Thursday, December 31, 2015

Trends and Thoughts Regarding Football

Each year I tend to do a trend and note blog. If you look back over the past few years, I have been on target.

It has been strange and interesting not coaching football this year. Part of being away from the day to day grind has given me a chance to do a lot of watching and personal evaluation.

I took notes all year long on things I observed- most of them little tiny details that I would normally not see.

I thought I would share these for some of my coaching friends- things to think about as the game continues to change/ grow.

CURRENT TRENDS:

COMPLEXITY
All teams do it all now. Multiple fronts/multiple coverages/multiple formations/ multiple personnel packages/ multiple plays/ multiple concepts. I think the winning teams find a great way to simplify... complex but not complicated. I think it has gotten down to concepts on both sides. Teams with great systems and language do have an advantage.

I think of the checkers now now as:  "BOX numbers- 1 on 1 match-ups- 3 over 2 alignments  and the APEX position".

'PACE' and 'CHECK'
Just about all teams are using some type of pace principles-
The count and check look is also a big part of football

RPO- 'RUN PASS OPTION"
I'm expecting a rule change on these, but the run pass plays now are really popular, especially with athletic QB's.

SIGNAL THEFT
All the college guys I talk to say that some teams are getting eaten alive by not protecting their signals- the other team knows what they are calling. Defensive coaches are most susceptible.


All of these trends are putting a premium on MANY athletic defenders. If you don't have a lot of fast defenders in this modern style of football- you will get worn down and lit up. It is not easy to play defense anymore...

but a great defense still beats a great offense.....

NOTES:

KICKING SITUATIONS:

- KICK-OFF AFTER A PENALTY- I have seen way too many kick-offs this season where the kicking team is kicking with a 15 yard gift and they just bang it out of the end zone. Surely there has to be some consideration/system where you can alter the kick... squib/sky/directional to try and pin the offense deep. I personally don't like the onside kick here- too easy to lose field position. But I do think there needs to be some thought on disrupting the return and make the other team execute that situation.

-FAKE ONSIDE- I have been talking about this one for a few years now. When you score late and have the other team EXPECTING an onside kick. If you have timeouts- you can show onside kick by formation- make the other team go hands team and then squib a deep corner kick- have a great chance to pin the other team deep and get the ball back with outstanding field position.

-USING THE WIND- Using either multiple kickers or a specialist- have your kick-off guy learn how to kick line drives and sky kicks and take advantage of wind. A high kick into a still wind will fall straight down and you might have a chance to get that one.

-PACE SCRIMMAGE KICKS- I think it is good to have fast punts and field goal teams - especially when the ball is on your hash. A fast sub of 11 and kick cause the defense to burn a timeout- end up with 12 on the field- prevent them from subbing a special return or block team..

-HIGH SCHOOL KICKING- 
Consider using FG punting in bad weather situations. It is a great way to angle a kick out of bounds in bad weather.
-practice free kick after a fair catch rule
-Don't be afraid to punt on 3rd down in bad weather or 3rd down and super long. If you have shown it a few times... line up in punt on 3rd and fake it... then you can punt on 4th down.

Use reverses and fake reverses on kick returns - put 2 men deep and practice how to time up reverses.

Finally, assign specific things for your assistant coaches to look at during kicking game situations

GAME SITUATIONS- Practice and Teach
CODE THE CLOCK- I think we need to spend more time teaching how game clock matters and things we can all do to save time or bleed time. Come up with a CODE.
SOLD OUT SIDELINE - I want to see players engaged/alert/ and participating from the sideline. Echoing calls- watching- encouraging- serving
LINEMEN MOVING- Have your linemen work on slants/stunts/twists more than straight up techniques- use skill guys to help work one on one techniques-
CONDITION WITH THINKING AND EXECUTION- Don't just run sprints- rehearse mental and skill when tired

