Creating Your Legend

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be adding some posts leading up to the release of my new men’s devotional at the end of the month. Let the countdown begin!

This week, the world of college basketball lost Dean Smith, legendary coach at the University of North Carolina whose tenure included guiding Michael Jordan, the greatest to play the game.  I’m not a huge basketball guy, but I found myself reading the stories and response to Smith’s passing.  In doing so, I found a valuable lesson in the untapped potential of men.

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Photo Credit: cuppycakelolz via Compfight cc

A phrase that kept coming up in the memories of Smith was, “a second father.”  Many players stated he was the father they never had and they admired his influence. He was a man who taught his players beyond the hardwood. He valued skills that would apply into the world after college.

He graduated 96.6 percent of his players over a career of almost four decades, an impressive number that reflected how much he valued academics.

In 1967, he provided the first scholarship to an African-American basketball player in the University of North Carolina’s history. Imagine this move in the midst of a state, place, and time still dealing with segregation.

As men, what can we learn from Smith’s life?

Our reach expands wider than we know. Even if you aren’t a coach, you will influence the life of a young person out there.  It can be your children, family members, or the children of friends. You have a daily chance to make a difference. Reach out, Talk. Take action. Share your passion with a young person in need. Being a father is one of the greatest blessings in life.  Being known as a “second father,” is just as high of a calling and one you shouldn’t miss.

Push your boundaries. Legends take root in breaking ground.  They do things faster, stronger, and better than anyone before.  Smith, in shattering the racial lines at his basketball program, was working to pave the way towards a new future.  How could this look for us? Find an outreach, charity, or volunteer opportunity. It can be down the highway, the block, or at the corner. Push yourself and you’ll be amazed at what happens.

Two final thoughts to remember from Coach Smith himself as you progress through your week:

“The most important thing in good leadership is truly caring.”

“There’s a point in every contest when sitting on the sidelines is not an option.”

 

Matches

I don’t know about you but, so far, this week has beaten me up thoroughly on all fronts.  It is only Wednesday but, I’m dragging. As parents we find ourselves in this position more often than we’d like to admit.

As a married couple, we grow to treasure the chance to rest together, sit on the couch, and watch mindless television.  The routine waits with opened, warm, and comfortable arms.

What if there was more?

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Photo Credit: koliru via Compfight cc

I have a challenge for you.  Find someone this week and be their catalyst. Offer them needed encouragement. Tell them to chase their dream and overcome their doubts.

I believe we are called to be someone’s match, to light the fire in their souls and free them to chase their divine calling.

Jesus told his followers to go forth and make disciples of all the nations.  Paul traveled his world teaching the message he had been given when he was struck blind on the Damascus Road. The disciples would all face death for their efforts in carrying out their commission.

Their fires lit them throughout lives that forever changed the world.

So what does that mean to us? I believed we are called to an active faith, to a purpose beyond visiting a church for an hour or so a week.  We are made to move, to follow, to pick up our cross and carry it forward.

Find someone who needs a kind word and send them a text message. Look for a local outreach and volunteer. Tell your spouse that they should follow their calling, go back to school, consider that career change that would make them happy, and listen to the cry of their hearts.

We owe it to each other. We owe it to our communities. We owe it to our world.  Imagine if we were on the same page? Imagine if we started a movement of encouragement, inspiration, real compassion and support.

If we stepped out in faith, together, no mountain would be too big to move.

Find one person to impact this week, in the next four days, and let the movement begin.

~Matt

What Will be Your Legacy?

I love movies.  Before the years when I had to get a summer job, I would walk to the local West Coast Video and rent movies multiple times a week.  I love getting lost in visual stories, arresting atmospheres, and conflict beyond anything I’ve experienced.  The best movies pull you out of reality and usher you into the suspension of disbelief. Take something like The Matrix for example.  That trilogy took society by storm and made people genuinely question the deeper levels of existence.  This love led me to take a semester of screenwriting in Fairfield’s MFA program and complete a full length screenplay.

I believe that movies can teach us about life.  One of the films that hits every qualification on my list is The Gladiator from the year 2000.  Russel Crowe plays Roman general Maximus, betrayed by the emperor and sold into slavery.  His family is killed and, as a gladiator fighting in the Coliseum, he works to win his freedom and get revenge. You can see the trailer below and, if you listen closely, guess at the topic of this post.

Crowe’s character says, in a classic movie speech:

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

As a man, this idea is important in three areas:

Father: Your children notice everything.  Sit with that for a second.  They notice every word, glance, action, and expression.  They absorb your very presence and use it to fuel their growth into adults.  They will use your example to make choices and parent their own children one day.  Your actions echo into their lives.

Husband: There’s a reason you stand in front of a pastor, priest, judge, religious official, etc. to get married.  It is a serious commitment.  As much as your children notice everything, your spouse notices even more.  I can try to hide things, but Val sees through my defenses.  We’ve loved, suffered, healed, and grown together. As men, we are told to operate on two fronts: leading and serving.  We are to guide our families and, in the same moment, show them selfless love. It is not an easy job.

Faith: Our walk with God is a marathon, not a sprint.  It is a path filled with mountains and valleys. If you don’t know God and are in the midst of your search, know this: There is an answer to your questions. There is filler to your empty spaces, as large as the universe and as intimate as the oxygen you inhale. Your choice is faith will echo for your own eternity.

As men, we are called to be servant leaders. We may suffer. We may lose everything but we can never lose hope. There is always something worth fighting for. Every day, every step, every word and deed will echo into eternity. When your time is over, what legacy will you leave?

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Killing Competition and Changing the Game

Second post in the preview series for Ignition, my upcoming e-book for men.

It starts early:

“Let’s have a race.”

