closer to Jesus in ways I didn’t know were possible.

Being a part of my church community gave me the desire to learn more about God. It was during a small group back in 2013 I came to the realization I was being called into ministry. Having the support of my faith family gave me the strength to press through the notification of being laid off after twenty-one years with my previous employer. Being surrounded by individuals with whom I’ve laughed, shared, cried, and prayed gave me the courage to step out in faith and move into the mission field.

The journey to the Dominican Republic was both exciting and eye-opening. My wife Lee and I learned a lot and grew a lot. Unfortunately, the experience came to end after only five months of being in the D.R. We came back home with heartache and longing, as well as a lot of uncertainty as to what the next chapter in our lives look like.

We had to start over. New city. New surroundings. New situation.

Same steadfast, faithful, loving God.

Upon prayerful reflection and a time of discernment, Lee and I decided to make Dothan home. God answered our prayers by directing us to Wiregrass Church and giving us the opportunity to plug into this new church home. Additionally, we are blessed to have the privilege of leading a small group. Fittingly, the topic of the group is Starting Over, and we will be diving into Andy Stanley’s four-part sermon series of the same name.

Lee and I have been attending Wiregrass since just before Christmas, and it’s safe to say we know all of five people at the church. Still, we’re confident this experience will introduce us to new individuals we hope to learn from and lean on as much as we also hope to direct and steer the conversations and discussions in our small group. By no means do Lee and I feel we have all the answers, and it’s our prayer that in community and fellowship with the other participants, God will bless us with some insight as to what our next steps look like.

If you’re in the Wiregrass area and you feel you’d like someone to stand by you as you go through your Starting Over moment, I invite you to prayerfully consider joining our small group. We will meet on Sunday’s at 11:00 AM at Wiregrass Church, and you can conveniently sign up online by clicking here.

We hope to meet you soon.

Time Lines

This morning I received in my email a Google alert about my wife’s not-quite-defunct blog site. The alert was for the use of the word ‘purrfectlee’, Lee’s not-so-official personal brand, and it directed me to a website by Charles Powell entitiled Best Paint Inspiration: Find Many Ideas for Painting. On his site, Mr. Powell shared one of Lee’s posts from 2012.

It was fun to see the original Pinterest post and my daughter’s work to recreate it (#NailedIt). What was most fun, however, was being able to be taken back in time to when Lee was actively blogging and my daughter was still exploring her budding artistic talents.

I hope Lee finds her way back to sharing her thoughts and experiences via her blog, and I hope Natalie never loses her sense of wonder, fascination, and creativity. With both of these women in my life, it’s part of what makes them so beautiful.

Write It On Your Heart

Write It On Your Heart

In 2017 I had the privilege of attending a Catalyst conference at which the keynote speakers were pastors Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley. As they wrapped up the conference, Andy Stanley said something that has stuck with me ever since.

“Do not criticize that which you do not understand.”

Those instructions resonated with me having grown up in a household that, although was full of love, was also full of criticism towards others. With both my parents, decisions and situations were very binary (i.e. black or white), and there was never much consideration given to the nuance of a particular issue (i.e. the gray area in which we all live and operate).

I am sad to say that worldview dominated my way of thinking in my young adult life, and it was such a huge hurdle to overcome. To this day, I struggle with reverting back to that mentality, but I thank God for surrounding me with women and men of faith who, when it comes to this particular personality tick, help keep me focused on the nuance and not the binary.

So as I watched the video below about Billy Joe White, an artist in Ohio who covers up racist tattoos for free, I felt myself want to be judgemental towards the people who had the offensive ink and were now looking to have it hidden. The video does an excellent job in allowing the individuals to explain what compelled them to get those tattoos, and it steers our attention to where it should be; not on a decision in the past that propagated the rhetoric of hate, but rather on actions in the present that are rooted in love.

“Do not criticize that which you do not understand.”

The video is not about people who were/are racist. The video is about a man seeking to make a difference in a culture where racism and hate are prevalent. He does this not to bring attention to himself, but rather to help bring healing and renewal to others. The lesson here is one of extending grace.

In his book Irresistible, Andy Stanley writes:

For John, Paul, and Jesus, loving people is loving God. Not because people are God, but because they are loved by God. Refusing to actively love a brother or sister is paramount to refusing to love God. Under the new covenant, we do not love God and love our neighbors. Under the new covenant, we love God by loving our neighbors.

I pray the next time I feel myself leaning toward that old habit of judging and dismissing, I remember that as a follower of Christ I am commanded to love my neighbor, without exception and without conditions. It is a commandment we should all have tattooed onto our hearts.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)