Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whatever is Worthy Day- April 8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Philippians 4:8


Dear Friends,


We live in a day where almost every day is national (something) day. I’m not sure who decides those things… But I AM ASKING A HUGE FAVOR!


I want as many people who would consider doing so- join me in making April 8 (4/8) as Global ‘Whatever is Worthy Day".


I want the only inspiration to be one of Paul’s final exhortations to the Church in Philippi as he found even good aspects of his imprisonment in a Roman prison.


What do we do on April 8th?


We want to saturate the World Wide Web, social media, the radio waves, the television news and entertainment world, the world of art and sports and business… With stories that lift up things that are true…. honorable...just...pure...lovely...commendable….highlighting excellence...proclaiming things that are worthy of praise.


Here are the requests/principles


  1. Not everyone will participate and some will use the opportunity to do the opposite….. And the first way we ‘win the day’ is to not return or respond in kind. This is not a time for trolling...this is a day of grace.
  2. Plan ahead- think about ways you can do this all day! From Midnight to 11:59 PM in every time zone. We have plenty of time and energy to deal with issues and pain and negativity… But I want you to consider how to minister to people who are in pain. Turn a mess into a miracle.
  3. Please be authentic. The only thing you may be able to do is to try to think about these things. The worst thing we could do would be to REQUIRE anything. Let’s agree that we are not going to accuse or condemn any perceived lack of enthusiasm or participation.
  4. Sure- we should be like this ALL the time...but is there any problem to find a day to dwell on goodness, mercy, and grace.
  5. I have no idea how this will go…. But I'd one person is encouraged by this beautiful verse of Scripture… I will consider it a joy to try.


Ideas?


A website? I did create a facebook page …. https://www.facebook.com/worthyApril8/


A place to post testimonies or stories from the day?


National Empanada Day is April 8- a food holiday and national all is ours day.. These are positive days… I think we are still good… Celebrate!


What is April 8 is a poignant day of sadness for you? Even more so to ‘think’ on ‘whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise’


Suggestions?
Love-serve-forgive- intentional acts of mercy and kindness- write a note of encouragement- say ‘thank-you’ to all who serve you…..
Eat a meal with joy… Write a list of blessings… It is endless…...


So…. Re-tweet- share- pray……

This year. April 8, 2017 will be on a Saturday….. Let’s get the ball rolling.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Voltron Force- 30 years Ago- Part 3- The Rise Of Voltron

There was no question that we were going to do the team again in 1986.

To be honest, it was refreshing to get back to just playing for fun... almost like being a kid again.

I think most innocent fun is best when there is a child-like quality to it. And speaking of 'child fun', it was about that time we got hooked on a cartoon called 'The Voltron Force'. For a few years it was 'General Hospital' and "Late Night with Letterman'.... but the new show (along with Miami Vice) was Voltron... and we grabbed a chance to watch it every time it came on.

So when we registered the team... we had new colors and a new identity... The Walk-offs 2.0 was now "The Voltron Force'.

We actually had team jerseys (t-shirts) with a Voltron Print on the front.



SNOPES: TRUTH! VOLTRON ENERGY IMPACT ON THE  REAL FOOTBALL TEAM

Ray Perkins' 1985 season was successful... the Van Tiffin kick against Auburn and fun Aloha Bowl win over USC had people feeling good. Few would have predicted that 1986 season would be Coach Perkins' last at the helm.

Despite denying rumors to the contrary... Coach Perkins resigned on December 31 to take over at Tampa Bay. Bill Curry would be the head coach at the start of the 1987 season.

So this is going to be doubted... but the fun and draw of the Voltron Force was putting serious pressure to keep even some scholarship players from joining us. Some of it was the leftover feelings from some of the old Coach Bryant players that they had been shunned in favor of the new Coach Perkins recruits.

One of our Voltron players (name withheld for protection) could do an amazing Coach Perkins imitation. He would entertain Bryant Hall for hours with his Perkins mannerisms and quotes. (Example: Coach Perkins said the word 'great' ALL the time.. one time we counted 73 greats in a 30 minute Ray Perkins TV show.)

The most common routine was this (Voltron Force) player standing in front of Alabama players doing a hilarious Ray Perkins imitation. His final line was..."Men, as far as this rumor about me going to Tampa Bay.. my feet are in concrete." To which a current player would blurt out.. 'WELL THROW HIM IN THE RIVER!".

This became such a hit because a player ACTUALLY said it in the back of the meeting room after Coach Perkins said that quote.

I will only say this... I personally counseled a couple of 'quality playing time players' that they would be glad years down the road that they stayed in the Crimson uniforms instead of trading them for a Voltron Force jersey.

