Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Poison of Negativity

When we feel like grumbling and voicing complaints......

What does the Bible have to say?

Numbers 12

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it.

So the first part is 'easy'- it is a general look at the general nature of complaining. But -'easy' is not so easy.

When you look at the Book of Numbers and put in in the context of all that is going on in the pentateuch- it is amazing to see the emergence of 'patterns' in the narrative. There seems to be a pattern of complaints- here the people complain- Moses listens- he goes to God- and then a response. There also seems to be a Pre- Mount Sinai atmosphere in the complaint cases and a Post- Mount Sinai atmosphere in the complaint cases.

(Side note: Our God is the author of patterns- patterns of predictability- and the very definition of 'miracle' is where He acts contrary to the established pattern. But the patterns in all of creation point to a designer. Order did not come out of chaos and to look at the patterns in nature/life and deny the Creator is a piece of the unforgivable sin- rejecting Jesus Christ.)

Numbers 12 comes right off Numbers 11 the 2nd complaint where the people grumble because they have no meat and God responds by cramming it down their throats (now there is much more to it than I have flippantly stated here).

But I need to mention a few pre-cursors about complaining from the Numbers 11 account and then jump into the brother and sister complaint here in Chapter 12.

I- Wide Range Grumbling/Complaining Takes a Toll on the Spirit of a People and on the Leaders of a People.

Notice how Moses seems to change throughout the episodes of complaining by the people. Before Sinai, the people are crying out about their needs (water) and their experience with God is relatively new and without written Law. Moses cries out to God on behalf of the people and God responds.

One issue here in getting to know God's modus-operendi - His habit of providing just enough in the nick of time. He often waits and provides closer to the point of failure. We don't like that- but He does it many times that way. Most of the time it is to teach us patience and grow our faith. I think a huge surprise in heaven will be how quickly we are lavished according to our wants- but at that point our wants are not corrupted. Remember, this life is 'training' and not leisure. Some people, refuse to acknowledge this part of God and can grow bitter toward God, losing the attitude of gratitude, and despising His 'just in time' provisions.

After Sinai, the people are grumbling about 'wants' and suggesting that 'we had it better in Egypt'. This is after a longer experience with God and after the giving of His LAW. And God deals with these circumstances in a harsher way.

And the biggest impact is on Moses himself-

Numbers 11: 11 iMoses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, j‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”

I am going to list a lot of good reasons about why we should not get into a cycle of habitual grumbling or complaining- but a key issue is the health of a people and the toll it takes on these leaders. In a word, Moses was discouraged.

And the worst part of discouragement is that Moses loses sight of God's ability to provide. He has taken the burden of the people on himself and God's power seems distant.

If you ever want to really help an organization- learn to speak powerful words of support more than complaints. It will re-invigorate the spirit of a place and the leaders of a place.

I'm thinking a lot about the health of our nation here. The high level of complaints on both sides of the aisles has us more divided than ever. When Lincoln quoted the Bible in saying 'A house divided against itself cannot stand' he wasn't just talking about war.

Our only hope is a spiritual restoration.......

II- The Bible commands us NOT to complain.

Do all things without complaining and disputing. Philippians 2:14 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom. 8:18; For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  2 Corinthians 4:19 Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. 1 Peter 2:23 My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Ultimately, all complaining is against God. It is an indictment on God's providence and provision. When we habitually complain, it is basically calling God a liar.

PUSH-BACK: Does this mean I never have a right to voice concerns and relay information that may be negative? Do we have to be polly-anna ostriches with our heads in the sand?

Of course not- overly optimistic or idealized speech may be hollow or without authenticity. The key is the heart, the tone, the message, and the audience.

Now to the key point here in Numbers 12.

III- Family Feud: "Miriam and Aaron"-

Miriam's name is mentioned first and the verb is in the feminine- Miriam is the one leading this attack. It could be that Aaron's sin here is similar to Adam in the garden- a lack of leadership and passive silence. But even if he is just a bystander- to keep hearing the complaint without response is as good as supporting the complaint.

So here is sister and brother voicing a complaint. As much as outside complaining hurts, when it comes from your own flesh and blood it is even deeper.

Same in the church- outside attacks from the world never sting as much as internal attacks in the flock.

Why do the people we love the most get our worst? We treat total strangers better than our own kin. Maybe the family side of us is a better indicator of our real heart?

