What if it isn’t about football?

OK Everybody up! Rise and shine! I promise, no more stories about football after today. I have exhausted all I know about the game. Here’s my take on the Super Bowl.

It isn’t really about football. Nobody pays $5000 for a ticket to watch football. According to StubHub, the going price of Super Bowl tickets this year ranged from $2300 to $4518, but averaging all ticket sales the average price was $5,134. One lucky person paid $21,983. Whoever it was, I sure hope their team won. Now if this is really about football, you can watch for under $10 per seat at your local high school. No, this is not about football.

Then what is it? What drives normally sane people to pay insane prices to watch grown men tussle on the field, roll around on the ground, and sprint to the end of the field, clutching a ball that is so misshapen it looks like a defect? I give up. It isn’t about football.

Here’s what I think – and I could be completely out of the end zone here – but I think it’s all about the relationship. Yeh, not the touchy-feely kind of relationship, but the camaraderie, the excitement, the competition, the running with the crowd, and wanting what others have. Ask the companies who shell out $5 million dollars for a 30-second spot in the line-up. Fortune magazine says, “Ads in the February Super Bowl 50 broadcast will cost a record $5 million for a 30-second spot.”  It isn’t about football, it’s about capitalizing on the crowds who don’t pay to see the game, but sit at home in their role as armchair quarterbacks, watching TV. Commercials are not about football, they are about 30 seconds of fame. The price is steep!Capture

My team won Super Bowl 50, but when I watch the game it’s witnessing the energetic plays on the field, the tactics used man-to-man to serve their teams and protect the ball carrier so he can make it into the end zone and without fumbling, and if everything works according to team play, score a touchdown. I watch football, not because I understand the game, but because I understand the relationships. The strongest, fastest, most talented individual is a detriment to their team if they don’t play the position they’ve been given and if they play the game like they are the only one on the field. The only way to be a success in football is to play a specific role, integrated into the team, and be part of it.

Romans 12 is all about being relational and following the rules of team play. Let’s highlight a few of the characteristics of what we do – if we are good team players. We have different gifts to use to make us genuine team players: teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy. We have a playbook with prescribed actions: Be sincere in love, hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to each other, honor others above ourselves, be energetic in running the plays, be joyful, spread hope, share, exercise patience, do not be conceited, play in harmony with your team, don’t look down on anyone for the position they have – it is no less important than yours, don’t be vengeful. Pray for others.

Did you catch a glimpse of any of that on the field? Did you see the face to face conversations, the eye level trust, the unapologetic hugs, grown men jumping up and down in the traditional chest bump? Did you see the obvious perplexed looks of “How could that happen?” If you didn’t watch the game, have you caught a glimpse of any of that off the field, in real life? Football is visible and contained in a 360 X 140 foot rectangle. The playing field of life isn’t so obvious, yet the play by play actions are the most defining and precariously consequential.

What about today? Our game isn’t over. What can we do today to be good team players on the team that matters most – God’s team. Hebrews 3:13 says Encourage one another daily, as long as it is today.

I don’t know. Maybe it is about football. But maybe it’s about relationship.

Ticket stats from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2016/02/07/super-bowl-50-tickets-denver-broncos-carolina-panthers/79967056/ USA Today

Super Bowl 50 ad pricing from http://fortune.com/2015/08/06/super-bowl-ad-cost/  Fortune.com

Photo credit Laura Heald for ESPN   espn.go.com  http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14734266/after-perfect-ending-denver-broncos-peyton-manning-next-rodeo

I was prompted to write this after watching the post game show, listening to interviews of the game heroes who were all about the team, and reading some of the articles published the next day.


