Perfect Record vs Perfect Season

As I listened to various reports on the NCAA Championship game, I kept hearing references to a perfect season and a perfect record. The comparison caused me to wonder about winning in life. A perfect record, by default, will result in a perfect season. But can you have a perfect season without having a perfect record? Can you win the championship without winning every game?

Going into the game, Gonzaga was 31 – 0, and Baylor was 27 – 2. Half of the NCAA aficionados wanted Gonzaga to finish the season with a perfect record and were rooting for them. The other half were rooting for the underdog. I’m kidding… 27 – 2 is not an underdog record and neither team has won the NCAA title.

I’m not a gambler nor a sports enthusiast, and really didn’t keep up with the March Madness or the college basketball season. Listening to all of the analysts and specialists it was easy to understand how tight the game could be. Both teams had the whole season riding on this one. But somehow this became about a perfect record. The experts made it sound like Gonzaga was playing to have a season with no losses – a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1976.

In pregame interviews across the board, the coach or team captain or spokesperson will say, “We are going to focus on this game…” Maybe Gonzaga was too focused on the season record instead of the final score of this one game.

I am not over pontificating. I honestly have no idea what was on their minds and don’t really have a dog in the fight. I do want us to think about this in the context of our everyday lives, though.

How often do we lose a battle because of too much focus on the war? How many projects don’t quite get completed because we are beginning to plan the next one? How many times have we called ourselves – or someone else – a loser because of one battle defeat while the war is still raging?

Don’t spend so much time concentrating on the perfect record. The prize is the game today. If you win the victory, a few losses along the way will not detract from your perfect season.

Cruise Control (Life in the fast lane)

Cruise Control

I was driving on Hwy 40 East with my wife a couple of weeks ago. (Some time back I did a series on how our driving may be an indicator of how we live from day to day. Next week I will make one more installment on that theme.) As is the case on most stretches of highway between metropolitan areas, there are several miles between exits and great distances between the Emergency Vehicle turn arounds in the median. When you travel certain areas regularly, you tend to have a pretty good idea where the police set up. I knew, that day, that I was in a place where the police rarely sit. I also knew that if I passed a policeman on the other side, there was too great a distance for him to try to turn around to stop me.

I knew I had set my cruise control at 80 MPH. I also know the speed limit is 70 MPH. This was a very regular practice for me. What hit me that particular day is “I am cruising in sin!” I put my vehicle in autopilot knowing I was breaking the law. Wow, that’s deep.

Cruise control puts the car in charge of the driving. Yes, I can always hit the brakes, but cruse control while speeding says, “I have chosen to break the law and also yield my control to the vehicle I am breaking the law with.” Sort of like when we like to say we can’t control our anger or our lust or our cussing. The behavior is in control. When we learn that breaking the law is wrong – even when the police are not around – we will set our cruise control at the legal speed; we will be intentional about controlling our behavior.

There was a commercial some time ago where the tag line was. “Leave the driving to us.” Our lower self wants to convince us that we can trust it to do the driving. It got us where we wanted to go, didn’t it? Well, whether you get caught and have consequences or not, wrong is wrong.

We Don’t Have To Forfeit

Don't Forfeit

There are more definitions and meanings of the word, forfeit, that I knew. I offer two definitions to best capture my intent here. Forfeit – something to which the right is lost or surrendered as a penalty, as for commission of a crime or misdeed, neglect of duty, or violation of a contract. I had only though of forfeiture as losing something that one should have been able to keep.

My wife and I had the privilege of going to see the Harlem Globetrotters a couple of weeks ago. We know them as a comical basketball team that puts on shows of magnificent ball handling while handily beating their opponents – every single game. A reading of their history revealed that initially they were an actual professional basketball team who competed in a league, winning and losing like all of the rest of the teams.

Anyway, as this comical show game progressed, after the half, the opposing team’s coach began calling fouls which caused several of the Globetrotter players to be ejected from the game. The referee kept warning the Globetrotters that they would forfeit the game if they got below five players – the number required to field any team.

I immediately thought, “Wow. They are at risk of losing a staged game!”

How many times have I forfeited a victory which was already given to me through some act or behavior that disqualified me from staying in the battle?

Part two next week…

Back to Normal

Back to Normal

After the Holidays

“Whew, back to normal,” we say.

What is normal? Is our “normal” good? Is our “normal” useful and life-giving? Does our “normal” reflect what we say we believe about ourselves being socially conscious and culturally aware? For those who are called children of God, what does our normal look like?