VOLTRON FORCE EXPONENTIAL GROWTH


Once the word got out that we were re-doing the team and naming it the Voltron Force... our  roster exploded with quality athletes. Former Huffman HS Viking QB Bart Knight left the football squad to add blazing speed to the Voltron Force secondary.

Before we officially registered the team, we had several former Tide players and some quality high school stars on the roster.

2nd BIGGEST MISTAKE I MADE

Ok- here is where it gets crazy.

I was working on the new playbook one night when my girlfriend (now my wife and best friend of 28 years) came and asked me if I would also coach the Phi Mu sorority football team.

She said they were desperate.. and like a fool.. I said yes. I told her I would practice with them on Sundays... have their games on Thursdays and the Voltron games were on Tuesdays for the most part.

What was I thinking?

For a while- it was incredible.

As soon as my friends found out I was coaching a sorority football team, I had 15 volunteers to be assistant coaches. I had an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, a special teams coach and 12 other guys who showed up to practice to help!

But our season was quickly turned into a disaster...

Our very first game, my girlfriend was pancaked on our sideline by a huge Pi (Beta) Phi beast- she hit her head on a rock as she fell.

In one of those "there's no crying in baseball" moments- I ran to her and raised my voice....

"NO ONE ON MY FOOTBALL TEAM IS GOING TO LAY DOWN AND CRY!"

She sat up and gave it right back to me... "WELL GUESS WHAT... I'M NOT ON YOUR TEAM... I QUIT!!!"  and she did.

We were skunked and destroyed.... as I walked back into my room my phone rang.

It was the discipline chairman of Phi Mu... she called to inform me that my offensive coordinator had 'dated' at least 5 members of the team in a week's time.

So my girlfriend quit, we lost, and I fired one of my coaches in about a 4 hour period.

The team disbanded and we did not finish the season.

THE VOLTRON JERSEY

not the real jersey
Lee Clements showed us the jersey.. it had a Voltron picture on the front and had Voltron Force and our numbers on the back.

We can't remember why.. but for some reason, we couldn't get the front of the jersey done right away.. so we played the first part of the season with a blank front of the jersey. We finally got the picture on the front right before our last game... and to this day... we consider that to be the Omen that cast the winds of fortune against us!

But our jerseys were cool. When we walked on the field... most of the games were already decided.

THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I MADE

We rolled through the regular season without breaking a sweat. We had size, speed, and depth.

Mike Graham, an amazing receiver and athlete from Bayou La Batre, AL was unstoppable and we had good talent around him.

It was now time to play once again, for the campus championship versus the fraternity champion.

And based on protest work we did in the off season- the Law School was not going to be in the mix.

Our last few games, I noticed we were being scouted... and in our pride- we did not scout in return.

We went into the championship happy, fat, lazy, and cocky.

It was a nip and tuck back and forth game.

I hit Mike Graham early on a wheel route and we seemed to be rolling.

But the machine team answered every score with a score.

They were running a GREAT defense.. it was a hustling, disciplined underneath zone that made it hard for me to squeeze in some throws.

I threw an interception in the 3rd quarter... my first one of the season.

Our defense held and we were holding a slim lead into the 4th quarter.

That is when I made the worst coaching decision of my life......

We had the lead with just a few minutes left to play... and we were facing a 4th and 12.

The rules called for a team to declare on 4th down whether they would 'go for it' or 'punt'- which was an automatic 35 yard run-off.

And like an idiot- I elected us to go for it.

I called a roll-out pass with Mike Graham running a comeback at the chains.

I rolled, he cut, I threw, and it was wide.... out of bounds.

The other crowd erupted like they had won the super bowl.

Our defense came out a little dejected and the frat team scored almost immediately.

We got the ball back with very little time and... on 1st and 10 I threw my 2nd pick of the game... it was an amazing diving catch by their Strong Safety who had given me fits the entire game.

All they had to do now was run out the clock.

They snapped the ball.. the Qb held it and, instead of taking a knee, let Chris Lomabardo pull his flag.

Chris Lombardo called a time out and I saw the guys huddle.

FINDING A WAY TO WIN


The next play will go down in lore and legend.

The next play.... with just a few seconds left on the game clock...

The center snapped the ball and Chris slowly walked up.. and non-chalantly went to pull the flag.. BUT instead of pulling the flag, he tipped the football out of the Qb's arms into his arms and ran down the sideline FOR A TOUCH DOWN!!!!

I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT! We just won the game......

until the officials conferred....

and though there was no rule in the rule book... decided at that moment... that Chris had done an illegal play...

