Thursday, December 27, 2018

Why the Term 'Fade' is a Poor Description of the Route

With the growing popularity of back shoulder throws and match up zone - I notice that very few teams actually throw good looking vertical shots anymore. But taking a good opportunity to go deep can be a great way to take the top off of a defense!

I call it a ‘fade’ myself- but if you understand how to run a deep vertical, you understand that to 'fade' is a weak and worthless description. But it may be better to say a 'GO' route or a 9 route or a vertical.

Understanding the Need and Use of a Deep Throw

I personally don't think teams throw outside vertical routes enough. The worst thing that can happen on a deep throw is an interception. If the tackle is made quickly, that failure is as good as a punt.

Amazing Paradox: An off corner is easier to beat on a deep throw than an up corner. It used to bother me to see our Qb or rec's get discouraged if we called a vertical throw and the corner was way off. It wouldn't work because their lack of belief did not allow for full speed and excellent execution.

If the receiver will attack the technique of the corner, he can run up on and by a corner who flips his hips too late. Also, we should come down with the ball more often because of having more experience in those reps.

Release at line of scrimmage (Diagram on the top): It is so important to get full speed in a hurry. If pressed, take the outside release as the preferred release, but no need to run through a wall. If the corner is hard outside, take the easiest route. The key is to get by and stacked on top of a press corner. Be strong on top of him and DO NOT GET FUNNELED.

Releasing Downfield (Diagram at the bottom): The WR needs to slip the off corner with the easiest release with as little friction as possible. But he wants to quickly STACK the corner and not weakly fade to the sideline. TELL THEM TO BE POWERFUL AGAINST THE CORNER.

The Importance of the POWER STACK- Teach your wideouts to run with a strong body that wants to leave the corner late. Corners are taught to rub, slap, and tug to slow the WR down. Keep the rec. working with hard pumping arms and driving knees


QB’S- “DO NOT THROW IT OUT OF BOUNDS!”- I know our Qb’s must think we are crazy because we act like no big deal if a deep ball is intercepted...but we yell at them when they throw it out of bounds.

RECEIVER’S “NO FRANKENSTEIN ARMS”- HUGE MISTAKE is to have a WR run downfield with his arms stuck out stiff. Teach them to keep pumping their arms while the ball is in the air and stretch late for the catch.

FIGHTING FOR THE BALL- I try to stress to our wide rec's that this is THEIR ball and they need to aggressively fight for it with both hands and laser eyes. Out hustle and out jump. Most interference calls go against the defense.

SAFETY FIRST- I do not let our rec's dive for long balls in practice. Use jumping pits or mats to safely practice.But to not lay out in a game is a loaf.

Protecting the Throwing Lane: This is huge. I do NOT want to rec to 'fade' wide. I want him STACKED vertical. I also want him to leave the QB room to throw it a little wide. Some coaches say that the receiver owns the numbers and the Qb owns the sideline. But I caution all coaches to not over coach the outside throw. Of course we do not want it inside- but I like the idea over the top of his head- downtown with air. Throwing the ball out of bounds is worse than throwing it inside. Make sure rec's provide a minimum of 4 yds, even after double moves.

Throwing the DEEP BALL with air. A high throw allows more room for error and adjustment.The only time I allow a ‘5 iron’ shot over a ‘9 iron’ shot is when the cover is blown. Cover 2 hole throws need to be a ‘2 iron stinger’. I like using trash cans in the summer to work on throwing the deep ball with good air.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Christmas War

This will seem like a strange post during a time where we sing, "Peace on Earth"

And my prayer IS for you is to rest with your loved ones these next few days.... it is peaceful and we do need to enjoy and celebrate. But make no mistake, the enemy recognizes NO requests for a Christmas ceasefire!

If you are experiencing Christmas conflict, understand that there is one who rages against you and his desire is dark and dangerous.

Revelation 12

And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. [5] She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron........[7] Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, [8] but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [10] And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. [11] And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

 [12] Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! 