IV- The Spoken Criticism Hides the Deeper Problem:

Miriam and Aaron are speaking against the "Cushite' wife- but the real issue is that they are unhappy with God. They may gripe about Moses' decision to marry a Cushite, but the Bible is clear: it is old fashioned jealousy that is poisoning the well.

(Side Note: This passage may indicate a re-marriage here to a person from the ethiopian area after Zipporah's death or it could loosely refer to Zipporah. Quite a story in and of itself!)

Why do we do this? We couch behind trivial complaints, when the real reasons are obscured.

Notice that the criticism was based on a true fact- but the intentions were not good. If this isn't a warning to all of us, then what is?

V- The Cryptic Fact: The Lord Heard

And this one is not going to go so well. I feel a little for Miriam here because I think she, unfortunately, is a bigger part of what had been going on with Moses and God's concern for him. This is going to be the main thrust of the next blog post on this chapter.

But- when we complain or when we gossip or when we spread dissension- we have to be aware that God sees and hears. And He protects His own!

Well I have to stop here. I'm a little concerned about this post and the unintended. My job is such that I hear some complaining, but most of it is done with very loving, patient, and sober words.

And I am a little fearful that anyone reading this may be thinking that I am blasting them for reporting concerns- and I pray that it is not the case.

But here is a little advice I have been giving for years about 'complaining'.

1. Don't press send.

I used to say this to my coaches all the time. We get our emotions up and write that e-mail and hit those keys with force. It is very hard to communicate the heart involved in conflict in an e-mail or an acrimonious blog post! Write them but don't send them.

2. Sleep on it.

I have had a few times in my coaching career where a parent is waiting on me after the game. My practice is to walk up and say, "Mr ________, I know we need to talk but please, let's wait until in the morning." I know this flies against, not letting the sun go down on your anger, but usually the conversation is more civil after a night of rest.

3. Take criticism with prayerful objectivity.

This is a much tougher one, but an unexamined life will never improve.

4. Small circles.
Please protect the reputation of those you may be complaining about. Meditate on Matthew 18 and realize that even if a person is in sin, the system is designed to limit the wide spread of this damaging and hurtful information.

5. Cultivate gratitude.
For every negative thing you say- try to look for the good as well. Don't commit the sin of Eve who despised all the good things God gave to dwell on the prohibition.

6. Truly pray for those with whom you have a complaint.

Years ago, I got a really bad attitude toward someone. During coffee, I let another friend know of my 'very legitimate' complaints. When I finished, the true brother gently corrected me in the area of 'complaining' and challenged me to pray everyday for this person. It was one of the greatest blessings I have ever experienced.

7. Our information may be flawed. I have been burned too many times by someone telling me what they thought was the exact story, only to find it much different than reported. As a parent, I have learned that my children are not the best source of information and that they sometimes vent stuff to me as an outlet. As I look into the matter, the drama factor has changed significant details. All human beings see the same subjects in differing lights.

8. Live above the fray.
I Peter 2:12 :Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (NLT)

A closing story:

Years ago someone sent an anonymous e-mail to me and others that listed offenses and accused me, by name, of some very heinous actions. The biggest problem was... none of them were true!
The language was, "It has been said that Coach Mathews ....." and this was posted as gospel fact.

And if I am to be honest... it hurt me deeply.

Some time after that, another internet poster wrote a very harmful description of me as a person and a coach.

All you can do in those times is to bow your knee and ask God to come to your rescue. To my knowledge, those reports have not harmed me ( I was asked about the internet post during a job interview- but there were 25 to 1 posts that said positive things- and it did not harm me).

My challenge for all of us is to be diligent to not participate in habitual grumbling, but learn to live in the fruitful, positive, thankful environment of followers of Christ!

Friday, January 05, 2018

Alabama/Georgia Things Worth Noting

Here we are just a few days away from the national championship game in Atlanta.

As I have blogged on now for many blessed memories in the past, I am a thankful and spoiled Alabama fan.

There is so much analysis and noise around this game.... so I decided to delve into areas that others haven't mentioned:


Part of my research this week has been my concerns that between Kirby Smart's knowledge of Saban's defense and Jim Chaney's (UGA OC) experience with Alabama might create some scheme issues.... but Jim Chaney has nor fared well as a play caller vs a Nick Saban team.