MACHINE WINS

THUS WAS THE END OF THE VOLTRON FORCE......


Mike Graham on the kick


My football playing days were officially done.

And that my friends all happened 30 years ago.... this fall.



PLEASE HELP ME COMPLETE THE VOLTRON FORCE/WALK-OFF ROSTER:

Jay Mathews
Lee Clements
Ricky Colbert
Chris Lombardo
Mike Graham
Thom Whitley
Mike O'Toole
Larry Strain
Charlie Eddy
David Lee Smith
Jim Hill
Bart Knight
Richard Woods
David Dean
Andrew Boyd









The Voltron Force- 30 years Ago- Part 2- Walk-offs Rock the Campus

Lee Clements and Charlie Eddy in front of Bryant Hall A.K.A. as the U.S.S. Perkins
We registered our team with the University Intramural System in Aug of 1985 under the name 'Walk-offs" which caused a fun buzz at Bryant Hall.

One of our first challenges was TIME.

On top of our required studies, Lee, Chris Lombardo, Charlie Eddy, and I were student dorm assistants at Bryant Hall. Coach Perkins decided to pick up the responsibilities there and, for the most part,we were good at getting it all done.

Recruiting Weekends were all day affairs

Things we did well: put out the mail, checked off meals as players and guests came through, did curfew check with the dorm director (a novel of stories there), put out 10 PM snacks, and we worked long hours during football camps.

Lee and Lombardo on Gameday
We were especially good on recruiting weekends on Gamedays. We put out tables and chairs in the courtyard. We set up the annex for the Bama Bells and guests. We cut up the barbecue. We transported the recruits and families to the game. We served cokes and hotdogs DURING the game. We took some of the recruits back and, occasionally, to the airport and we cleaned up that evening.

There is one thing, however, that we were MAJOR failures at. And I admit this to my shame.

We were awful at putting out and taking up the U.S. and Alabama state flags. Coach Perkins installed the HUGE flagpoles off the front of the dorm. They were so big that we renamed Bryant Hall..... to the U.S.S. Perkins.

We HATED flag duty... mainly because the flags we so large and the ropes weren't installed right...so most of the time the flags were wrapped around the poles so bad that the building looked bad.

Getting the flags unwrapped...especially if they were soaked from rain.. was a major pain. And often...it was just a give up until better winds came and unwound the mess.

At the beginning of the flag raising and lowering process, we were SO CAREFUL to honor the Stars and Stripes. We looked up the regulations and even tried to fold it in the triangle.... but that didn't last... sorry to say we missed some days, left the flags up (but they weren't spotlighted at the time), had no clue if there were half mast requests....a lot of the time we lowered them and literally flung them in the closet on the way to study hall.... it was a fail....

All of this to point out- WE HAD NO TIME TO PULL TOGETHER A FOOTBALL TEAM.

So, what I did next had profound implications for my later years as a coach.

I developed an offensive system that looks like the spread schemes that are used today. I wrote the system on notecards and had it where just about anyone could show up for a game and play without any practice.

And that is one unique factor of the Walk-off's and Voltron Force.... never had a practice. We just showed up at game time.... figured out who was there that day and proceeded to dominate.

THE WALK-OFF SYSTEM

The rules allowed for 3 offensive linemen and everyone was eligible to receive a pass except the center. The only blocking that could be done was a shield block (basically just getting in the way of a rusher).

My playcard system helped us stay organized
The system was about 5 plays that had a pass option regardless of the coverage. It had a built in blitz beater as both up-backs would fast release to the flats if the team used their 1 blitz per series option.

I always had a single cut route on the backside for any man to man defense and then a twins combination to the field to work against a zone.

In two years, the only times we were stopped was a receiver not being able to beat man to man (rare) or a GREAT  disciplined zone where they broke hard on the ball.

Years later (too late for me), I learned the need to use eyes and pump fakes (shoulder hunches) to give space against the zone.

The last advantage of the Voltron system was my ability to take a deep drop and run around until the receivers broke open- I called this 'doing the Flutie' based on what Doug Flutie did at Boston College.

One interesting note about the system.... we had a game that we could not attend and two former starting Alabama football players (and we think it was Joey Jones) took my play cards and totally rocked that game.

The defense was totally run by Clements, Colbert, and Lombardo and they killed it.

Final note about my playcards- Throughout my coaching years, I always carried with me a 'playbook' to team camps for help in 7 on 7's when I was coaching players I had never been with before. I used these at University of Tennessee camp with Tim Couch and Chris Leak. I used them at Ole Miss and a lot of other camps. We were always very successful with my simple notecard plays with throws to make against any defense. Coach Cutcliffe was good about complimenting my readiness to organize an offense quickly.

