Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Before you begin and quit another New Year's resolution, take time to think through the BIG PICTURE.....

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!
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 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. (Last year was improving my ZEAL).
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
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.
I'm considering making prayer my priority in 2015. It means taking some blog writing time and screen time and converting it to actual prayer- I have such a long list of things that I pray through- I want to to it better and with more passion- enjoying my time before the Father and His throne of grace.
Because of this, I don't think I will be writing as much in 2015.
My next big writing project will be producing an e-book on offensive football and I have a 'novel' idea as well...but I don't have a lot of fiction writing talent or confidence.
Blessings on everyone and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Have Yourself a Babylonian Christmas?

Is 21:9 And behold, here come riders, horsemen in pairs!” And he answered, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her god she has shattered to the ground.”
The Bible uses many famous cities both literally and figuratively. There were real cities: Sodom, Gomorrah, Jerusalem, and Babylon…. but the Bible also uses these cities figuratively. It does the same with famous mountains and places.
The fall of Babylon is a key motif in Scripture and it has profound implications…. especially to Western Christians as we live and work in some of the most prosperous times in world history!
So we must pay attention to the LITERAL demise of ancient Babylon and understand the applications of the FIGURATIVE Babylon.
The prophetic details regarding the fall of ancient Babylon, as minutely recorded in the Old Testament narratives, truly are astounding. This is but another example of the amazing evidence that demonstrates the character of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. The accuracy of the dozens of prophecies regarding the fall of Babylon has baffled skeptics for generations. So remarkable has been the precision of the fulfillment that critics often have resorted to redating the predictions in both Isaiah and Jeremiah so as to make them appear to be records of history instead of prophecy!
                                            WAYNE JACKSON-Babylon, A Test Case in Prophecy
Our modern cities with their wealth, false religions, and sexual exploitation are modern forms of Babylon. The media and their advertisements can bring into our homes and thoughts the seducing message of worshiping money, sex, power, and pleasure. Advertisements tell us that satisfaction and meaningful living can be found if only we buy the latest product.
                                                                                Vern Poythress
What’s so bad about Babylon?
A Faulty System: “The system whereby man and women, beginning absolutely by themselves, try rationally to build out from themselves, having only Man as their integration point, to find all knowledge, meaning and value”  Francis Schaeffer
  • A System that Love things and Uses People-
  • A System Run by Selfish People
  • A System Run by Wicked People- Ch 17- Mother of the Earth’s Abominations
Where we have to be careful, is that though the destruction is predicted, it comes upon the people without warning. And because it happens in God’s timing, a lot of people stop believing that it will happen.
Sadly, when it happens…. it comes ‘crashing’ down … it was predicted…. it was ignored.. but it does happen and catches MANY people unaware and unprepared.
Have you ever seen the sudden destruction of those who stand against God? I have. You pray for them and it looks like nothing is even close to happening… and the fall is shocking!
Babylon is going to be taken down…. so the key is for us to destroy  Babylon now. In other words, what allegiances do we have to this city that is defiant to God and God’s people?
And this is a wise choice….. It is going away anyway!
Think of it as a twist on the famous  Jim Elliott quote:
“He is no fool to put away what will be destroyed, to pursue what will last.”
One leading pastor in helping us understand this journey is Tim Keller. Tim Keller has ministered and served in New York for over 25 years. He meets people who are trapped in the Manhattan lifestyle.
Consider how he begins this important process……
“I ordinarily begin speaking about sin to a young, urban, non-Christian like this:
Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.”   Tim Keller   
By the way... you can live in Babylon without having a Babylonian Christmas......
Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.   
“ Worldliness is what any culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness seem strange.” G.K. Beall
The glamour of this world system is a lot of promise but little fulfillment. Contrast this to Christ. As others flee in distress, Christ endured the cross. The world woos and Satan strikes. We spit on Christ and He forgives. We give hours to the world and minutes to Christ. We give thousands to the spirit of the age and pennies to God’s kingdom. Yet, over and over, the cross is proof of God’s love. Time is proof of God’s patience. But the Scripture is clear, the day of grace will close and destruction will come suddenly. Those who have served Babylon, loved Babylon, treated God and His people with contempt…. will meet the wrath of a Father whose son has been mistreated, ignored, and murdered. In the end it will come down to two kingdoms. Some who said to God, “Thy will be done” and others to whom God says to them, “thy will be done.”
Are you weary of this culture? Are you tired of Babylon?
Our post-modern carnage has left us:
  • fractured: from no consensus-
  • shallow: from endless sound bites and sloganeering (please- no more snappy mission statements)-
  • disillusioned: from no appeal to truth, and
  • fatigued: from microwave, fast paced activities, but no form to support the pressure.
As we list modern day idols, simple state what are the ‘good things’ that we have made into ‘god things”?
  • Active Allegiance to the King of Kings
It is important to publicly stand with Christ. Let your allegiance be known! I was convicted years ago by a famous question: If you were put on trial for the crime of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?
  • Gospel Message and Spirit Power- Preach the gospel to yourself everyday
Our only hope in escaping Babylon is to be set free by the true gospel. “The gospel is too good and life is too short for us to spend our lives as posers” David Filson
  • Practicing The Disciplines of Grace (Prayer/Scripture/Fasting/Worship/ Sacraments)
I call on all of us to reclaim the lost art of discipleship. We need to meet in small groups and encourage one another to practice our faith. We are not saved by our rituals and routines, but we live lives of obedience BECAUSE of God’s free gift and grace!
  • Silence and Solitude- Evaluation
Because this is so important..take time to truly ask God to show you where you are. Ask hard questions… read the beautiful verses that lay out the doctrine of grace!
  • Fellowship and Accountability
This is similar to point #3… but Christianity is NOT a lone ranger lifestyle.
  • Patience and Perseverance
Don’t give up. God has a pace. He is never late, but He is seldom early! Patience helps us grow. This race is a marathon…not a sprint!
Try These Things:
Do an Idol Inventory- Ask God to reveal and then help with the fight
Do a Relationship Inventory- Strengthen the Bonds!
Giving to God’s kingdom in Proportion to Supporting World’s System
Discipline and Restraint in Regards to Appetites
TV/ Movies/ Music/ Entertainment- Ask for Discernment
Christian Liberty- Ask for Discernment “All things lawful- but not all profitable”
Loving Confrontation – “Hard on Yourself and Tender Toward Others”
II CORINTHIANS 10:4-6 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
The following is an idol inventory that I adapted (stole) from Tim Keller… I find it VERY useful!
IDOL INVENTORY- Adapted From Tim Keller
Power idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I have power and influence over others.
Approval idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am loved and respected by _________.
Comfort idolatry:“Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.”
Image idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I have a particular kind of look or body image.
Control idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____________.
Helping idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ people are dependent on me and need me.”
Dependence idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ someone is there to protect me and keep me safe.”
Independence idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone.”
Work idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am highly productive getting a lot done.”
Achievement idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am being recognized for my accomplishments, if I am excelling in my career.”
Materialism idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.
Religion idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am adhering to my religion’s moral codes and accomplished in it activities.”
Individual person idolatry: “Life only has meaning/ 1 only have worth if ‑‑ this one person is in my life and happy there and/or happy with me.”
Irreligious idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and with a self‑made morality.
Racial/cultural idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ my race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior.”
Inner ring idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in”
Family idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ my children and/OR my parents are happy with me.”
Suffering idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am hurting, in a problem ‑­only then do I feel noble or worthy of love or am able to deal with guilt.”
Understanding idolatry:  “Life only has meaning / I only have worth if – I understand why I am the way I am and understand my idols!”
Safety idolatry: “Life only has meaning / I only have worth if – I am pursuing the safest course of action and not taking risks emotionally or physically”
Authenticity idolatry: “Life only has meaning / I only have worth if – I am not pretending and being honest [shameless] about who I really am”
This Christmas... let the Lord do some heart surgery. Find your worth in Him and enjoy your time with family and friends. Don't live like you need to rise is status in a system that is corrupt. This doesn't mean you have to flee the world... you can live in it and discover the riches that really matter! 
If Christmas lets you down...could it be that you have idolized even what the holidays are supposed to do for you?
"God rest you Merry Gentlemen".............