2009- Tenn. 10 points
2010- Tenn. 10 Points
2011- Tenn. 6 points
2012- Tenn. 13 points
2013- Ark. 0 points
2014- Ark. 13 points

In saying this- I see the scheme's being even- I don't see anything changing that. MAYBE a cute wrinkle or trick play- but those don't normally win a game.

This will be a game of execution, injury, field position, and turnover differences.


Hmmm- hard to believe the over/under is currently 44.6

I know this sounds crazy, but a high scoring game means Alabama is moving the ball and that would not favor UGA.

A low scoring game favors UGA based on what I believe is a Georgia field goal kicking advantage.


An interesting storyline to me is that I believe this will be the Jalen Hurt's delivers game for Alabama.

I have written on this before, but the feeling people have about Jalen Hurts is eerily similar to complaints regarding Jay Barker. Winning isn't flashy enough.....

But in 1994 Jay Barker and the Crimson Tide hosted Georgia and Eric Zeir.

Here is the recap of that shining moment.....

Jay Barker threw for a career-high 396 yards and Michael Proctor kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:12 remaining to give No. 11 Alabama a 29-28 victory over Georgia, ruining a record-breaking night for Bulldog quarterback Eric Zeier on Saturday at Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Zeier became the yardage leader in Southeastern Conference history, throwing for 263 yards and four touchdowns to give him 9,327 yards in his career. That eclipsed the career record of 9,287 set by Florida's Shane Matthews from 1989-92.
But, as has happened so many times to Zeier, who finished 25 of 33, his individual achievements were overshadowed as Georgia, 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC, lost an important game that would have kept the Bulldogs in contention for the conference title they haven't won since 1982.
Alabama (5-0, 3-0) came into the game with the worst passing offense in the SEC, but Barker, as he has done often in his career, rose to the occasion. He completed 26 of 34 for 396 yards which is the second-best passing game in school history, to Scott Hunter's 484-yard performance against Auburn in 1969.
Don't be shocked if Jalen Hurt's has rushing and passing career best yards.....


I'm not sure if this needs to be better explained in a separate blog post... but Nick Saban has stirred up the hate card for this team... it may be that he saw that as an effective button for this team.

And no doubt the disrespected, chip on the shoulder, contra-mundum approach works... revenge is a jet fuel... but it burns fast and dries up quickly.

The problem? If a team believes they win because they are 'stoked to win' then emotion becomes a necessary ingredient to belief... but emotion is a fickle state... fake emotion doesn't last.... and even real emotion doesn't always produce the same effect.... it is like a drug... you need more and more to elicit the same high.

I don't like teams that HAVE to have emotion to win. They tend to be UP AND DOWN... I have always preached INTENSITY trumps emotion... let emotion come and go...let it come from actual plays in the game... but win with intensity...even if the mood is fickle.

Both Georgia and Alabama could feel like they are not playing well because they don't FEEL as hyped as the OT felt for Georgia or the ANGER felt for the TIDE.

And believe it or not- you can be over-hyped and play poorly or burn unnecessary energy...

AND  you can get beat by a hyped team if you don't match their intensity... if you want a case study of that look at Auburn vs Alabama when the game is at Jordan Hare- Auburn has always been a very emotional team...when they are on, they play like super men... but again- when they are off, the flatness is palpable.

I am a tad surprised that Saban hasn't tempered that .... but I do trust him as a master motivator.


Beware a fast start by either team.... sometimes championship games can become a 1st round knock-out. It would be the NCAA's worst nightmare... but just like superbowls, a team can get a bam- bam- bam and it is over before it begins.

BOTH TEAMS have that kind of potential.

As I play it position by position...

Each team is built to stop the style of each team- Oklahoma will be so sorry they did not get here... I think OU beats Alabama in this game.

But this is Alabama vs Alabama..... but Kirby hasn't quite loaded up the difference maker at every position and in the end... that will be the only difference.

Think of it as a typical East/West SEC game on steroids. Low scoring early- little excitement except for maybe plays in the kicking game... close at the half

Then Alabama makes the second half  surge and it ends up being a less dynamic game than everyone hoped for.

But Alabama hoists the trophy 24- 10.

As with any of my predictions, I would not bet my house or even 10 bucks...

Be safe everybody!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

UCF's Greatest Loss

Oh my....
UCF achieved their greatest victory on Jan. 1 to top off their greatest season, led by their greatest team and their greatest coach.... Scott Frost, my pick for CF Coach of the Year.