CULTURAL IMPACT ON PLAYERS?
I think we need to spend more time asking players what they are thinking.....
What is their favorite 3rd and long? What play do we call that they do not like?
What drills do they hate? How can we help them focus and prepare?
Things to consider.....
Entitlement/Leisure……….are players softer or different?
Mobile…….. summer /time limited- weekend
One Sport Emphasis...Impacts numbers
Opinions- ESPN/Talk Radio……. messaging
Showcase….selfishness/team values


Winning Edges- Things We CAN control


Conditioning and Fitness- including nutrition/flexibility/rest/ inflammation management
Intensity in competition
Schemes- balance of big toolbox, but not confused
Relationships- more coach/player time
know your job- do your job- everyone matters
Playing as a team
Outside Voices----- Locker room talk- Who Do We Listen to?
Where does our pressure come from?

DEVELOPING FOOTBALL IQ

I think we need to consider how we teach players about teams and competition....

One thing I have considered is teaching the 'Mindset of The Week'
Here Are the Categories:
Games Where You are Favored by a Lot
Games Where You are Favored
Games that are a toss up
Games Where You are a big underdog


In Pre-season Camp, I think we should spend time on HOW GAMES GO:
Types of Games- Do WE HAVE A PLAN?
Early momentum or early difficulty
Sloppy Slugfest
Mistakes-
Up easy
Down by more than 1 score
Down by a lot
Defensive showcase
Offensive showcase
weather impacted
crowd noise
Injury shake-up
Big Hole but digging out
Overtime
Pressure Packed


Situations a Lot of teams don’t handle well:

4th and short- be careful on defense
practice pinning teams inside the 10 or 5
2 min drill/ 4 min
red zone mindset vs spread- bend but don’t break
resting players is an art


Have you ever considered how many factors work against the dynamics needed for team success? These factors are external AND internal.


And, the foundational principles required for team success are found primarily in traditional values that are being lost in our secular society.


THE GOLD STANDARD:


Let me begin by saying that there is no such thing as a perfect team and I have NEVER watched a perfect football game. It's funny how mistakes that can cost you from winning are often made in games you win- it's just that a team overcame those mistakes.


But the reality of never achieving perfection is no excuse from an intentional and passionate pursuit of perfection.


A Championship Team:

Is made up of individuals who are pursuing an ideal of a TEAM- where group success will be valued higher than individual success. But group success is enhanced by individuals giving their individual energy and talents with everything they have.