Super Bowl 50 … Afterglow

I’m curious. Did your team win? Not to gloat or anything, but mine did. Go Broncos! My oldest daughter, who passed away in 2010 was a diehard Broncos fan. She knew every statistic of every player, had strong opinions of strategies used on the field, and even wrote to the head coach with her advice. I have his reply in her mementoes, a letter thanking her for sharing ideas and then explaining why it was his job to make the best decisions. Tammie’s cats were named after her favorite players, John Elway and Herschel Walker. Broncos fan all the way. super bowl 50 broncos sweatshirt

Most of the time, I have no favorite team and who wins isn’t important, but I confess I prayed more than once for the Broncos to win last night. For three days I wore Tammie’s official NFL Broncos sweatshirt, and asked God to give them victory. Maybe that seems strange to you. Really? Bothering God with something as fleeting as a football game? That’s the thing about God. He holds the whole world in his hands but he still cares about individuals and what they hope for.  David’s words in Psalms relay this over and over.

Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

Psalm 86:1 Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

Psalm 86:15 But Lord, you are a God who shows mercy and is kind. You don’t become angry quickly. You have great love and faithfulness.

Psalm 90: 16 Show your servants the wonderful things you do. Show your greatness.

God is merciful and kind. God is love and he isn’t just the representation of greatness, he is greatness. My team didn’t win because I prayed that Super Bowl 50 would end in victory for the Broncos. I don’t know why God honored my insignificant prayer. Win or lose, nothing in my life would change, but for my daughter, who is in heaven and not even slightly concerned about NFL stats, I wanted this win. I prayed for the win and God said yes.

What are you praying for today? To everyone else, it might seem insignificant, but if it’s important to you, it’s important to God.

Psalm 84:12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 78:7 They put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

I’m praying and asking God for some pretty big things for friends who are in need. I’m believing he will say yes. I want him to say yes, but while I wait I remember these words. Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Believe God in the dark for what he promises in the light. Have faith. Trust God. ‘Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.’ – Jeremiah 33:3

Wake up! You need this relationship.

How do you wake up in the morning? OK. OK. I get that. You wake up breathing. That’s good. Keep doing that. But really how do you wake up? To an alarm? To music? To someone shaking you back to consciousness? Does a song ever wake you up? This morning I heard someone singing, “I miss my time with you. Those moments together. I need to be with you each day.” Now that was a blast from the past! It’s been years since I’ve heard Larnelle Harris sing.

Hearing that song reminded me that God wants a relationship with me. Hebrews 8:10 says, God established a covenant (promised) “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Relationship.

There is nothing singular about relationship. It takes you and something else. Another person, a pet, God. See how that works? The way to strengthen the bond of relationship is by being together. Since I’ve been pretty good about spending time with God it’s a mystery why I heard that song, but decided to honor the prompting and start praying for everyone God brought to my mind. I know what you’re thinking – that could take all day, and you would be right about that.Prayer1

I think God does want us to spend time reading scripture, his words, his commands, his promises, his love letter to us. I think our relationship with God is strengthened when we take time to talk to him without distractions, like entering a prayer closet – just God and me. You know. Like Matthew 6:6 describes it, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”

If you look up the word prayer in an exhaustive concordance, you will find hundreds of references to prayer and the people doing the praying weren’t always standing at an altar or on their knees in a temple. How often do you think shepherds and warriors excused themselves from duty and traveled to the nearest tabernacle to pray? No. We can pray anyplace, anytime, for any reason. Over and over in the Psalms we hear David call out to God. Anyplace. Anytime. Any reason. Psalm 17:6 “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”

God desires a relationship with you. The song continues “and it hurts me when you say you’re too busy trying to serve me, but how can you serve me when your spirit’s empty”. I don’t know about you, but when my spirit is empty, everything is drained from me. I love these few verses where God assures us that he is always there to fill us up when life empties us out. Jesus understands everything we’re going through because he lived through the same trauma on Earth. “So let us hold on to the faith we have. For our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. Let us, then, feel free to come before God’s throne. Here there is grace. And we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.”

I can’t think of a better prayer of relationship with God than this from the Apostle Paul: I ask the Father in his great glory to give you the power to be strong in spirit. He will give you that strength through his Spirit. I pray that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. I pray that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love. I pray that you can understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than any person can ever know. But I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:126-19


Larnelle Harris – I Miss My Time With You

I miss my time with you
those moments together
I need to be with you each day
and it hurt’s me when you say
you’re too busy,
busy trying to serve me
but how can you serve me
when your spirit’s empty
there’s a longing in my heart
wanting more than just a part of you
it’s true
I miss my time with you.