EARLY CONTROVERSY - The Machine is Real

Anyone familiar with Alabama knows the power of the greek influence, referred to for generations as 'the machine'. As an athlete, I was never in opposition to any machine endeavor and enjoyed watching the independent vs. machine bickering... especially in the realm of politics.

What I didn't realize, is that the machine had control over intramural athletics!

After a few weeks of competition, I began to note when and where games were being scheduled.

The greek teams were on the newest and nicest fields, were most convenient for spectators, and had the most efficient officials.

I soon understood that we were in an 'independent' league playing in a cowfield and using officials who knew little or nothing about football.

So we went undefeated through the regular season without a close game.

"Independent' Official
One funny story involved a team called the "Dawg Pound" who had a middle linebacker who ran his mouth at me the entire game.

"You guys think you're something. I  ain't impressed."

I was always pretty good about keeping my mouth shut. We would score about every 3 or 4 plays.

"I'm bringing some stuff at you QB, how you going to handle it?"

I hit Thom Whitley off of his blitz for a gain of about 30.

Finally, one of his own players went over and blocked him to the ground!

"Shut the #*#&* up man- you're an idiot!"

The official threw a penalty flag and ejected the guy who hit the loud mouth.

Then he marched the penalty off against us!

'Wait a minute I said... he was on their team!"

"Oh sorry."

He put the ball back and walked over to me.

"So how do I penalize that?" He was asking me!

I said, "If I were you, I'd eject the loud mouth, let the other guy back in because he was doing us a favor."

And he did !

MACHINE WINS

So- we won the independent league easily that season and that set-up the campus championship game against the greek league champion.

The game was moved to a Sunday and we showed up to a crazy crowd. These frat guys had brought a good crowd.  This was going to be fun!

One thing I haven't mentioned is that the championship team got to represent the University of Alabama in Mobile in the regional championship. It eventually went to a national championship.

And we played a great game and beat the Greek champion. We were excited about moving on to the region.

That was...... until we got the phone call for the next game.... a championship game against the Law School team... scheduled at the last minute,

What?

That is right... we played the next Tuesday against the Legal Eagles- with former Mt Brook Qb Lee Gresham as the signal caller. They looked sharp and were very athletic... a much cleaner looking group of young men!

They beat us by two Td's and the university was spared from having the "rag tag" Walk-offs move on to other games.

I recently e-mailed Lee Gresham to confirm this TRUE story and here was his reply:


See how he stuck that knife even deeper!

In part 3- we will see how the excitement of that remarkable season in 1985 paved the way for the birth of the Voltron Force and the cult attraction it became.......









Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Voltron Force- 30 years Ago- Part 1- Roots of the Movement

This year marks the 30th anniversary season of the Voltron Force- one of deadliest and most controversial flag football teams in the Universtiy of Alabama's storied history.

Lee Clements, a few teammates, and I have recently finished an exhaustive research process to preserve the memory and legacy of two seasons that rattled the foundations of institutional process and control.

I don't know if time will allow us to thoroughly explore all of the providential circumstances that led to the formation of the cultural icon. But no one could have predicted the powerful attraction that some say threatened to weaken the actual Alabama football team in 1985 and 1986.

We believe it is safe now to tell the TRUE story of this group of dedicated athletes and competitors.

Part of the roots of this team go back to when a small but insane group of walk-on football players pushed the envelope of scout teams in the early days of Ray Perkins coaching era at Alabama.

In the fall of 1983- Lee Clements, Chris Lombardo, Ricky Colbert, Mike O'Toole, Scott Connell, and I began to explore ways to have 'fun' as scout team defensive backs.

The year before was not much fun - as I spent Coach Bryant's last season as the scout team QB. In those days, it was live tackling to the ground during team time. I have written on previous occasions that running scout team wishbone plays against Emmanuel King, Eddie Lowe, Tommy Wilcox and company wasn't the easiest gig in town.

But Coach Ray Perkins came in with a passing offense that sent me to defense and from the punished to the punishers.

THE TARGET

I don't know who started the 'ritual'- but the scout team defensive backs that spring decided to create what became known as the daily 'target'. Before every full pad practice, there was a brief vote on WHO would be the target on that particular day.

Then, a delegate from the crew would go into the varsity dressing room and 'post' on the chalkboard who was the (un)lucky winning receiver for that day.

That person was put on proper notice that if we had a chance to put the wood on them... there was going to be no hold back at all.

We justified our system by picking the guy who needed toughening up.

If a starting receiver had loafed or had a bad game the week before... we just made him the target of a weekly practice to 'increase' the intensity of his effort.