The Problem with Resolutions and Goals

As a Christian, I am always impressed with God's gift and allotment of time. It is so interesting.... we live in a linear world at this time...one day we will be non-linear and I am convinced that we don't understand either one.
Why are resolutions and goal setting processes so unsatisfying? Because we live under a curse- time is running out and our mortal lives are is a steady rate of natural decay. 
As soon as we make some progress in one area, we look around and find so many other areas that have suffered.
This does not mean that we don't set goals or put in plan a process for improvement.... to do nothing is WORSE. But I have a system that I follow that has helped me find a good pace and perspective of these actions.
STEP #1 - WRITE A LIFE PLAN
Daniel Harkavy is a pro. He and his ‘coaches’ make a lot of money going into companies and helping them improve in areas of business and profitability.But Harvaky and his group (www.becomingacoachingleader.com) WILL NOT move into business planning UNTIL the client writes a ‘Life Plan’.
 Harvaky writes: “Most people initially discount the ‘life planning’ part of our coaching process…they say to us ‘We don’t want any of that fluffy (life planning) stuff’… but since ‘life planning is non-negotiable with us (they have to do it). Most of the time they end up telling us how glad they are that they went through the process. Immediately after completing their LIFE PLAN, they consistently tell us that they have already received their money’s worth… (pg. 58).
So why is the big plan so important, and why do groups like Harkavy’s choose this approach over ‘goal-setting’?
Because goal setting is endless. It creates frustration when we fall short. It creates momentary exhilaration when we achieve them- but always has a ‘let down’ afterward. And it can create a life where we set goals for simply ‘achieving a goal’ but the goal may not be a wise course of action for our time or priorities.
I find this in almost every instance. When we won the football state championship in 1998- the quest began for the next one- we did it again in ‘99, but it seemed less enjoyable and then we did not do it again until 2003…… were all of those other teams unsuccessful?
Hal Higdon has an entire section in his book, “Marathon- The Ultimate Training Guide” devoted to ‘Post-marathon Blues”.“We focus our lives on this one event for 5 months- and then its done” reflects a Melbourne Beach, Florida runner “Now what?”
NOTHING WRONG WITH GOALS- But instead...think about “Achievement” and “Success”
As a football coach, around 2005 or so, I began to try and differentiate the difference between ‘success’ and ‘achievement’. This was spurred on by a conversation I had with Coach David Cutcliffe.To me ‘Success’ is when you live and conduct your affairs in line with your ultimate call or mission.‘Achievement’ is the accomplishment of achieving short and long term goals. 
Example: For a football team, I define achievement as : 7 win regular season- playoff qualification- region championship- perfect regular season- advancement in the playoffs- making the championship game- winning the state title- ALL NOBLE AND FUN ACHIEVEMENTS. And you may or may not hit some or all of those.
But SUCCESS were things like: Did we become a team? Did we learn to fight? Did we learn to love our brothers? Did we learn to sacrifice? Did we play with class and character? Did we learn to persevere? Did we learn how to finish? Did we learn how to improve every week? Did our leaders lead? Did our team follow coaching and leadership? These provide a way to be successful EVERY SEASON.
If these are true: You can have achievement WITHOUT SUCCESS and you can SUCCEED without achievement. And if I had to choose… I choose ‘success’ but usually, they go hand in hand.
This is why goals WITHIN the context of a life plan makes more sense. If the ‘Mission’ is in clear view- the goals serve to be a tool of support and the exhilaration comes in the stream of walking in your ultimate purpose!
ONE MORE STEP ACROSS THE LINE……
In ‘Ages of Faith’, Alex de Tocqueville wrote, “the final aim of life is placed beyond life”.
For a Christian believer, the life plan HAS to have the finish line past the mortal end.
The PLAN or MISSION keeps you on task…. without an ULTIMATE AIM, you are likely to be living reactive…less proactive… frequently distracted… doubling back… or in Bible language – children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.(Ephesians 4:14 ESV)
I love the definition Harvaky uses about a LIFE PLAN:
‘In essence, Life Planning is nothing but a process of accumulating net worth in THE MOST IMPORTANT ACCOUNTS OF YOUR LIFE!”
Harvaky Life Plan Process:
  • Identifying IMPORTANT accounts (spouse, family, spiritual life, health, service, career, fun, vacation, charity, dreams, community, finance, development, etc)
  • Writing Action Steps to fulfill a ‘vision’ for these accounts
  • Prioritizing time/goals/decisions in light of ALL the important accounts
  • Write/ Review/ Adjust/ Share/ Teach your plan
 in 2014, I developed an entire devotional series around developing a mission statement and learning about the call of God on our lives.
(Sorry, it goes in reverse order- you have to scroll to the bottom to get day 1 and work up the list: You can access it here:   MY AIM)
All of this has caused be to change how I do resolutions....
Instead of making a new year's resolution, I take a year to do monthly 'house keeping' around my life mission statement.
My calendar is based primarily around the energy I need for a successful school year....
My year always goes something like this:
In January - I take some time to pray through my year- evaluating the year before and thinking about future desires. I usually take a THEME for me as a point of emphasis. 
February is a FAST of some kind= 28 days to do without. One year it was social media- last year it was caffeine- what am I addicted to? What types of things are idols in my life.
March is either Momentum march or mediocre March and I have to get in the first few weeks to see how I am doing...... it basically is 'hang on until Spring Break'!
April is very important- It is the real beginning of my year. It is 'the cruelest month'- it is a tough eating and exercise plan and very regimented- but it is a good time to do it because of the nicer weather... nature helps here.
May is 'mission statement'- this is where I re-visit- God's primary calling, His secondary calling, changes in my life purpose statement...
JUNE/JULY- Energy and joy- I love summers- the longer days- key planing
August- "ALL IN" - PEDAL TO THE METAL
September/October- Priorities/Prayer- execution. A commitment to quality.
November- ‘No Gain November’… this is when I usually do the worst on eating. My main goal is to weigh the same or less on Nov 1 and Dec. 1. This year I did awesome- but December was a bust.....
December- Reflection, Rest (Christmas Break), and Evaluation. The most critical part of evaluation is going back over the goals in specific areas- spiritual, financial, family, home improvement, physical, and professional.
SPIRITUAL PURSUITS
Never leave out spiritual disciplines....
I have a blog devoted to 1 year of devotions if you want some encouragement.