And they had the ENTIRE nation eating out of the palm of their hand... poised to be the darling of American football fans, just like Penn State a year ago.
And once Georgia and Alabama won their games... they were set to be heralded and included in a great American conversation... I mean who likes the SEC.... right?
Then THEY ( UCF A.D. and President) absolutely wrecked it before it even had a chance to sprout wings.

They put up banners, scheduled a press conference, and planned a parade as SELF PROCLAIMED COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONS.

Scott Frost hasn't even packed his bags yet and UCF has already shown they are unwilling to follow his lead or continue his legacy.

Coach Frost gave the EXACT right response to position UCF in a long running profitable and fruitful lane:

“Great Bowl experience. This is my 10th as a player or a coach, New Year’s Day bowl. The Peach Bowl is right up there with all of them. The people were so accommodating and polite. We had so much fun here as a team, and we’re grateful to have been given this chance.”

“Going through the season, I was afraid to say much about the rankings and everything because I’m a little superstitious. And just when a coach starts running his mouth, that’s when you lose the next game. But it wasn’t right. I was watching every week, the [College Football Playoff selection] committee sitting in a room and decide this 2-loss team must be better than UCF because UCF is in the American [Athletic Conference]. Or this 3-loss team must be better than UCF.

“It looked like a conscious effort to me to make sure that they didn’t have a problem if they put us too high and a couple teams ahead of us lost. And oh, no, now we have to put them in a playoff. But we just beat a team that beat two playoff teams and lost to another one by 6 points and we beat them by 7.

“And Auburn is a great team. I’m not taking anything away from them. I give them a ton of credit. But these guys deserve everything they get, and they deserve more credit from the committee than what they got.”

and if UCF was smart they should have scheduled that parade around those comments...


By deciding to snub the NCAA and question the legitimacy of the organization they belong to ... they are simply contributing to an already worrisome problem in our ever divided country..

"I will get along with you as long as I agree with you... but as soon as you do something I don't agree with... I will now fight you- you are now my enemy"

And all we do is cannibalize each other in the process.

There is a fine line here... voiced dissent is fact, it is necessary- Scott Frost did that WITHIN the framework of the system.

To PROCLAIM YOURSELF something in direct violation to the very rules and procedures you signed up for is chaotic and ultimately results in destruction.

As UCF pays out the departing coaches 200,000 bonuses... they are leaving behind players and new coaches who, instead of being loved and adored, are now being set up for their first loss... could be as early as Sept 15.. and those banners and t-shirts will be mocked and ridiculed like no other..

And who knows if the A.D. or President will even be there... they may have already jumped to a power 5 school and wonder why all of a sudden the sky has fallen.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Open Letter to Editor of New York Daily Regarding 'Gutless Saban' Article

Dear Editors,

University of Alabama head football coach, Nick Saban was a subject in the New York Daily News last Thursday morning when Chuck Modiano wrote “Nick Saban is a clueless, gutless, selfish coward for his silence on Roy Moore” .

My guess is the article succeeded in your primary objective to stir the pot and elicit response. The article was posted numerous times under salacious headlines and helped fill time between commercials on talk radio across the nation.

I do not know Mr. Modiano, but the nature of his charges and the assertions he makes illustrates why people refuse to learn the lesson that the State of Alabama taught all of us this past week.

We don't TALK anymore in this country. It is way easier to make bold assertions (some in as few as 280 characters) in short and simple scorched earth diatribes than it is to actually sit down and listen to one another.

You printed/posted an article that made a very serious charge regarding Coach Saban:

My biggest issue with these types of statements is that our culture seizes on these exchanges and often accept conclusions without a full analysis of all the facts.

I am saddened that we have a culture today where a simple label can be fixed to a name without a burden of proof and the consequences of such tags can be life destroying. The bar is too low to suffer the blows that such charged words result in. 

If I am honest, I know that I am without any protection if anyone charges me with any odious 'ism'.

The difficulty is the medium itself. I do not have the space, and most readers do not have the patience to read all that it would take to exonerate a man of your serious allegations.


I had numerous conversations with people who were torn. As millions of dollars poured in on both sides of the situation- we were told over and over that Judge Moore was a child molester and Mr. Jones wanted to kill babies.

It caused great concern, because to a man, most people in Alabama are burdened to vote.

There were questions that in most people minds were never answered. The biggest one was "If all of these allegations against Roy Moore were true, why are we just learning this NOW?"