But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

[13] And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child....... [17] Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (ESV)

The Bible is pretty bold and clear- all humans have to declare allegiance to one of two kingdoms.

One kingdom is the City of Man- symbolically called 'Babylon'- it is ruled by the Dragon- and this Dragon wages war on the Lamb and those who follow Him. Citizenship in this kingdom is secured by a refusal to bow, rebellion, hatred, and defiance toward the Creator and Savior. 

The other kingdom is the City of God- symbolically called 'Jerusalem'- it is ruled by God and is a glorious eternal kingdom of love and peace. Citizenship in this kingdom is secured by humility and submission- it is receiving a gift of grace as a child by faith.

The ruler of the City of Man wages war on the citizens of Jerusalem.

The Ruler of Jerusalem will pour out wrath on the followers of the dragon in response to the cruelty and destruction of the one called 'Accuser'.

Whose wrath do you choose?

This is a journal I wrote just a few days before the first marathon I ever ran:

I have trained well and I am in a period called ‘tapering’ which is getting my body as rested as I can- hydrated- full of glycogen- totally recovered from all the training .I have followed a training plan by the book- I have run 20 miles twice- and have done all that my advisor ( has told me to . But regardless of all I have done- I do know what is coming. Whether I feel great or not on Saturday- at about mile 17/18/19 (I’m praying not sooner) I will hit the point where it is time to just keep going. I have experienced this on a smaller scale during my training- the worst run I had was an 18 miler where I was already struggling on mile 5 (one of the most miserable experiences of my life). Bottom line- I have a fight coming- and it will push me- but WHEN I cross the finish line I will feel a tremendous sense of triumph. 

And even though I thought I knew the struggle- it was much tougher than I imagined. I have run two marathons in my past and both of them were quite a battle.... at some point it just becomes a fight to the finish.
I was always helped by those who encouraged me to keep going!


Proverbs 24 outlines the ‘fight’ of the wise and the righteous. I’m sorry to report, but no one gets out of this war. You are either on the side of evil or good- but you hit the ground running everyday in an all-out spiritual battle with eternity at stake.

1 Do not envy the wicked,
do not desire their company;
2 for their hearts plot violence,
and their lips talk about making trouble.

Here is your enemy- they never rest- and lust after your destruction.

5 The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
6 Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers.

How can you win if you do not plan or do not get help? I think my biggest failure in things is not to enlist help and I foolishly strike out on my own… BIG MISTAKE. This is a fight for a team and not for individuals.

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!

11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

Sadly, this is the general experience of a lot of believers, including myself WAY TOO OFTEN!- soft and frail- and more willing to beg out of the fight. 

Passive people think they are avoiding the crisis…but it is coming to them and will be worse the longer they wait.

16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

We will get knocked down in this battle, it is all about rising up in victory- don’t STAY down!

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the LORD will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.

As believers we win and lose with class! Let God handle what consequences need to come. Be sober when that happens. It may take time, but justice will win in the end!

21 Fear the LORD and the king, my son,
and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,
and who knows what calamities they can bring?

Whose team do you want to be on?

23 By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
24 through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures. 

The gifts we open this Christmas will fade in time-The gift of wisdom lasts and bears fruit. And we have to have it, if we want to win the war.

This is the gift I want……..What about you? 


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) 

Friday, December 14, 2018

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


As we spend a season contemplating the Christ-child and gifts... it is quite OK and I encourage us to explore the question. Doing it is an evidence of God working in your heart... this is going to be great....The greatest gift ever given!  I want to thank God for giving me the gift of 'saving faith'- a gift I would not have were it not for Him.

How do I KNOW I have true saving faith?- the starter question

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.


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.


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 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?

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 separate 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?

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'.



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.

Saving faith is simply I TRUST JESUS- what he says and what He did... and nothing else.-

 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,

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Smats Hates Cats


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

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

However, a dead man feels no wrath or indignation.

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

Sam and Will Smats have 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 is so peculiar that you can identify Sam Smats from as far a distance as his dad's eternal resting place.