Running after bread crumbs

Once upon a time . . . and the story began. Does anyone else remember the anticipation of hearing all about the adventures of slaying giants and defeating ugly witches; Snow White fully grown and adoringly tended by 7 tiny gentlemen; Cinderella dressed in rags transforms into a beautiful princess when the glass slipper fits; Hansel and Gretel finding their way back home because of breadcrumbs scattered along the path.Bread Crumbs (1)
How often do we use breadcrumbs today to find our way back? I’m reminded of this in Psalm 119:55 “In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law.” From the time I was in elementary school, I loved summer camp and didn’t want to miss my opportunity to be there for two weeks. My parents couldn’t afford to send me so I memorized Bible verses to earn a camp scholarship. Today those verses are my breadcrumbs. They run through my mind by day and I wake up with them on my mind in the night.
In science class I learned that our physical bodies are constantly trying to find homeostasis – to be in a state of stability, maintaining internal equilibrium and health regardless of outside conditions. Doesn’t it seem like we are constantly trying to find that balance between activity and rest; work and leisure? Sometimes it seems like the nickname for my calendar should be chaos – and I’m working on that – not overcommitting. How about you?
Do you, like me tell yourself that things will slow down, I’ll find my stride, life will find a comfortable routine . . . but instead there I am stuck in the spin cycle.
You know what? All is not lost! We have breadcrumbs to find our way back. God gives us words to comfort us, guide us, give us hope, fill us with unexplained peace. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
Scripture verses give me courage when the enemy of my soul lays out before me all the reasons for fear. Breadcrumbs lead the way back to comforting faith. Whether in illness or perfect health, we are one breath away from talking with God.
I’m blessed and thankful to have memorized hundreds of scripture verses at a young age, but even if I hadn’t it’s never too late to lay out breadcrumbs so when life gets messy, you can find your way back to a place of peace. Are you weary today? There’s a trail of breadcrumbs to take you back to a place of peace. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Breadcrumbs – come to me all who labor and whose hearts are heavy – Here’s the path …. let’s get out there!

Trading Desperation for Peace and Contentment

Have you ever glanced at something, and in a flash had a creeping feeling of dread? How can a split second of visual make such a powerful connection with your brain that, in a snap, alters your mood? This morning, I bounced down the stairs to my office – not in a falling down the stairs bounce, but in true Tigger fashion, a joyful bounce. As I turned on the light my eyes were drawn to an open magazine article with a huge elegantly printed title “Desperate for more” – an instant, a connection, an altered thought. Desperate for more …. Am I desperate? I don’t think so, but what if I am and just don’t admit it? Temperature check – desperate. Desperate. Desperate for more …. what?

Walking further into my office, God spoke to me about how quickly I felt a demoralizing effect from one tiny title on a page. Coffee in hand, I picked up my ‘Thankful’ journal and pen to write the daily entry. Thankful for – where do I start? My journal has an entry for every day and my Joy jar has a note for each day too. Desperate for more – of what? Here’s what I arrived at when I spent some quiet time with the Supreme Controller and Provider of all things.  empty_platform

Love – Psalm 90:14&17 “Satisfy us in the morning with your loyal love! Then we will shout for joy and be happy all our days!” I’m not desperate for love. I have all I need and am satisfied with that.

Wisdom – Ephesians 1:17 “I pray that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” The best way to avoid feelings of desperation is pray that you will know God better.

Peace – These comforting words come from Luke 1:78-79 “Because of the tender mercy of our God, there is light in darkness and He guides our feet into the path of peace.” We have the perfect instruction manual for peace. The Bible speaks extensively about peace what it is, how to get it, how to keep it, why you never need to be desperate for it. Philippians 4:8-9 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Hope – Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Contentment – I know what you’re going to say already. “You sound like a broken record.” But I have to remind myself and maybe you won’t mind a little reinforcement. Comparison is the opposite of contentment. When I think of contentment, I remember the 6th chapter of 1 Timothy.  I could copy the whole thing right here for you, but let’s start here with 1 Timothy 6:6 “godliness with contentment is great gain. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. “  If you want to read the remainder, just remember 1 Timothy 6.