It was widely known that Jesse Bendross HATED being the target- which caused him to win a lot of votes. If we put a target with a number 88 in the middle of it... he would stop getting dressed, storm into the scout team dressing room and plead his case.

No one would pay him any attention and finally, someone would blurt out, "Get out of here, Jesse" along with, "I hope Walter doesn't hang you out to dry on that crossing route."

There was one receiver who was never voted the target.... Joey Jones.

We were afraid of him and no one minded admitting that.

(The next Spring, I was moved to receiver and was targeted a few times... which does prove that 'your sin will surely find you out")

But the Fall of 83 was interesting.... Lee and I decided to try a few things to pick up practice....

Coach Perkins had used white helmets for some of the games and we decided to use them for the scout team when we played Tennessee. We grabbed as many orange T decals that we could find and decorated the helmets.... then we went and hid in the bushes around the outside of the practice field.

When the varsity came out- they were looking around to see where the scouts were.

We planned when to come out..... right before team stretching and we tore out from the bushes wearing Tenn Orange and screaming like a bunch of banshees.....

The varsity guys got a good chuckle out of it and we had a fast, fun practice- but it didn't help as we lost  34-41 at Legion field.

We did the same thing for the Auburn game... Lee and I drove to Birmingham to buy the decals from Hibbett's Sporting goods.... same result ... lost 20-23.

I moved to Wide Receiver the next Spring... after that, Coach Perkins offered for Lee and I to work for the athletic department as student dorm assistants in Bryant Hall, but it meant our official football days were over.

Well, we thought they were over.....

That next fall, 1985- we realized we had a lot of former Alabama players who were still wanting to compete... so we organized a team we called 'The Walk-offs' and entered the world of Intramural flag football. That team was the pre-cursor of the Voltron Force in 1986.





In Part two....

We will explore the Walk-offs inaugural season and how it  took  the league by storm and challenged the university intramural system to its limit.

I'm sure these stories will go viral soon.........






Thursday, September 01, 2016

Winning

With college kickoff weekend just in our sight, I thought I would spend a time on a topic we think we know a lot about, but usually, haven't taken the time to study it or analyze it.

What is winning?

Coaches of all sports at all times have given inspirational speeches and spent seasons or years teaching about it.

One of the first things to understand about winning is that it is in a context..... winning is always in a context of competition where there is also a chance to lose.

The intensity of the competition elevates the enjoyment of winning and increases the pain of losing.

Winning and losing can actually become a trend in a person's life. Winners don't win all the time- but they contain certain attributes that allow them to experience it more often.

Losing can become a habit as well. Losers may win on occasion, but generally, their composition is such that winning is sheer luck and losing is almost an expectation.

I have a 6 domain approach that outlines winning in any context- sport, life, business, or relationships.


Winning the Investment

The harder you work the harder it is to lose. I find that a sacrificial and personal investment in a cause or desire will allow for the greatest chance of success.

My guess is that we know this enough to pay lip service to it.

The will to win is conditioned by the will to prepare to win. And the best yardstick of future success is 'what are you doing right now?". What you do today will shape who you are in the future.

I will mention one other thing... there is a rare breed of a champion who is willing and able to invest with the same intensity while on top as they do in their climb to the top.

Most people scratch and claw until they achieve their quest... then they lay down in satisfaction and soak it in. And there is a healthy way to do that.

But I admire and give great props to those who still dig hard every day even after they have reaped great success!

Winning the Intelligence

There are some winners who understand that work is one thing... but SMART work is even better.

Every time you compete..you learn. A winner takes a loss and studies it to the point that it will be harder for that circumstance to ever happen again.

A winner MUST be a learner. A winner needs to thirst after wisdom and knowledge.

A winning coach must always be open to evaluation and correction.

Losers are afraid of information... they protect themselves from it....

They are afraid of being exposed for a lack of knowledge.

But their fear of showing a deficit prohibits them from learning.


Winning the Messaging

Winners are constantly sending a message...it is a body language... it is a narrative. Winners know how to send that message deep inside themselves as well.

By the way... there is no more POWERFUL message than BIBLE verses.

It is what Jesus used in the wilderness of temptation.

If you have never tried it- I encourage you to plant God's Holy Word DEEP in your heart. And I promise, you will win the messaging...

on the inside AND on the outside!


Winning the Unity

A winner is never alone and a winner understands that success is a 'we' and not a 'me'. Even great champions of individual sports know how to build a team. AND. nothing is more powerful than a unified TEAM.

When I was coaching football... that was my one desire... could I somehow press and request and push and teach... that this whole deal was bigger than any one person.