But if they were true, it would be almost impossible to cast that vote.

 This letter doesn't allow me to adequately articulate all of the different views and how some lean right and some lean left in Alabama BECAUSE of faith...  and after prayer and wrestling with the issues....Alabama chose to vote- we had a large turnout.

There were many examples of how people chose principles over party. That is what every person in the nation needs to embrace as well. Our country wold be better off if we did that. Instead, we choose a side, believe nothing that gives evidence to the contrary, and throw gasoline on the fire of dissension regardless if it means we will all go down in flames.

And the man you called 'clueless' got over 20,000 write in votes. Pretty high for a gutless coward.

Here is what I can say about Nick Saban.... he brings in players from all different backgrounds and builds a great culture of unity and advancement. He gives millions to charity and was wise enough to not insert himself into the race. 

He is preparing his team to play every week and recruiting more players form all over the country... my guess is that he would say he doesn't actually know enough to make a bold proclamation about either candidate in the race- and he know his words do carry weight.

I wish Mr. Modiano used that same discretion.......

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Running on Empty? Turn on Love

There are a number of reasons why we get beaten down and drained. We are busier than ever- mass communication technology has produced a sprinters pace for a marathon life... it causes even young people to hit the wall quite frequently.
But another reason we often overlook is the toll of sin.... our personal sin... but also the weariness of living in a world of sin. People who care only about themselves: they mock, disregard, and mistreat others.
The Book of Revelation gives us a reminder about God's truth and God's heart... I found some encouragement this morning from the letter to the Church in Ephesus:
EPHESUS was the greatest city in Asia minor. It boasted a population over 250,000 people. But it was a deeply pagan city where people worshipped in the world of the occult and witchcraft. The city was famous for the Temple of Diana. It was 100,000 sq. feet, which is twice the size of a football field! The typical pagan practice in those days combined ‘worship’  with immorality! A church in a city like this needs DOCTRINE and DISCERNMENT. If we look at our Bibles, we will find that  Paul, Timothy, Barnabas, and John had all been there.
Let’s look at what Jesus says to the church in Ephesus!
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
I have heard a lot of great talks on ‘finding your first love’… but I think it is easy to miss what Jesus is saying here.
I believe Jesus is exhorting the church to teach the truth in ‘LOVE’.
I had a great friend of mine, a pastor in Nashville who used to say: “There is a difference in being right and DEAD RIGHT. Don’t kill people with the truth.”
I get sad when I see the poisonous rhetoric in our culture today…..
And the key? You show love by deeds.
My prayer is that we will never shrink back from great doctrine…but we never lose our love for people!
Believe me, I know it is easy to get jaded and worn down when you see people who seem to sin with boldness and treat God with contempt.
We must keep out love for Jesus first…but that love should spill over and flow out of us as well to others. Loving them does not mean CONDONING sin…in fact, IF we love them, we will speak gospel truth..which is HARD.
But Jesus led the way in showing that we are to keep loving others, even if they are headed in a contrary way or show a contrary spirit.
Today- I feel weary over sin... my sin and the sin of others. God tells me to keep loving others... even if they do not love me back.
He never stops loving me, even when I ignore Him. Is it too much for me to do the same?

Thursday, November 23, 2017


The Bible has a flavor of thankfulness 

  • Ephesians 1:16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
  • Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you are called in one body; and be thankful.
  • Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
  • Psalms 107:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever.
  • Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
 We do live in a generation of entitlement. We often lament that our young people not only expect everything to be given to them, but they don’t value the things when they are given to them. The most tragic loss in a world where everything is taken for granted, is a loss of a sense of gratitude.
And a world without gratitude is a dark and isolated existence where we soon realize that a man does not have to die to go to hell.
When I realize how I was brought up, I am most grateful that it dug a foundation of appreciation for even ‘small’ things. My dad would take us out to eat every now and then or my grandmother would use Sunday coupons to get an Arby’s sandwich. And in a family where it didn’t happen much, we learned to be thankful for those good blessings.
I went through a very sad time in my first few years in Nashville where I talked to freshman boys who had already seen the world and they were not impressed with anything. And they saw me as someone who did not measure up to their travels and experience… and these guys were 15 years old! How do you break through to a young man who just got back from Rome, unimpressed, and couldn’t care less about an ancient book because he didn’t like to read anyway?
I never stopped teaching the hope of the gospel, the penalty of sin, the inability of the world to satisfy, and a heart yearning for God….. but his mind was on the Christmas  ski trip to Vale and Spring Break in Cabo. You have to believe that these seeds would be there when that fantasy world collapsed because he had no work ethic to barely pass an easy Bible class, but why should he work?… his inheritance was his future bank.
I am more convinced than ever that an attitude of gratitude is the biggest key to walking daily with God. Gratitude comes from a humble heart of good eyes full of light and truth. It is one thing to say ‘thanks’- it is even better to feel it!
Guinness has a chapter in his book,The Call, entitled “Let All of Your Thinks be Thanks”- and he brings in ‘calling’ to this subject.