Sometimes I need a little wake-up call  and allow God to warn me to stop being so vulnerable to suggestion and start fully trusting Him to meet my desperate needs.

God knows we are a desperate people. Our emotions are ripped apart and pieced back together. The happy face of one moment becomes the frown of defeat the next. The optimist can teeter on the edge of pessimism when the burden is too heavy to carry. Desperate for more ….

The magazine article’s complete title which I didn’t see at first was Desperate For More Time. The article said we are slaves to time and our schedules are fused so tightly there is no time for leisure. It’s a common problem, feeling desperate but I learned something today. I’m not desperate for anything.

Philippians 4:19 “God will provide everything you need according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

How about you? Are you ready to turn in your desperate wants for peace and contentment?  I’ll meet you out there.

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd. That’s all I want.”

Within Tolerance

“Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side” … “In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.” Hovering between sleep and the first dawn of day, those songs made paths through my memory. To understand, you need the backstory.

I don’t drive very often, and never when there’s a hint of poor driving conditions. Two years ago, I left my house with the sun shining and no hint of snow. I parked my car, entered the store and two hours later things had changed dramatically. As I crept from my parking place, another car coming toward me couldn’t stop, and for a brief moment our cars touched. No visible damage so we got back in our cars and went home. Well, I tried to go home – but something was wrong. Something was causing my car to rebel out of control and it wasn’t the blowing wind or icy roads. There was a defect somewhere between the wheels underneath and the steering wheel in my hands. The car stayed within tolerance at under 18 miles per hour, but at 20 it was out of control.

This wasn’t a lesson in why I shouldn’t be shopping or out joy riding in less than congenial weather. God and I had that discussion as I held the steering wheel with white-knuckle force, coaxing and begging the car to stay in the lane where I directed it. “God, if you just get me home safely, I promise I’ll never drive again.” Silence. “OK, how about this, God. I will stay home and not go anywhere, ever.” Chuckle. “Seriously, God. Do you see me here? I’m scared to death and you’re not helping.” Ponder. “OK, God, just get me home safely. That’s all I want. Nothing more – just keep me on track until I’m home safe.” Agreement.20151210_074618

Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side. Life is like that car. There was a track, a purpose, and with concentrated focus and no excessive speed I stayed within tolerance without straying. How often have I lost focus and strayed outside the path I know was chosen for me? I didn’t hear an audible voice of God, like in Isaiah 30:21 “You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” whether you are heading to the right or the left.” Safely home I considered how those petitions to God while braving the drive apply to all my circumstances and all my choices. Instead of getting ahead of God and slipping outside His boundaries, I should acknowledge the truth of 2 Samuel 22:31 “As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless;…” and because some of us are slow learners he offers Psalm 18:30 “…he shields all who take refuge in him.”

Bargaining … arguing … leveraging, I’m guilty of trying to help God out – Please show me your path, Lord, but I think I can figure out the first part, I just need you there to make it happen. God assures me that he’s listening but in Proverbs 3:1-3 he reminds me “Do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart…they will bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you…”.

Do you have a tendency, like me, to bargain with God? “Please do this, God. It’s what I want, it’s what I need.” Remember that God had David write this for our benefit: Psalm 130:5 “I rely on the LORD, I rely on him with my whole being; I wait for his assuring word.” God says, “Let’s change this up a bit. How about you rely on Me this time?”

That night when I was scared into submission, I didn’t learn that cars break down or that they wander aimlessly if they aren’t kept under control. God wasn’t waiting for my promise to never drive again. God doesn’t change his mind based on human conditions. He wanted for me then what he wants for all of us every day. In the morning when I rise, when I work throughout the day, when the world is fast asleep, God just wants us to say “Give me Jesus.” Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and confident, all you who wait on the Lord!” That’s all he wants of me. It’s all he wants of you – be strong, be confident, wait on God.

In the morning when I rise, In the morning when I rise, In the morning when I rise Give me Jesus – Jeremy Camp https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFJGsBApIuk

Why do I have to be the one to forgive?