The common denominator of all of the state championship teams that I was blessed to be a part of was BONDS OF BROTHERHOOD... and it wasn't just players. Players loved and trusted players... loved and trusted coaches... loved and trusted support personnel... loved and trusted parents... loved and trusted administration... who loved and trusted  parents... who loved and trusted ...

well you get it.

Some of you, I bet, believe that this is just talk and not true....

I feel sad if you have never experienced it... the power of UNITY

It doesn't mean perfection..It doesn't mean total agreement....

but it is love and trust...

hard to achieve.

But when it happens, LOOK OUT- that group will NEVER lose..no matter what the score may say otherwise!

Winning the Battlefield

The battlefield is the reality of the competition. It is no longer prep and planning- it is fight in a flurry and adjust as the conditions change. It is a disciplined fight. It is incredible intensity at the point of attack while still having eyes to study the flow and the flanks.

Winning is 'being' not 'doing'

This last domain is almost a summary of all of the others. A winner doesn't win as much as that person IS a winner. That is their very blood flows with positive expectations and an unbending hope.

BOTTOM LINE:

This weekend.. there will be a lot of intense competitions between very talented and well coached teams.

When time expires, there will be a 'winner' and a 'loser'.

But true winners will not be marked by that declaration....

if they won- GREAT- but let's keep moving forard

if they lose- HURT- but then a rugged determination to correct and conquer next time.

True losers will not be confirmed either.

if they win... they begin to bask in the glow and do nothing to get better

if they lose... they employ defense mechanisms and speak sour grapes..

they will blame... and blaspheme....

and deep inside they will long for something that they know they will never be......

When you go to bed tonight- thank the Lord.... and tell Him you want to WIN

And when you wake up tomorrow- thank Him again- and tie your shoes tight and walk tall like a winner.

Tell yourself.... I am NEVER going to give in and keep fighting.

Victory is just around the bend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Story and A Journey

Note: Every testimony is unique. Some are dramatic and some are the sweet blossom of good seed and soil. Some come to faith in a moment and some are led on a path of years. 



This is my story.

Do you remember having your eyes opened to the gospel- the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ?
My parents were good to get me in church a lot growing up. Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Bible sword drills all began the process.
I remember, Jack Rutledge, father of Alabama QB Jeff, putting his arm around me and quietly asking me to give my heart to Jesus. I tensed up and was unwilling… little did I know that those faithful seeds were going to root in time…. ( I was excited to tell him years later of my conversion).
My first 'experience' with God was at the age of 8 when I was baptized at Ruhama Baptist Church in Birmingham. It was during a revival and I felt like I was ‘supposed’ to go down the aisle. I remember a Pastor meeting with my mother and me. During this meeting, he showed me a Good News Bible and pointed to a picture of a shepherd and sheep. I just shook my head “yes”. I really did not know what I was doing.. no understanding at all!
The baptismal ceremony was performed in freezing cold water because the water heater was broken. It took my breath away as I went under. In later years I laughed that this was a little humor from the Lord about my “cold” baptism.
I tried to be a good boy for about 2 weeks but eventually regressed to being the same ole me.
All of these were important experiences with God… but it wasn’t the ‘eye opening’ experience that precedes conversion. I do, however, vividly remember that initial time of understanding….
It was in 8th grade, I remember a Sunday School teacher explaining the gospel in a way that I actually understood it. My sin was real and Jesus’ sacrifice made complete sense in bridging the separation I had with God.
Even though the good news had been presented maybe hundreds of times before that.. I did not understand.. it did not ‘click’. But that day.. it made so much sense..I was in sin… Jesus was the substitute for sin… but it created a PROBLEM!
I vividly remember thinking I’ve already been baptized, so I can’t tell anyone that I’m not a real Christian And I lived in conflict off and on for a long time. I knew I wasn’t living for God and I believed that I was going to hell. It disturbed me whenever I thought about it.
I was playing a video game in the mall and a little girl came up with a gospel tract. I treated her very rudely, but inside I still felt condemned.
Another time a girl I knew well told me that I couldn’t be a Christian because of my behavior. I told her that I had been baptized. She said that baptized or not, I lived like I was going to hell. Deep in my heart, I knew she was right.
Getting to high school actually provided escape from these thoughts and found that I was hardening to the idea that I was not a believer. Sports were a great diversion and offered some reward as an idol. I received recognition and relationships and I experienced a lot of success.
My realization about eternity abruptly came back up in the summer before my junior year. An acquaintance of mine was tragically killed while robbing a convenience store. He was with a group who was doing it just for the thrill. I was heartbroken and our school was in despair!
I remember receiving this news from my mom as I was coming home from Sunday School. I don’t know why I went to church that day and remember nothing from the visit.
All of the students were grief stricken and I was confronted once again with the idea of death.
We had a student gathering at a home and I was very impressed by the message. It was my first experience with Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. A minister, Tom Caradine, gave a clear gospel presentation along with Biblical answers for grief and loss. I was stirred immensely.
After the meeting, a college student who had been an athletic role model for me, Benny Parks, found me and shared a gospel tract with me. The tract had a drawing of two lives (see below) and I knew that my life was not being directed by Christ.
self directed
The above image was me… and I wasn’t happy with my life at al!