Will Smats keeps cats in his home. But NO ONE buys it. If you REALLY LOOK HARD enough you can find the sure enough evidence. Will Smats' cats are not cared for. Often people comment on the 'ragged fur', 'hungry eyes', 'timidity', and poor health of any poor cat in the care of Will Smats.

And then the very worst fears became true when the newspaper printed an accusation  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. Sure enough, the man had done it! And Will Smats was given the largest fine in town history for burying a pet in a backyard without a permit.

So- Sam Smats limps and Will Smats pleads his innocence to deaf ears and angry hearts. 

"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 the cat was just scared of heights?"

My friend interrupted again in a huff! 'So why was Sam 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 as he stated it rather confidently, "Yes, yes, yes! Mr. Smats hated cats - but Sam and Will Smats love cats!"

We laughed together and talked again in whispers.

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

"Maybe it will just take time!"

But that concerns me... I don't think time is going to help us. I had heard it on the playground just yesterday.. 'Sam Smats hates cats' by a little girl jumping rope. A little boy echoed it in baseball practice  "I swing my bat like Will Smats does at my cat."

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

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

We sit down and lay out the best argument we can..... 'Mr. Smats hated cats. Will and Sam do not'.

We do almost all the talking and they just drink coffee.

My newfound friend shakes the hand of my old friends and walks out. I am confident that we have made some progress for truth and goodness.

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

"What! Do you not believe us!"

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Why Christmas Includes Sorrow

For many, the approaching reality of Christmas is not ALL childhood bliss and candy cane memories. It can often be a bittersweet time. And I think the older we get, the more we see the reality of the holiday. Each year brings the truth of those who are absent and those who have departed.

My mom read a very sad Christmas story to us almost every year when we were children about the little match girl. Each year I hoped that she would be saved in the end.... however, her version was the one that always ended in sadness. I stared at those same pictures..snow, cold, and a poor girl who never found one person to take her in and warm her life.

I recently re-read the classic published by Hans Christian Anderson in 1845

Here is the summary of the story in Wikipedia:

On a cold New Year's Eve, a poor young girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is already shivering from cold and early hypothermia, and she is walking barefoot having lost her shoes. Still, she is too afraid to go home, because her father will beat her for not selling any matches, and also as the cracks in the house can't keep out the cold wind. The girl takes shelters in a nook or alley and sits down.
The girl lights the matches to warm herself. In their glow she sees several lovely visions, including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward and sees a shooting star; she then remembers her dead grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone is dying and is going to Heaven. As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother alive for as long as she can.
After running out of matches the child dies, and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook, frozen with a smile on her face, and guess the reason for the burnt-out matches beside her. They feel pity for her, although they had not shown kindness to her before her death. They have no way of knowing about the wonderful visions she saw before her death or how gloriously she and her grandmother are now celebrating the New Year in Heaven.

So, the question is WHY did my mom read that story to us year after year, despite us desperately crying NO like we all do when whining about a request we see as torture?
My mom understood that while it was a sad story, but it wasn't a tragic story. 
In a home of some Christmas regrets, there was a deeper truth that was beyond me in the moment, but it took root and faithfully bore fruit in my heart many years after my mom passed away.
In fact, I think the beauty and application of that truth is lost on us if Christmas is just getting everything on our list.
'Getting everything' wasn't the Christmas past I remember. We always got some GREAT things, but it wasn't an overflowing bounty. And in my eagerness to try out the new shiny toy tucked behind the tree, I never noticed that mom and dad never really got anything for themselves.
My mom cried every Christmas when she finished the story which is another reason I fought it like the plague.
Her tears came from more than the genuine love she had for people without means.
Christmas reminds us of the painful times, it is lament of the loss of childhood innocence, and it can be hard and cold in a world of darkness and loneliness.