https://jayopsisdevos.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Have I Possessed the Greatest Gift Ever Given?- Things to Ponder on Christmas

DON'T FEAR THAT QUESTION!


I wanted to search out this morning one of these MANY gifts. I want to thank God for giving me the gift of 'saving faith'- a gift I would not have were it not for Him.

Here is a starter question. How do I know I have saving faith? And the answer is strange. Part of the initial evidence is that I dare even ask the question. I believe a big key in sorting out true faith is that a true believer wrestles with whether or not he has it in the first place. If you aren't willing to put it on the table for inspection, you might be face to face with reality of knowing it is not there.

So ask God to give you Holy Spirit eyes and place what faith you think you have, as weak and small as you think it may be- and do some comparison and investigation.

PRE-ANALYSIS AGREEMENT:
Before you enter this exercise- you need to make a declaration: "I am going to use God's Inspired Word as my only rule of faith." If any part of this analysis is conjecture based on my feelings or flawed logic, I pray that may be put away. This is not what I think, or how I feel- what does God's Word say? I will not be quoting exhaustive Scripture in this blog post (but I should)- but my hope is that it reflects the entire scope of Biblical counsel.

ANALYSIS A: COMPARISON TO FALSE FAITH

I need to run through my list of faiths that are not true, Biblical saving faith. I need to be willing to look at my heart/mind/will/emotions/experience/memory/word/deed and see if I fall into some of these categories.

1) COMPARTMENTALIZED FAITH: This is a big one. We live in a highly post everything culture where we shish-kabob our lives according to our fancies and whims. We have to understand that a multi-cultural, relativistic American society does corrupt our understanding of 'saving faith'. Add to that American roots of rugged individualism and powerful autonomy and we have a recipe for what the Bible labels "holding to a form of godliness, but denying the power within (2 Timothy 3:5)".

No- we have to fight this one. Saving faith is taken as a whole. As Paul Helseth powerfully defended  in his book,Right Reason and the Princeton Mind, "They (Princeton Reformers) recognized that the operation of the intellect involves the 'whole soul'- mind,will, and emotions-rather than the rational faculty alone, and as a consequence they insisted the ability to reason 'rightly' i.e., the ability to see revealed truth more or less for what it objectively is, namely glorious- presupposes the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit on the 'whole soul' of a moral agent."

How we compartmentalize faith:  I tend to do it by making it merely a mental exercise. I can get fooled into believing if I learn more facts, I am increasing in saving faith. So my compartment is AN EDUCATIONAL FAITH- but others can trend into non-attached FORMS as well. I believe there is EMOTIONAL FAITH, getting revved up for Jesus and worked into a frenzy. There is a DO GOOD faith- where maybe the service or mission trip is the feel good event of the summer.

No- we need to guard ourselves from staying detached in these things. Saving faith connects all of the areas. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Shema, Deut. 6:5)".