Christ Directed
This is what I desired… and it led me to a desire to get it right with God!

I went home and re-read the tract and knew it was time to make a choice. I got on my knees and prayed that God would forgive me and take me back. At the time, I thought I was re-dedicating my life to Christ. I now know from thinking through Scripture that this was my actual conversion.
Right after that prayer, I got up and went to sleep..no smoke or fireworks. But when I woke up the next morning..I remembered and I knew something was different.
Some immediate changes took place. I told my mom and a few friends that I had re-dedicated my life with Christ. This was a big step for me. I also began to read the Bible with great interest. I read the whole New Testament in about 2 days and the words seemed to burn in my soul. I have not had that sensation since, but it was a really cool moment.
I had a friend of mine make a poster for me to put in my football locker. I wanted coaches and teammates to know that I had made a change.
I also had a real sensation of peace with God. My anxiety about eternal destruction was completely gone. I have had this peace for so long now, that I have almost forgotten what the stress of condemnation was like.

All of this took place 36 years ago! 

Looking back in the light of Scripture like Romans and others, I now see that prayer night of my Junior year as being my conversion. And though there were times I did not live like a believer after that, I know that that was the moment of repentance and faith. I have failed Him many times... but He has never failed me!

In all of those years since, I have had the joy and agony of what it means to walk with God. I have had times of power and purity and I have had seasons of sin and sorrow.

In a long trail behind me are people who I shined a beautiful and loving light for Christ and there are others who might be convinced I am the devil.

I will say this.... it is one decision I have never regretted... and having Jesus in charge is a blessings. His plan for my life is much better that I could have ever done alone.

When I post these things....my all-too-human  motive is always in question.

But my heart aches in these moments with a prayer.....

What is keeping you from Jesus?

Some men think they are too good for Jesus. "I have everything I need... I don't really need Him... I'm not a bad person... I haven't robbed a bank or killed someone."

Most men think they are too bad for Jesus. "If you only knew what I have done!"

Are you afraid of what people may think?

Are you too stubborn to let the air out of your pride?

Drop all of your pretense and bow your head... right now...

And simply ask .....

My greatest prayer I have ever prayed is "God, please help me!"

And Your loving Heavenly Father RUNS to those kind of heart prayers.

And for a few days... just spend some time with Him.

Read the Bible.... I recommend Philippians and I John for those who feel new or weak in the faith.

Find a Bible believing friend and ask them to meet with you once a week.

Find a Bible believing church and start attending on Sunday mornings.

All of those recommendations are not to get you religious... they are places to get to know Jesus.

The One who died... so you may live.

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:11-15 ESV)






Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Ricky Bobby Lied" and other Rio Reactions

Every four years we get a nice break from the dripping and grinding issues of life to find a convenient distraction of interest, emotions, and nationalistic zeal.

I have always enjoyed the Olympics and always tear up at the underdog win and celebrate the excitement of elite competition.

Sure... a cynic can pick on it... politics, agendas, doping, ratings..... but why waste this only once every 4 years treat?

So, whether this post will have any readers or not... this is meant for me to remember....

RICKY BOBBY LIED.... The Olympics gives us a great reminder that to compete and win a medal is special. Most of the time a silver or bronze medal is received with JOY and it should be. All of the athletes go for the gold.... Sorry, Ricky Bobby....being second or third is not last. It is a special accomplishment.

JESUS ABOVE RIO

Cristo Redentor, Christ the Redeemer, could not be ignored as NBC displayed captivating cut ins and aerial shots throughout the Olympics.  I couldn't help but think of the powerful image and message and tweeted about it on the last day

My final Rio thoughts-as the world strained for gold- as we rejoiced and cried- Jesus's arms remained open through it all. Who will believe?




BILES, LEDECKY, AND PHELPS

Wow- what a display of champions... each with a wonderful story. The human drama of trial and achievement.

Human frailty and the razor-thin winning edge makes each competition full of meaning and suspense!

I could go on and on about the amazing victories.