Christmas is also so BEAUTIFUL, MAGICAL, and SPECIAL that it is hard ...when we observe it without LOVED ONES who are now departed. This Christmas, the sneak attack of a recently departed loved one will press on your soul.... the Bible does NOT SAY says that we do not says we do not grieve like the world... the ones who have NO HOPE. (I Thess. 4:13)

I have been told that prisoners often count years in jail by the number of Christmases they miss.

ALSO- never count out that Christmas is a time of great spiritual warfare.... the very 1st Christmas was in a battlefield and Herod was a Satanic pawn trying to destroy the Christ child. We see a picture of this in Revelation 12: 

[4] His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. (ESV)

Satan would ALSO LIKE TO DESTROY YOUR CHRISTMAS... in consumerism, pain, division, and depression- fight the good fight!


The little match girl has a smile on her face in the end. What is that about?
True hope is one that carries us beyond the darkest day of human existence.
If death is the end, then Christmas is, in a sense, an empty celebration. Gifts disappear...... 

do you remember what you got last Christmas? The one before?
Christmas is about a gift that came wrapped in poverty and darkness...AND  caused the angels to sing in exalted praise.
The birth of the Christ-child unleashed violence and over 2,000 years later bombs still fall on children in places like Aleppo and we still wipe away tears of pain and regret.
There is a warm welcome waiting for those who walk to the other side clinging to the simple but glorious promise of why the Child came to earth.
My mom is not crying this Christmas.. her body is perfect, her home is full and warm. She is basking in eternal joy and sunshine.
Neither is Granny, neither is Lee, neither is Terry..... or Jim, or Grammy, or Dennis, or Mr Stegall, or Coach Farris, or Coach Berry, or David
So yes, I sometimes cry at Christmas....but that is OK with me....  the gift that God gave I will never forget....
If that is all He ever gave me, I would still have reason to praise His Holy name for all eternity.
He gave me grace upon grace, a beautiful family, and we will have some great times very soon.
AND because of Jesus .... I know that this is just a small taste of what is to come.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Cannibal Effect: Every Dart You Throw Hurts You

I have been reading quite a few articles and books this quarter on team culture and what coaches and captains can do to influence and impact this vital aspect of championship programs. Jeff Janssen has a website and excellent books that help athletic leaders to think through the dynamics of athletes, parents, coaches, and teams.

I have also had a chance to have some amazing and productive discussions with coaches, parents, and students at my school as well.

And though I am still learning, I have felt inspired to write out some thoughts on what I call, Cannibalizing Your Team. Cannibalization is literally 'eating your own team'. And cannibals can be found among any and all parts of a team or surrounding community. It can be players, coaches, fans, parents, media.... and usually is a combination of those that forms a 'contrary wind' to that team.

By the way, the cannibals are always there..... human nature is always breeding more. The existence of cannibals is not deadly unless there are too many OR the cannibals are KEY CONSTITUENTS of a team or organization.

Cannibals eat away so many things.... but the overall impact is a loss of opportunity, a loss of positive momentum/energy, or the erosion of core values.


I once worked with a coach ( a great coach by the way) who was very upset about the way we did a certain aspect of our football team. This practice was a by-product of a fundamental piece of our philosophy.

As the season went on, he would say in the head-sets, "This is not going to go well". And he said it EVERY SINGLE TIME the game situation dictated that decision because of our philosophy. And this went on.... game 1, game 2, game 3,4,5,6..... and then, in game 7... his prediction finally happened. Oh my goodness!....the 'I TOLD YOU SO' that came from him was as loud and obnoxious as any I have ever even IMAGINED.

The next coaches meeting, he was armed and ready. When we got to that place in the film, it was obvious that the decision was what it was.... but the execution of the decision was the major problem for failure.

I stopped the film.... "you know... I have been listening to you on the head-set for 7 games in a row. You have predicted this EVERY SINGLE time. Your prediction FINALLY happened... but that is like me predicting rain everyday during a five year drought until it finally rains for 5 minutes. Congratulations!" You could have cut the tension with a knife.

And that coach did not stay in the program after the season was over. As good a coach as he was, his unwillingness to buy into this was a constant corrosion. He wanted to be SO RIGHT... that he was DEAD RIGHT.