Calling is a reminder for followers of Christ that nothing in life should be taken for granted; everything in life must be received in gratitude.

He quotes Dostoevsky, “The best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.”

A lack of gratitude can be an acid that eventually erodes all of our dependency on God and  trust in God’s goodness.

“People who start out in wonder at their own calling can slowly, through conceit, slip into speculation about God’s calling them and not calling others, and in the end making calling a thing of horror, and God, a monster.”

A lack of gratitude is the first step into religious oppression, the first step into legalism, the first step into heresy or apostasy, the first step into adultery or theft, the first step into destruction. In fact, read Genesis 3 and you see that a lack of gratitude was the seed of the fall of the whole human race.

Take some time in crafting your mission statement to ‘count your blessings’… your life, health, wife, where you live, clothes, technology, medicine, travel, transportation, humor, a flower, water, a warm embrace, a smiling child, singing…. you could count forever just thinking about what Jesus did.

And let us be like St. Francis who was described by G.K. Chesterton as a man who ‘walked the world like the Pardon of God”.
Let our hearts be stirred every day the praise God for all He has given to us. Gratitude is an attitude!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Yancey Magic, 300 Wins, and What Really Matters

Longtime coach and friend, Shane Harmon, tapped me on the shoulder right before kick-off last night and said, "Did you know tonight could be Fred's 300th?"

And as a guy who takes GREAT PRIDE in knowing things and doing what is right... I felt a huge sense of panic.. NO... I didn't know and NO... I wasn't prepared to honor my friend on such a historic milestone for this guaranteed future Hall of Fame coach.

I do know he got his 250th BCS win last season and was given a nice ceremony and a gold helmet with 250 painted on it.....

So I wandered out to him during the humid pre-game warm-up and asked him if he knew he was at 299...he did.

Then I joked with him... 'Coach, I'm not ready to honor your 300th- I guess I could get a black sharpie, a gold helmet and write 300 on it".... we both laughed and we both knew... Coach really doesn't care, he really doesn't... to him it is a number.

Don't get me wrong, we know it is special, but I have spent too much time with him over the years to know that the accolades don't register for him... but I also know it was pre-game and the fires were burning... he would trade them all to get the NEXT one.. and not for him... not for him... he WILLS the wins for one reason.... he feels like he OWES it to the kids. He wants it so bad for them that he aches... but the reason he aches for them may surprise you.


Those of you who know my story, know that I coached football for 28 glorious years... all but 7 of those with Coach Yancey.

But it was my 7 seasons as a head coach that I really understood Yancey magic... it was why his 2 pt calls worked and mine didn't, why his fake punts scored and mine fell short.

But you want to know why? I know.. while I just wrote the word 'mine' 2 times....he doesn't even think in those terms.....

There is no Yancey magic... He is just a humble servant of God, loving kids, and has a burning fire for winning.. for all the right reasons.

Don't get me wrong.. He is a fantastic coach.. excellent x's and o's... but there is something more and deeper... and it is why his former players and parents LOVE him.

300 WINS

Oh my goodness... does anyone know what an accomplishment this is?

It isn't just perseverance, it is a long time of excellence.


When the game was over.. I hugged his neck and congratulated him... "Congrats coach, 300 is special." He squeezed me extra hard... 'You know you had a big part of this, coach."

And the tears filled my eyes.... he NEVER is selfish... he always deflects to others...

and I'm still crying now.. because I can't stop praising the Lord for allowing His grace to make a man/coach like Fred Yancey.

BCS Coach, Fred Yancey won his 300th game as a head-coach and the 259th at Briarwood – a school and Shelby County coaching record- last Friday night at Fairfield.