2) LOGO FAITH: One of the icons of our 'post-everything' culture is the sloganeering of causes. Sometimes called the "Disneyfication of America" sociologists have written in mass about how mass communication technology has created a 'world of simulation' where high culture and low culture are combined and any sort of grand narrative is lost. I have always thought that Grant Lyon's book, Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times, captured this idea very poignantly.

The overarching image that Lyon's attaches to is a Harvest Day Crusade day that was hosted by Disneyland in Anaheim, CA in 2000. This Christian festival seemed innocuous enough. One of the event organizers had a great quote: "We saw Disneyland as an opportunity to bring God's kingdom to the Magic Kingdom. We felt that, as they opened the door to us to share Christ, we wouldn't turn down the opportunity just because other things take place there. Jesus is the example for this."

I am not being critical of this at all. Christ needs to be going EVERYWHERE. But the symbolic image of Christian marketing in the Mecca of consumer marketing could not be ignored by Lyons.

"A bizarre sounding collaboration...an ancient, premodern religion is found... interacting with the epitome of post modern culture- the artificial, simulated, virtual, fantasy world of Disney."

I need to be careful here- there were huge parts of Lyon's book that were instructive and thought provoking. I do think the biggest flaw of Lyon's approach is confusing the visible and invisible Church.

The bigger point here is what the Disney culture influence has done to 'virtualize and simulate' faith by transforming it into slogans and fancy logos. Spy magazine defined it this way: "Disneyfication is the act of assuming, through the process of assimilation, the traits and characteristics more familiarly associated with a theme park....than with real life." 

So what does this mean? Here is how Disney has impacted church ministry and caused some to hold to a faith more characterized with logos and slogans than saving faith.

Theming: Everything relates to an overall 'theme'. The problem is that the theme is always a sanitized  and organized abstraction and not reality. In themes, everything fits. But we all know that real life carries conundrums and problems.

Merchandizing and Consumption: It doesn't take long to realize that the theme can sell. I still get shudders sometimes when I walk through Christian bookstores. What are we selling? Why are we selling? I am not against selling books and books have ministered to me in so many amazing ways- but the packaging and theming should make us wary of what is missing.

Prescriptive Empathy: This is a tough one to define. Disney employees are taught to smile and interact in such a way that park attendees think they are having fun and not working. A logo faith teaches us all the proper terms of endearment- but it is an act. I say, "I will pray for you"... do I actually do it?

Self-adulation: The toughest consequence of a logo faith is that I buy into the ultimate consumer mindset- all of this is for ME and my pleasure.

So here are my questions about LOGO faith. Do I just recite the Jesus answers? Have I learned all the themes, present a clean put together life of faith, but in the end.... there is little or no connection to the Holy God of the Universe. Do I measure my growth in how I feel? Do I evaluate worship based on what I get?

3) INSTITUTIONAL FAITH: It is hard to seperate a LOGO faith from an INSTITUTIONAL faith because they are bred in the same petri-dish. An institutional faith is where I have allowed my daily work in a Christian environment to substitute for personal, saving faith. Do I read my Bible? Yes, in faculty devotions, writing blogs, teaching Sunday School, preparing lessons. Do I pray? Yes, weekly prayer meetings. Staff meetings. Opening and closing events. Do I worship? Yes. We have a chapel every week.

This is one I have to fight. And when I leave the institution for vacation or the weekend. Does my faith follow me? Do I have a personal prayer life, Bible study, or worship? Do I share my faith?

4) BIBLE BELT FAITH: Oh boy! Another tough impostor!  This is one where we are all good people and acknowledge the good Lord. We attend church and don't rob banks. We give money and sing Amazing grace. But there is no real spiritual recognition of our depravity. There is no real hatred of sin. There is no felt desperation of the reality of hell. God is warm and furry, a cosmic Santa Claus ready to dish out good gifts but absent in times of distress. It will all just work out, let it be.

There are other types of false faith: religion, liberalism, status, in fact all idols are held to by a type of 'faith'.