A lot of teams begin new seasons with so many cannibals, that they are already losing... even with a record of 0-0. I often hear coaches tell me how frustrating it is when parents pass along a 'group think' of the sound bites of what is wrong with a program or coach before a season even begins.

About halfway through a season a team will be .500 or below and this group of parents will be right... want the coach fired... and feel so let down because the window of opportunity to play high school sports is small.

What they don't realize is that the negative talk became a self-fulfilling prophecy and they 'cannibalized' their own team.... 

I had a parent call me one time and was upset that a dad had begun a negative campaign against the coaches. He said that the reality was that many of the parents liked the coaches and were satisfied and he was afraid that all we hear about were the complaints. I asked the dad why he didn't confront the one parent who was the loudest and most vocal.... and sadly, he was afraid to.

Finally, the day came where the upset dad called me to meet.  He came in and in pretty bold and aggressive ways expressed his opinion that we were bad coaches. He spoke on the authority that he had played in college, coached these players in youth leagues, and couldn't believe the school even hired (our head coach) in the first place- "did you know this man has never even coached a varsity team, he was just a freshman coach in his previous job!"

Looking back, I probably should not have had this conversation. If I were doing it over today I would have sent him straight to head coach... but I was young and dumb enough to think I could help.

When it was my time to respond.... he didn't like what I had to say. 'Mr ________, your son came to me yesterday because he knew we were going to be meeting today. And I had a phone call from another dad recently. In both conversations, I asked them to come talk to you and both said they were afraid to.

This is going to be hard to hear, but you are hurting your son and a lot of parents are not happy with your behavior at games. Both have asked me to ask you to stop it.

You were a great college football player, I have heard a lot of stories about how good you were. But when you yell at your son from the stands on how to play his position, you are telling him to (do  a technique) that we don't use (we ran a different system) it is opposite of what he is being coached to do and it embarrasses him. 

There were more issues in the meeting- college recruiting - we weren't tough- it wasn't a great meeting and he was hacked that his son and that dad had gotten in tough with me.

"I love our coaches and I know they are doing a great job, loving your son, coaching your son. I'm asking to to stop being loud and negative... I don't think I will change your opinion... but you are hurting the team by spreading negativity. You are hurting your son! Go home and talk to him about that, and don't go off on him... he loves you and he is trying to live up to what you want him to be!"

It did not go over well. He got red faced and stormed off. He never really got loud again, but now I was on his list as well.

Sadly, this did not go away. It grew. 

We made the playoffs that season and went to an away playoff game. It wasn't our best effort in the first half. We threw two interceptions and were having a rough time against a great defense. As we were coming into the locker room, this same dad (and at least 4 others who believed as he did) were waiting on me at the chain link gate. We had to get outside that gate to go into the visitor locker room.

He stepped in front of me and stopped me! "What are y'all doing! Thus is embarrassing! Run the ball!"

I walked around him without saying a word, and he yelled in my ear as I passed him, "This is our last game!"

And then I blew up in his face "This is halftime _______. Get away from me!"

Now what is bad about that was that it happened in front of everybody and it was a scene.

When I walked into the locker room, it was like a funeral.

Here is the crazy thing.... we were only losing 6-0!

But in that halftime, I had nothing I could tell my offense to muster them for a 2nd half charge. I tried, but they didn't believe in us, didn't believe it what we were doing, and there were just enough cannibals to let the season end....  kind of like a mercy killing.

Ironically, a few year later, we were in the semi-finals and were going in a halftime down six points. And instead of the angry mob- our fans were at the gate "Go Lions, Y'all got this! Way to go!" And we won in double overtime on our way to the state championship.

Now, am I naive enough to believe the difference in positive and negative reactions were ALL the difference? NO

But the prevailing belief (also called pre-supposition) can influence the outcome and be a type of self-fulfilling prophecy.