Coach Yancey is now 300-111-1 overall in a career that has spanned 34 years. He has compiled a 259-91 record at Briarwood since 1990, and is just the sixth football coach in AHSAA history to record his 300th win in the AHSAA.

Coach Yancey, who ranks third in AHSAA history with most wins at one school, has guided the Lions to 24 straight playoff appearances. He has a 54-22 playoff record and has won 3 state championships.

Throughout his career, Coach Yancey has modeled a consistent Christian testimony and taught countless players and students how to be a winner on the field and in life.

Congratulations, Coach Yancey!

-records source AHSAA

What a man.... what a legacy!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Lord of Anxiety?

As a young man, I read the following passage in a much different light than I do today.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; [2] before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, [3] in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, [4] and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—[5] they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—[6] before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, [7] and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. [8] Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. “(Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 ESV)

In my youth spring of optimism- I saw it as a story of those who DON”T walk with God at an early age. Forget God, and your life becomes a twisted, empty, and miserable maze of melancholy.

As I grow older, I NOW see that this passage describes periods of time in which all humans share- whether in the Lord or without. No one escapes. The one most surprised by it was me.

There are hindrances to blog writing… this topic in particular needs more than a book to dissect and deliberate…. And many who I work with find the struggle to be in decades and not days. But I will delve into this just a little as a testimony that there is victory in Christ in this area- and winning sometimes is as simple as breathing.

Though modern Christianity tends to shy away from these topics… the Bible and the history of Christianity is a hard core, blunt testimony to believers who walk in periods of darkness and despair.

If you doubt this - read David’s laments as he cries through lonely nights, Naomi who called out to those around her to change her name. She said “Don’t call me Naomi (pleasant), Call me Mara (Bitter)”. Jeremiah was known as the ‘weeping prophet”.

There is an ENTIRE book called “Lamentations”- I guarantee we don’t read that book a lot.

Martin Luther was famous for fits of what he termed a malady of melancholy.The great nineteenth century preacher Charles Spurgeon suffered from acute depression. Often he was bedridden and unable to preach, sometimes as much as twice a month.

Now, again, it is so important here to not put all of these experiences in a simple basket called 'the blues'.

The more we learn about these conditions from acute to chronic, from chemical and genetic disorders, from weather related conditions, from trauma in early life, from tragedy in life, from fear and anxiousness, to identity crisis… even spiritual crisis… this is never going to be simple and the cure will often appear out of the reach of reality… but God is never absent and we are never without hope.

I also wanted to make reference and distinguish to something similar, but not the same. Early church fathers spent much time on a season they referred to as , “The Dark Night of the Soul”.
The phrase comes from an 8 stanza poem by St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), a Spanish monk and mystic.Gerald May, in his book  Care of Mind/Care of Spirit, says that these dark night places are doing a work that is deeper than our experiences of emotion, thought or action. In some ways, it might be more helpful to call the “dark night” a non-experience or a process of ‘unknowing’ .

The word ‘distinction’ is so important in ciphering through these experiences….

“It is important for us to make a distinction between the spiritual fruit of joy and the cultural concept of happiness. A Christian can have joy in his heart while there is still spiritual depression in his head. The joy that we have sustains us through these dark nights and is not quenched by spiritual depression. The joy of the Christian is one that survives all downturns in life.” R.C. Sproul


I may be wrong, but I NEVER remember being ‘depressed’ for any length of time throughout my teens, 20’s, and early 30’s. Sure, I got ‘disappointed’ and I suffered loss. I went through seasons of unrequited desires.

But not only do I not remember fighting depression or negativity, I actually had little patience with anyone who did. I disliked anyone who spoke in defeatist terms.. and the ‘blues’? My shallow and unfeeling reply was ‘get over it, you loser’.

BUT LIFE (and God) made sure I experienced what Ecclesiastes was promising.

Sure I was still a man of faith, I was loved, I was blessed- I was a peaceful man more with joy than regret..

but I also found myself dealing with a strange new friends… fears, doubts, loneliness, and emptiness. And they were tangible.. I could taste them. They made my eyes tired, they kept me up at night, and I couldn’t even introduce them to my wife.

It wasn’t dramatic enough to be labeled a ‘mid-life crisis’- I wasn’t thinking of convertibles and Corona’s…..But I was pulled by a strong gravity inward to wrestle with deep desires and questions that I had hidden with youthful exuberance and a smile.

Now, here is the weird thing….looking back over 20 years of meeting these friends in sneak attacks and seasons of grief or pain….. It was wonderful!