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mr. Smats Hated Cats

Everyone knew it.

Some people were more bothered about it than others. But as sure as the sun came up in the east, no one really questioned that Mr. Smats hated cats.

It became more tangible when you saw his tombstone. The infamous mausoleum projected an eerie gloom on the horizon of the  town. It became almost a rhythmic reminder, every time you passed that way. The sheer number of repetitions beat on our brains the melody of unrivaled truth...Mr. Smats Hated Cats. 

But a dead man feels no wrath or indignation.

The objects of the venom of reprisal were his sons. Their last name was forever forced into the rhyme..."Smats" and "Cats".

Sam and Will Smats had consciously and unconsciously done all they could to escape the mantra.

Sam Smats had climbed a tree to rescue a frightened kitty only to have fallen and broken his leg so severely that he walked with a limp. It was so peculiar that you could identify Sam Smats from as far a distance as his dad's eternal resting place.

Will Smats kept cats in his home. But no one bought it. It took a good bit of looking, but Will Smats' cats were not cared for. Often people commented on the ragged fur, hungry eyes, timidity, and poor health of any poor cat in the care of Will Smats.

One day a report exploded on the town square that Will Smats had buried a cat in his backyard. The pressure on City Hall to investigate was immense and an investigator was dispatched to collect information on the abuse.

Sam Smats limped and Will Smats pleaded for folks to stop with the nonsense.

"Yes, our dad hated cats.... but we reject such a horrible view. Will someone please stand up for us?"

I thought about it for many days. I talked to a friend over coffee...

"What if Sam were trying to help that kitten?"

He looked at me in disbelief. "You are kidding me..right? Didn't you hear what the people said about his features? He was angry. He was going to kill that cat. Thank the Lord, that he fell out of that tree before harming him!"

I tried again... "But we weren't there! What if he wasn't mad? What if he was just scared of heights?"