I mean, the medal count itself shows how an entire novel of pain and ecstasy.

46 GOLD

37 SILVER

38 BRONZE





BOLT- The Greatest Athlete Ever?



I mean, what can you say.... 3 straight Olympics and 9 Gold Medals! Truly the longest dominant streak by any power athlete in history.





NIKE HAD ALL THE GOLD...


 I don't know if you noticed or not..but almost every great runner of every country were all wearing the same shoe.

I did see a few others.... on the ones coming up the rear......







THE MOST INSANE MOMENT IN OLYMPIC HISTORY

So I hate to end this blog of Olympic memories with the biggest head scratcher of all.

A man won the women's 800. He/She dominated.

What in the world are we doing? How is this fair to the women in the race?

Russia ought to take note for the 2020 games in Tokyo... no need to do performance enhancing drugs... just make all of your men to become women.. and you will own the medal count without worrying about the IOC pee cup.

If this truly makes sense... why have women's events at all? Let's just have the gender neutral games and see what Pat can do.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Have Fruit? 'Abiding' in the Vine

The theme verse for BCS this year is ''Walking the Spirit'. Here are some thoughts on living a more 'fruitful' life:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:1-8
Have you ever hit that point where your sense of God’s presence seems stale or distant? Does the weariness of the world and the contrary winds of culture make you want to chunk it all away?
Are you finding that you aren’t praying or sharing Jesus with others?
We always want to be very careful…. I have always found 2 Timothy 3:1-7 to be scary
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
And if we are honest… any anecdotal survey of CHURCH culture has numerous examples of this.
What Jesus describes in John 15 is an analogy of WHERE the source of power flows from and what our daily purpose should be.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
The source of power is the Triune God- the Creator of the Universe- the Almighty. And there is a purpose for His kingdom…’bear more fruit”.
What fruit are we talking about? There is both internal and external fruit that should, over time, flow out of the life of a Christian.
Internal Fruit:
We mentioned yesterday the internal fruit of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:22-25 ESV)
External Fruit:
I believe an excellent argument could be shown that Scripture expects fruitful produce in life among His people based on God given talent and opportunity. These follow in the form of children, good works, multiplying disciples, adding to the church, service, and a productive life of excellence which glorifies God.

FRUIT IS NOT A REQUIREMENT FOR  JUSTIFICATION BUT IS A RESULT OF JUSTIFICATION

Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
THE DAILY WALK WITH JESUS
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
What does it mean to abide in Jesus? Abiding is found in time, place, frequency, intensity, and duration.
TIME: This is a relationship that grows roots and shoots over a long period of time. ‘Hours for the world and mere minutes for Christ” is not a way to develop this abiding principle.
PLACE: God is everywhere and dwells within every believer- but I also believe ‘abiding’ incorporates a place where you get away and spend focused time with God. The gospels frequently mention about Jesus withdrawing to a desolate place, usually on a mountain and spending time in prayer. The best times of abiding in my life have been times where I had a designated time and place to get away from all distractions and contemplating deep thoughts and prayers to God.
FREQUENCY: “Abiding” also grows as we have these experiences with regular repetition.
INTENSITY: Abiding with Christ is not a 5 minute ‘Jesus Calling’ quick scan. It is not a checklist duty of the day. We need to bring our ‘A’ game to the meeting.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?  (Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)
DURATION: Is there a set time? Absolutely not! And if I am honest, I will have periods of ‘routine’.. it is better to do it that no do it… but I encourage you to consider every now and then spending bigger segments of time abiding in the Lord, meditating on His Word, on your knees, praising Him with zeal!
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE LOSE CONTACT?
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
YIKES…These images! But have you ever noticed what happens when you remove a stick from a fire? It burns out. So do we, when we cease to abide, we burn out in a sad pile of human inability.
And we all experience this….
Look at the earlier statement:
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
When you get to those dark times or dry times- you are experiencing one of 2 things:
Either you are a true believer and you are being pruned for more effective gospel impact
or
You were never a part of Jesus in the first place.
Part of the answer is- are you miserable apart from Jesus or is it no big deal? Do you miss Him?
THE BEAUTIFUL PROMISE ATTACHED TO ABIDING:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
When you spend time with Jesus and learn to rest in Him, be with Him, abide in Him- you find your heart being tuned to His desires and will. And you begin to pray according to His heart and will, and He responds with beautiful expressions of love and grace.
And is there ANYTHING more attractive than a man or women so in love with the Lord that their lives spread sweetness and encouragement, peace and strength, service and contentment to many around them?
I am convinced if we took the time and effort to abide in the true vine… we would see global expansion of the gospel like no other time in history.

Do you believe this?