Because I did find the one person who met me there, in the dark, under the accusing crooked fingers of my demons.

Jesus was and is there, though many times I did not see Him. He didn’t say much.. but I knew He cared. You know the old Marine saying? “You can pretend to care, but you cannot pretend to be there.” One of the greatest growth moments of faith is to look into the darkness and know you are not alone... HE WAS THERE!

How was He there? I found that God’s Word powerfully attached to all of those dispositions. I particularly found healing in Psalms and in the gospels.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:7­-10).

The apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians gives me the admonition to be anxious for nothing,” telling me that the cure for anxiety is found on my knees, that it is the peace of God that calms my spirit and dissipates anxiety. Again, I can be anxious and nervous and worried without finally submitting to ultimate despair.


Before you give me a wreath of victory… the struggle remains. And for some people, it is a lifelong battle that requires consistent medication, evaluation, and professional support. At this time, I haven’t had to go there, but it is no lack of faith and no reason for shame if I did.

I was also helped by Os Guinness in a book titled, “The Call”

For me,  Os Guinness began to articulate about finding authentic love and truth in the dark.

He writes: The notion of calling is VITAL to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself.

He outlines stages of human identity that is connected to our own sense of purpose. All human worldviews and philosophies speak to aspects of these ‘labels’ of identity

One is “I AM CONSTRAINED TO BE”– this simply is where we are right now by following the path that led here. It is the lot we find ourselves, and can present itself like a prison of our own circumstances. Sometimes these constraints look insurmountable… and some are.

The next one is “COURAGE TO BE”- this is the one that I held to as that optimistic 20 year old. I bought into all the snappy slogans that turned into self-help best sellers. “Be all you can be”- “Shoot for the Stars”. Now, to he honest- these are great challenges and they do ‘birth’ dreams that are helpful in the process of pulling against our restraints.

The third one is “CONSTITUTED TO BE”- this one is where most secular philosophies stop and ‘mission accomplished’ is celebrated. We have broken out of our constraints and now revel in a life. We have FOUND our identity in context of experience, passion, and skill. The power is within ourselves and can be described as a kind of 'intestinal fortitude' or 'guts'.

But the Bible does not stop there… it wants me to take one more step… a step of faith..and it is a huge deal…

‘CALLED TO BE’– this is the relationship of love that moves us with purpose and not a product of chance and whim. By being called to a person… especially the Creator and Lover of our souls, we have a place to go when our soul is wounded and crushed or flooded with anxiety. Who can we depend on when our 'guts' run out?

R.C. Sproul said it like this:

The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light in the presence of God.

My relationship with a FATHER… THE FATHER.. the lover of my soul… gives me a NAME that matters.

My despair... anxiety... loneliness.. depression... grief... was good- because it drove me to the One who was seeking me all along.

C.S. Lewis says it is in our stories…. a ‘desire for a far off country’  the scent of a flower we have not found… the echo of a tune we have not from a country we have yet to visit”

And when we find Him in the depths.. we still don’t know a lot… but we know Him. And our question becomes “What do you desire me to do?”

Remember Naomi… the one who wanted to be called “Bitter”?

Naomi knew darkness. She and her husband had to sojourn in famine conditions in Moab. She had 2 sons who married Moabite women. Life was tough, but grew desperate as Naomi had to experience the death of her husband and, 10 years later, she went through the pain of losing her two sons!

And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”  (Ruth 1:19-21 ESV)

But, OVER TIME, Naomi experienced the love of God through Ruth and God stepped in and provided a Kinsman Redeemer and lifted this family up!
I hope you know the story about how Boaz, a kind and devout man, met Ruth and sacrificially worked to gain Ruth as his bride. And when Ruth gave Naomi a grandson… the blessing was complete.

Naomi’s identity was miraculously changed:

“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! [15] He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” [16] Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse.” (Ruth 4:14-16 ESV)

The depression/anxiety that we struggle with may be profound, but it is not permanent, nor is it fatal.

And sometimes, all we can do… all we need to do is just keep breathing… our hearts need to keep pumping… and listen for the word of Your Father… He is THERE and He does CARE.

Don’t run from God in the midst of chaos and tragedy of life..cling to the One who loves and restores.

One day we will all see Him face to face...He will wipe away our tears… and we will truly know a freedom from human misery, death, and deceit.

"The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

Can you dare to believe this?