ANALYSIS B: PRACTICES TO EXPLORE SAVING FAITH:

A SIMPLE GOSPEL:

I JOHN 5:11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

1) SIMPLE TRUST: It is so important to remember that faith has an object- faith is not a work. The power of our faith is not faith- the power of our faith is the power in what our faith is in. In Matthew 17 Jesus says:
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I have always applied this as it is not the amount of faith applied- but the source. A great comfort in your fight of faith is a quiet voice that says, 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus- just to take Him at His word."

2) FITFUL FIGHTING: Jacob wrestled with God until daybreak. We must be willing to engage Him the same way. God, I will not let you go until you show me. I think He enjoys that. A willingness to wrestle is actually evidence of the Spirit.

3) DEEP ROOTED DOCTRINE: If you want to dissect whether you have a saving faith versus a merely speculative one- you have to be willing to dive into the roots of God's Word. If you haven't done so in a while- you may need to freshen up on Romans or find balance in I John. You may need to let Jesus's commands in the gospels hurt and heal.

Again, I turn to Helseth here:

The Princeton theologians approached the task of theology not as arrogant rationalists would have done, but as Biblically faithful Christians have always done. Indeed, they sought to discern the difference between truth and error not by appealing to magisterial conclusions of the rational faculty alone, but by hearing the text with 'right reason', which for them was a biblically informed kind of theological aesthetic that presupposes the work of the Spirit on the whole soul of the believing theologian.

Finally, saving faith is a gift that we receive by saving faith.
Heb 12:12 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Want to be blessed this Christmas?

Here you are, presented once again with the Christ in the manger. Even as Christmases past have slipped by..... here is that offer once again.

You and I have messed it up again and again- over and over- falling short of all that God intends us to be. 

Even as you feel your pride wanting to justify and excuse away- even as you feel the deadness of rejecting it- please review these beautiful doctrines of salvation by God's grace.

Reach out to Him right now- Your sins have been cancelled and removed. Do you trust that?

Simply trust. "God I cannot do this. You have to do this. I am a rebel and you have not been my King. Is it too late to come home?" You know the answer.

Fight for it. There are those who will tell you you are too bad. You think in your heart you are too good. Don't let it go. Capture the childlike magic of new birth! Don't let Him go!

Dig Deep. Spend time this holiday break searching the Scriptures.

Thank God for the gift of saving faith.
Tell someone else what you have done.
It will be the best gift they get this year as well!

John 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me,

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Anne Rice: A Christmas Christian

In 2009, I read Anne Rice's auto-biography:  CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS: A Spiritual Confession. It had a deep resonance with my heart! 

My first experience with Anne Rice was around 1998 when I finally read "Interview with the Vampire". As a boy, I loved monster stuff (Dracula, werewolf, Frankenstein) and had heard a lot of praise for the Vampire Chronicles. 

As I read the book, I was totally absorbed and very impressed. At the same time, the novel captures a presence of evil unlike anything else I have ever read. Not that I was repulsed by it, I was actually impressed by it. It was the truth of it that caught my attention- this work of supernatural fiction regarding the tragic life of godless vampires captured the tragedy of it all in dazzling images and fast moving narratives.

Knowing a little of Louis and Lestat, it was delightful to read of Anne's return to the faith and mesmerizing to read her life story. It is also comforting to know that the proverb is indeed true: 'Train up a child....' 

I encourage this book and after reading it, I was especially gratified how Scripture captured her mind and shaped her theology. 

I highly recommend this excellent story of life and faith. Here are some of her comments: 

For more than twenty centuries, Christianity has given us dazzling works of theology, yet it remains a religion in which the heart is absolutely essential to faith. 

The appeal of Jesus Christ was first and foremost to the heart. 

So here is the story of one path to God. 

The story has a happy ending because I have found the Transcendent God both intellectually and emotionally. And complete belief in Him and devotion to Him, no matter how interwoven with occasional fear and constant personal failure and imperfection, has become the true story of my life. 