I used to have the newspaper article from Cleveland that had the headline story about the Browns firing Bill Belichick, "Goodbye to the Worst Coach in the History of the NFL". Belief is a pretty powerful thing!


Here is another OPPOSITE illustration of negative cannibalism.

In 1999, we lost our ALL-State Tailback on a freak play to a torn ACL... the last play of the first half. It was mid-season, we lost the game, and people were beginning to wonder if we could win back-to-back state titles. It looked doubtful.

We played two more games with a quality back-up and personnel packages and won those. But we were not the dynamic offense we had been. We still had an elite defense and as far as our record, we were still a favorite to win it all.

Our head coach, Fred Yancey, surprised all of us in week 8 of the regular season by announcing a DRAMATIC move. We were going to take our starting SAM linebacker and move him to Fullback and move our Fullback to Tailback. What made this even more startling is that neither player had played those positions ALL YEAR! And the linebacker had never run with the football in his entire football life!

Immediately, there was the typical assistant coaching pushback...but Coach Yancey was adamant. This was a HC decision and he walked out.

I was offensive coordinator... but both defensive assistants AND offensive assistants kept pressing me to change Coach Yancey's mind.

I simply looked at them and said, "Guys, this is his team.. this is his decision. So, we have two choices.... gripe and moan OR get to work to make this work." And we did.

Now don't get me wrong... THIS WAS NOT EASY... and the early results were flat ugly... but we worked it with positive energy and we won the State Championship. The tailback was MVP of the game and the fullback scored on 3rd and goal at a critical time early in the game.

Winners, champions, and competitors learn early in their battles that cannibals never win. Dream killers and blame game hand wringers get it right by their own actions and beliefs. And then they get mad about it!

We do it to coaches as well..... I wonder how many programs would be more successful if they embraced their coach instead of tearing him down in endless opining of opinions. You know what a good play call is? One that works. And a bad play call doesn't.

I'm not saying that you never make changes... but I KNOW of teams who stole away their opportunities to be good because of cannibalism.

Now, one more important point is this. A lack of virtue is a type of cannibalism. We live in a world that seeks to tear down our rivals.


Coach Bryant taught the State of Alabama to do it differently. He taught me as a fan and later, as a player to show class and respect toward the opponent. It is more honorable to beat a worthy opponent than to beat an unworthy one.

But we tweet 'hate week', and we spew venom, and we ridicule and mock the opposing team... so is it really a great victory if we beat them?

An example 1965 ALABAMA:

Alabama opened against Georgia on a blistering hot day in Athens for the 1965 season. Tom Brakefield was with the Bear Bryant show film crew, wiping away sweat, and enjoying every snap of a fierce contest pitting Coach Bryant against Vince Dooley.

Even though Alabama struggled all day, even going in at halftime down 10-0, Alabama rallied in the 2nd half and took a late 17-10 lead.

What took place next in the game was recently ranked by The Bleacher Report as #3 of the 12 greatest plays in college football history.

Coach Dooley called it 'flea flicker' but today is more known as a 'hook and lateral'. Kirby Moore threw the ball to Pat Hodgson who then flicked it to Bob Taylor who ran for a 73 yard touchdown to bring the score to 17-16. Georgia converted the 2 point extra points to win 18-17!

The problem was.... it looked very clear to the Alabama faithful that Pat Hodgson's knee was down, thus making the play 'dead' on the catch and the touchdown should have been disallowed!

You have to think that Alabama fans felt snake-bit. It was the first game since Joe Namath had seemingly been robbed of a game winning TD in the Orange Bowl and now they lost the opening game to a missed call in Athens!

Tom Brakefield saw a clean angle and knew he had a camera all over it. He carefully noticed which canister was going to have the field level proof!

Sure, enough, the Bear Bryant Show crew had indisputable video evidence that 'Bama had been robbed by the Bulldogs!

When Coach Bryant came in that Sunday morning to prepare for the live telecast that afternoon, he shocked everyone! As soon as he saw the clip he stopped and said as clear and forceful as he could:

"Men, I never have won a game on Sunday because of film. Please take this clip out and give it to me."