That sentence has been uttered on playgrounds across the world.  Boys are stacked against each other.  The fastest wins. The strongest survives.  Young faces look across the starting line and take inventory.  Why is he bigger than me? Can I win? What if I don’t?

The primal urge tells them to run.  It plants the seed that grows throughout formative years.  We tell our boys to be tough.  Don’t cry. Be a man. Walk it off.  Stifle your emotions.  Eliminate weakness. Don’t be afraid and if you are, God forbid, don’t show it.

Every aspect of adolescence is placed against a measuring stick. Our education system is funded on test results. Athletics become tickets to college scholarships. We split students into groups and skill levels, tracking them through more than a decade of school meant to prepare them for the world when, in the end, all it does is create a stock member of society. Our boys are set for a lifetime of work at meaningless companies where they’ll find themselves at the starting line again in the race up the corporate ladder.

What if it could all change?

What if we foster our boys and their passions? Allow them to explore their feelings and know what it means to be sad, angry, or upset? What if we teach them the value of peace and teamwork, that the race is fastest when completed together? What if we help them celebrate their differences and reach across racial and economic lines?

There is hope for the future and it takes redefining competition.

Jesus calls us to a high standard in the Sermon on the Mount, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 3-10

Remember, at this time, Jesus is speaking to the minority population living under Roman rule. These statements were like bombs exploding the status quot. The dove of peace was flying in the face of the Roman eagle. Jesus was redefining competition, laying down new rules, creating a new field of play.

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The Creator had come to change the game.

As fathers we can easily get caught up in the spirit of competition.  We see our sons in contrast to their friends. We live vicariously through them (sit in the stands at any youth sports event and just listen for a while). We see them as extensions of us and not their own individuals.

So what can we do?

Teach them to serve: Go to a local charity or outreach. Donate some clothes, toys, or food. Tell them what you are doing and why you are doing it. Their world will expand when they see the realities of life and existence.

Teach them to love: Empathy can change reality.  Want to stop the violence? Fight poverty? Build bridges? Make peace? Show your boys that others are important, that they are called understand feelings and make someone’s day better.  Help them to have a good heart.  It will go a long way to their future.

Teach them to pray: This is so simple and so powerful.  Carter prays every night. The prayers of children can change the universe. I get emotional listening to the cries of his heart as  it calls out to God.  Prayer builds a foundation that they will have for the rest of their lives.

The world’s view of competition can be harmful but, with effort, it can be reclaimed for good.  As fathers, our work is never done. As men of faith, our sons must see a legacy to follow. They are our mirrors.  Always give them something positive to reflect.

Redefining competition is a great place to start.

~Matt

Soundtrack inspiration: A great song from Common.  Listen closely to the words as the man is a poet.

 

 

 

 

Faith, Fatherhood, and Football: The Perfect Storm

This post starts a series previewing chapters from my upcoming e-book devotional Ignition for men:

I love football.  If you ask Val, I probably love it too much. It is a sixteen game season, unlike baseball’s marathon year, so every game counts. There is a physical, cerebral, and emotional element. Two teams of warriors meet on the battlefield in prime condition.  We’ve embraced the sport as a culture, pushing the NFL to stunning financial heights.  Boys still play the game in schoolyards and wear the jersey’s of their heroes on the weekends. Father’s and sons make it a tradition through generations of season ticket holders.

My team is the Philadelphia Eagles and one of my favorite players to ever wear an Eagles’ uniform is Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins played safety for the Eagles.  He was under-sized for the position and, after developing under defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, became one of the best safeties to ever play the game.  He was intense and vibrant, often laying down hits to the opposition that could be felt in homes across the Philly area. He embodied what it meant to be from the city; to work hard, fight, and never give up.

He is also a man of faith.

Follow Dawkins on twitter or listen to any of his interviews.  His faith is front and center.  He speaks with the passion of a preacher, talking about the blessings God has provided in his life.  The NFL has a website dedicated to player engagement and it featured Dawkins in an article here. There is a wealth of valuable information in this short piece.

Talking about fatherhood, Dawkins says:

It’s a tremendous responsibility and honor to be a father. Not every man that has kids is a father to his children. I understand that and know that it’s a responsibility and a blessing as well. The Lord blessed me to have these little ones and raise them to worship him.  All these other accomplishments are great blessings, but at the end of the day if I’m not raising them in the omniscience of the Lord then I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do.

He’s right.  Not every man who has kids is a father.  It is a title we need to earn and we need to earn it daily. 

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He offers the following advice:

My advice would be to make sure that the foundation is laid in your faith. To walk the walk, don’t just be a church go’er or just attend bible study. Have a relationship with the Father. Don’t have religion have a relationship.  When you have this, it allows things to fall where they need to fall because now you’re being led by the Father in all that you do. Your footsteps are being ordered when you have your eyes set on him. That way he won’t allow you to stumble, and if you do stumble it will be something you will grow from because he has his hands on you. Secondly, don’t let somebody’s opinion of you define you.  If you allow that, then whatever bad thing that happens in your life, you will allow other people to have the pen in writing your story. I want you to look in the mirror and be able to say, Yes I made that mistake, but that’s not who I am. I’m going to continue to write this story with my FAITH!!

There are way too many things waiting to take control. As guys, the static in our lives can rise to deafening levels.  It can be the job, friends, money, addiction, sex, other people’s opinions, acceptance, even other family members.  We must know where we stand and what is our foundation.  We need a relationship, a real interaction with the Creator.

I don’t know about you, but I need my steps ordered.  I’ve tried grabbing control way too long.  The Father has bigger and better things planned for you and for me so, as we walk, we keep our eyes him.  Everything else will fall into place.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2

Soundtrack Inspiration: (I’m challenging myself to expand my musical selections this week so, for the first post, here’s a classic)