My friend interrupted again in a huff! 'So why was he climbing that tree? Why go to all that trouble if he didn't just HATE that poor creature!"

I tried again....

"What if he was so sad about how his dad treated cats, that he wanted to go out of his way to help one?"

He glanced at me with a suspicious eye as he sipped again on his brew.

One day I did find someone who agreed with me!

As I slowly approached the subject, I felt his support rather energizing!

He had the biggest smile I had ever seen!

"Yes, yes, yes! Mr. Smats hated cats - but Sam and Will Smats love cats!"

We laughed together.

'Crazy!, why don't people see that?"

"Maybe it will just take time!"

But that concerned me... I don't think time was going to help us. I had heard it on the playground one day... 'Sam Smats hates cats' by a little girl jumping rope. A little boy echoed a similar song "I step on a crack and Will breaks my cat."

I looked at my new friend... "Will you come to the coffee shop and talk to my friend? Maybe he will listen to us together?"

A block down the road, the coffee always smelled so good and fresh!

We sat down and laid out the best argument we could..... 'Mr. Smats hated cats. Will and Sam did not'.

My newfound friend shook the hand of my old friend and walked out, confident that we had made some progress for truth and good.

But I now saw two suspicious eyes over the coffee cup!

"What! Why do you not believe us!"

"Why should I? You have no clue who that was...do you?"

"Well, I just met him", I replied, "his name is Mark."

"Ha! You fool!" He smirked. "You have been deceived by no other than Mark SMATS... and a nephew hates cats as much as a son."

And I just stared in disillusionment... why even try?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Don't Over Analyze The Tide

We live in a world of prognostication and 'expert' opinion. There are so many 'analysts' that we have entire networks whose content carries as much analysis and opinion as actual contests!

But I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a participant and consumer of the the bark and bluster.

This post is no different.

But I feel like I needed to offer some restraint on those who have written off Alabama's defense based on the Auburn game.

I have spent most of my years as a coach on teams that emphasized defense. Most coaches would admit (if they HAD to choose) that they would rather be good on defense better than being good on offense. A great defense keeps you in every game.

Most teams who are better on offense will have the ability to light other teams up...but there is always that sad loss where you are a better team, but you just keep mis-firing and you get run off the field by an opponent you should not lose to.

Alabama lives and thrives on defense.....
But, when you look at an entire season, it always makes you feel good when an offense saves you when you have a poor defensive outing.

In Alabama's case, an explosive offense and an aggressive play caller avoided what could have been an ugly upset last Saturday night.

And what makes this Alabama team fun is that they win games as a complete team. 

Through a coaches eye... I see where good play on both sides of the ball aided the win against Auburn and failure in all three areas (special teams/defense/offense) contributed to the close loss in Oxford.

Why is Alabama the most dangerous team in the country? They are the deepest team in college football and they play as a team.

When an analyst says Alabama was torched by the Auburn offense... he is really pointing to long passes that were outstanding plays by the Tigers.

Alabama's worst stretch of the game defensively was EARLY in the game, where... even though they were up 14-6.... had given up too many big runs inside the tackles.

Once the inside game was plugged up. Auburn was left to connecting over the top. That is a play Alabama wants teams to take. The theory is that if you can keep those throws from scoring TD's, and you make teams kick FG's in the red zone.. you can win IF you play good offense and special teams.

The biggest improvements I have noticed this season include Alabama using 4 defensive linemen more and getting a great pocket push from those 4. And it is a deeper team. I thought Alabama looked fresher in the 4th quarter than Auburn, in spite of the many number of plays Auburn ran.

The other improvement is the mobility of the QB. Simms' ability to extend plays has done what McCarron was not able to do last season (no disrespect to him intended- who can argue with his career?)

This is the most explosive offense Alabama has shown even though other teams may have been better. You have to credit Lane Kiffin's style.... he has no fear and calls the game loose and confident.

Special teams still frustrate the fan in me. UA's punter is amazing, but kick-off coverage scares me and FG situations make me very uneasy.

And Alabama is VERY good on defense. If you end up in 3rd and long... look out!

Based on that, here is how I see the rest of it playing out.

Missouri will be toughest against the Alabama offensive line. But Alabama's defense will limit Missouri's scoring opportunities. If no one panics at a low scoring and close halftime score... Alabama's depth will salt the game away in the 2nd half.

With Mississippi State being out of the 4 team playoff...that has helped Alabama. There will be no team in the final 4 that has the defensive front 7 like Alabama.

Missouri is the most dangerous game of the 3 potential games remaining.

If I were having to guess... (no particular order after Mizzou)

Alabama 31- Missouri 17 in a game that was very close until mid-way thru 3rd Q.
Alabama 24- FSU 13- Defenses dominate the game
Alabama 28- TCU 21- Exciting game with good plays on both sides
Alabama 35- Oregon/Baylor 24 (people will be surprised at how athletic defensive linemen hold down 'super spread' teams scoring)
Alabama 31- Ohio State 24- (people will be surprised how well OSU plays the Tide)

And my predictions are worth about the same as any other..... meaningless and likely not close to reality!