When the show went live from Channel 13 that Sunday, Coach Bryant taught the entire state on how to lose with class.

And Tom Brakefield used it to teach an even bigger lesson!

"You want to know the biggest part of that story?  We lost to Georgia, we TIED Tennessee- but still upset Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to win the National Championship. At Alabama, Coach Bryant started a lesson that, even today, we understand.... if you do it right... you always have a chance!"


I am going to make a plea to every athlete, coach, and parent reading this. Don't be a cannibal! Don't be that person who always focuses on the flaws. Don't create small circles of whiners and complainers who whisper in the dark and throw darts.

A winner is hopeful... even to the very last snap, he believes he can find a way to win. And in the end, that relentless optimism gave him MORE of a chance... where a doubtful pessimist robbed his team of the opportunity.

Competition with honor is rewarding... win or lose.

Winning without honor... is never really a victory.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rediscovering the Reformation in A Post Everything America

Happy REFORMATION DAY- October 31, 2018

As we live in a culture that continues to slide away from doctrine and slide down to the Easy Believism of the Good Lord and Good Deeds and Cheap Grace Church of Cappuccino and Concerts (yes- really snarky I know).... is there still room and relevance to the grand gospel truths birthed by blood during the reformation?

I say YES... in fact, the reformation is the authentic lumber and substance of the Biblical doctrines of grace that we long for!

The Sola's still ring true in my heart and jump off the pages of my Bible....

Sola Scriptura: My Only Foundation
Solus Christus: My Only Mediator
Sola Gratia: My Only Method
Sola Fide: My Only Means
Soli Deo Gloria: My Only Ambition

Endless political soundbites that saturate cable news and Netflix binge watching have robbed us lives that run on protein power instead of kool-aid.


#1 THE SOLA'S PREVENT US FROM HYPER-ANYTHING- God’s Truth is a balanced truth.

The reformation proved that authentic relationships are enhanced by sound doctrine. Truth is enlivened by God's Spirit- and the truth of truth compels an authentic response of service!


Truth is homeless in our world. We suffocate for lack of honesty. As a result man dies even while he remains alive, though idle he remains convinced of his achievements. Even as he lies dying he persuades himself that he is alive.”  Abraham Joshua Herschel, American Jewish Philosopher

The ideas of the reformation make us grab hold of truth that is OUTSIDE our own little mind. 

 I cannot shape truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. C.H. Spurgeon

 A subjective faith is really NOT the gospel. The gospel is ground into space, time, and history of a true man, proclaiming a true message, suffering a true cross, and was exalted by a true resurrection. This is not a 'feels like' faith. This is not a 'seems like' lifestyle. This is simply, Jesus is Lord and King and the Sole Substitute for sin and rebellion.

If you build your life around the comfortable false religions of this age,  you will never bump into any surprise or adventure or amazement.

Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn have continued to promote the distinctives.....

 There is no way of getting around it: The American Religion is not Christianity. I'm not saying that Reformation Christians are the only people we'll see in Heaven, but I am saying that the American Religion is sub-Christian in many of the facets we've been considering over these past several weeks. And there's a common thread running through it all: Man-centeredness instead of God-centeredness; a theology of glory rather than a theology of the Cross; moralism instead of Christ; sentimentalism and pragmatism instead of the Gospel; marketing instead of truth.

Many historians look back to the Reformation and wonder at its far-reaching influences in transforming culture. The work ethic, public education, civic and economic betterment, a revival of music, the arts, and a sense of all life being related somehow to God and his glory: These effects cause historians to observe with a sense of irony how a theology of sin and grace, the sovereignty of God over the helplessness of human beings, and an emphasis on salvation by grace apart from works, could be the catalyst for such energetic moral transformation. The reformers did not set out to launch a political or moral campaign, but they proved that when we put the Gospel first and give voice to the Word, the effects inevitably follow.

What is the best way to celebrate Reformation Day? I plan on eating a snickers and reading Romans.

What about you?