Before I can describe how I returned to faith, at the age of fifty-seven, I want to describe how I learned about God as a child. 

What strikes me now as most important about this experience is that it preceded reading books. Christians are People of the Book, and our religion is often described as a Religion of the Book. And for two thousand years, all that we believe has been handed down in texts. 

It’s important to stress here that my earliest experiences involved beauty; my strongest memories are of beautiful things I saw, things which evoked such profound feeling in me that I often felt pain. 

In fact I remember my early childhood as full of beauty, and no ugly moment from that time has any reality for me. The beauty is the song of those days. 

I vividly remember knowing about God, that He loved us, made us, took care of us, that we belonged to Him; and I remember loving Jesus as God; and praying to Him and to His Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, when I was very small." 

Rice’s Faith Begins to Crack 
Anne is very honest in her struggle with faith. She writes about the progression:
She saw ‘good people’ with no faith.
She had a desire for modern world.
She had a conversation with priest- “He just said, ‘You are catholic- there is no life outside catholic church’.
Her heart wanted to explore.
She then quit the church and she stayed away.... for 38 years!
Never prayed to God about it.
She stopped talking to God.
God could not have made a church so fragile- vulnerable to information- 'churches told you lies.'
Rice writes ‘Interview with the Vampire’- ‘an obvious lament for my lost faith’ 

Before long though though.... her Atheism Begins to Crack 

She began to study history- the more she studied history- ‘the more my atheism became shaky’- particularly the survival of the Jews-
She went back to New Orleans and found the Catholics warm and receiving
Struggle was waging- atheism held firm, but questions were coming up.
She then took trips to Europe and Holy Land. She found the Statue of Jesus at Rio de Janeiro " a spiritual experience".

She began to see His presence and also began to see that the Lord was pursuing her.

Atheism was cracking…”I was losing faith in nothingness”
She saw people committed to ‘good’- ‘NO ONE WAS INDIFFERENT to conscious or to acute moral responsibility’.
Creation was speaking to me- the music of a violin sang to me of God-
Jesus weighed on her.. ‘He started a worldwide religion’ Why was America obsessed with Jesus- he was on their lips- Why was His name the most common curse word I heard? 

FINALLY she gave in to something deep… I loved God..I loved Him in Jesus… I wanted to go back. 

“In the moment of surrender, I let go of all the theological or social questions which had kept me from Him for countless years. I simply let them go. There was the sense, profound and wordless, that if He knew everything, then I did not have to know everything, and that, in seeking to know everything, I’d been, all of my life, missing the entire point.” 

And it was His knowing that overwhelmed me.His was the Divine Mind that made snowflakes, candle flames, birds soaring upwards… 

He knew the answer to every conceivable question before it was formulated… 

And why should I remain apart from Him just because I couldn’t grasp all of this? He could grasp it. Of course!”

There was a big change in Anne after this surrender..... but it was real life and never easy.

She decided to write only for God. And then she had to deal with the harsh reality when her husband died of a brain tumor.

But she pressed on....from 2002- 2005, she 'devoured' New Testament scholarship .

But it was the Incarnation- Jesus becoming flesh-" that resonated the most... “You became a child for me”

“Not only do I find no evidence for isolated Gospel communities, but I see no collaborative writing in the gospels at all.” 

The interplay of simplicity and complexity seems to go beyond human control.

She finds many Christians full of love, but also full of division- and that is is hurting the church. 
Last line :
"This book is about faith in God.
“It isn’t simply finding skeptical New Testament scholarship so poor, so shallow, so irresponsibly speculative, or so biased. That has indeed been the case.
“I became convinced that my urban atheist friends were to a great extent out of touch with Christian America”
"I am broken, flawed, committed: A Christmas Christian searching for that stigmata, for the imprint of those Wounds on my heart and my soul, and my daily life.”

May Christmas has its intended impact on those who have become distant to their loving, heavenly Father!