For too many days now, I have had on my high priority list this task: Clear the clutter from office, including file drawers. And that’s as far as it gets, but in my defense I’ve come across some pretty cool reminders of things God has taught me over the past 10 years. I know it’s been 10 years because that’s about the time I started using my home office.
I pulled out a notebook yesterday where notes about forgiveness were stuffed inside. As I read, I wondered if anyone else would find consolation in learning what I learned. There are no dates on my notes – ever – but scripture is timeless, so does it really matter if I date the seasons of my life when God taught me something? Forgiveness is a tough one, so I won’t blame you if you abandon ship and move on today.
Maybe you have a better idea, but I think forgiveness is tough because it means somewhere along the line something went wrong. For those of us who like everyone’s little world to be perfect, it’s against our nature to believe that people can do wrong against other people. Get a grip. It happens. Last week, one of my friends asked me to pray for someone who was struggling with things in her life due to emotional abuse. She had shut herself off from her family until they admitted they were wrong and asked for forgiveness. Isn’t it interesting that of all the notes I read in my organizing frenzy was about forgiveness?Forest road. Landscape.
I don’t know the person my friend asked prayer for, but I know the prison she has created for herself by waiting for hurtful people to release her. Back in 1994, and yes, I do remember the year, a friend of mine suddenly told me she had put our friendship on trial and I failed. I was mortified and heartsick. I apologized for everything I could think of, but because I didn’t hit on the right ‘thing’ that I did to break our friendship, my friend cut me off any relationship with her. I’m still devastated and I still hurt, but even though she never forgave me, I had to forgive her.
You know Mark 11:25 tell us “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you.” God has forgiven me because I asked him to and I know he won’t hold this against me. But to keep my relationship with my Father in Heaven, I had to forgive my friend because I found myself obsessing about my flaws, then about her flaws, and then I started planning different ways to walk through the office where we worked so I didn’t run into her. I was afraid she had gone to other mutual friends and ratted me out for things I didn’t even know I did. Do you see what was happening? Holding onto this offense became a weapon, and that’s not what God would want from me.
If you were to open my bible to Colossians 3:12-13 you would see purple highlighted text. My Bible translation is the NIV, but this gentle text is from the Contemporary English Version “God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you.”
It’s painful to be wronged. Being victimized goes beyond an aching heart or tender feelings. To be lied to, or worse – lied about, to be exploited, to be deceived, to be publically criticized or ridiculed – these are fighting words, aren’t they. Anyone in this position has a right to put up their guard and refuse safe passage to anyone who tries to cross the line without apologizing first. That guard becomes a fence, becomes a wall becomes a blockade. And humanly speaking, you have reason and right to build it.
This is extreme, but do you remember Stephen from the New Testament? His reputation for his diligence in serving people was well known. In 1 Corinthians he was honored for doing all he could for God’s people, yet he was dragged out and stoned to death. Do you know what he said just before his last breath? You can read it in Acts 7:60 “Stephen fell to his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he died.” I’m thankful God has not asked me to be brutalized, the openly and without regret, forgive my offenders.
It’s getting close to the Easter season. A time when we remember how Jesus was sacrificed on the cross. We know it was his purpose decided before God sent him to Earth, but he gave us the perfect example of forgiveness. He was completely innocent of any wrong, but still he was mocked, beat, rejected, and tormented by his one Jewish people, Roman politicians, government officials, soldiers, and citizens of his country. And as he breathed his last, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Forgiveness is hard. It means giving up your justification to be in the clear of any wrong doing. Forgiveness is difficult. I means rearranging all the negative feelings going on inside, letting down your guard, and pushing them beyond the point where they can return.
Forgiveness can set you free. In the case of my friend from the past, she passed away a few years ago, and I felt bad that we had never resolved whatever the dispute was, but I had long before forgiven myself and forgiven her.
Grudges and regret serve no purpose. You can try to talk out your grievances. You can ask to be forgiven of any part you have in discord. You can attempt to create peace where there’s conflict. But even if none of those efforts work out, you can live free of guilt because in your heart you have forgiven yourself and forgiven those who have wronged you. The result is in 2 Corinthians 13:11 “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”