The basic definition of “normal” is: conforming to a standard; usual; typical, or; expected.

To whose or which “normal” does my life conform?

Most people live fairly close to the center of what is usual and typical of our community. Generally people “normally” find themselves fitting into society wherever they can. We emulate our perception of success. We strive to not be too different, so we just sort of go along to get along.

Growth and success continually challenges us to become uncomfortable with our “normal” so we will embrace change and seek a higher normal.

In society, “normal” has changed repeatedly since creation. In fact, we have adopted Heraclitus’ philosophy which says, “The only constant is change,” or, “There is nothing permanent except change.” He lived 475 years before Christ in Greece. He spoke what he observed.

In one sense, he is correct. We are ever changing, growing, living, dying, learning, etc. But this philosophy does not line up with the Word of God as it relates to our attitudes and behaviors towards God and one another.

George Benson sang, “Everything must change. Nothing stays the same. Everyone will change. Nothing and no one stays the same…” The chorus said, “There are not many things in life you can be sure of, except rain comes from the clouds, the sun lights up the sky, and hummingbirds do fly.”

Well, that may be normal for people and societies. But truth does not change. God does not change.

God expects us to change once – from unbeliever to believer – then remain constant in Him.

That is “normal” for a child of God; conforming to His standard.

For a child of God, there is no, “back to normal.” We should never depart from His normal.

An Extra Day in 2016

Extra Day

The 60th day in 2016 is technically an extra day. 2016 is Leap Year. There are 29 days in every fourth February instead of the 28 days in normal years. What will you do with your extra day?

Extra or additional…

The vast majority of the people in the world are going to do the same thing with February 29th as we do with February 28th; or May 5th, or August 17th. I just picked random days of the calendar year for that proposition. The point is that the average person doesn’t do anything different with something extra than we do with what regularly comes. This is why most of the people who win the millions of dollars in lotteries are broke shortly after.

What did you do with your Christmas bonus? What did you do with your tax  return? The same thing you did with every other income you receive.

In one way or another, we all wish for more time. How many times have you heard someone say, “There are just not enough hours in the day…” Well, on February 29th, you will have an extra entire day. Plan to do something special with it. It is a Monday, so it is somewhat scheduled for those of us who must go to work or school. But, still, we can make it a special day.

Thursday Is The New Friday

These came to me advertising Wednesday & Thursday sale dates!!

For those who have been following the series you may wonder the relationship to “What Will Be Legal Next?”
The relationship to that question is how our acceptance of things change. When does Black Friday begin? Now, it begins Thursday night. Thursday is the new Friday as it relates to the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
Wait, though. I have been inundated with emails advertising “Black Friday all week.” And “…all month,” for at least one consumer hustling establishment.
In 1983 I moved to Birmingham, Alabama. No grocery stores or department stores were open on Sunday. States and municipalities called that the Blue Laws. I watched the transition from no shopping outlets on Sunday except gas stations. The grocery stores petitioned to open, but only after 1:00, so they would not encourage shopping during church service times. The department stores and malls soon followed. Not long after that, they opened as early as 10 AM, then 9 and 8. I moved from Birmingham in 1990. You would be hard pressed to find a grocery store chain that was not 24 hours.
Who remembers when no stores were open on New Years Day, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas?
First, a nationwide chain pharmacy / drug store opened for part of the day. More “convenience” style stores began opening. Now, instead of being closed, just about every kind of store has big sales in honor of those holidays, beginning ON those holidays, and lasting for several days.
What else has changed? Dry counties going wet. Sunday liquor selling. Truck stops replacing restaurants with fast food places. Foul language on regular TV. Christmas displays going up in stores right after Halloween instead of after Thanksgiving.
Let me iterate, again, that I am all for progress and change. But every change costs something. How much and in what ways are we paying for some of the changes being made? In many cases, we have no idea until the bill arrives.

Mama Rosie’s Chicken Salad

Mama Rosie's chicken saladMy mother-in-law makes some of the best Chicken Salad I ever tasted. I had heard about it but it always got eaten up before I could get a taste. Finally, about a week ago, she sent some to our house. Our daughter likes it as much as anyone and took it for her lunch. So I asked Mama Rosie, “If I bring you a chicken, will you make me my own batch?” I knew she would.

As my wife was getting ready to take the chicken over there, I wanted to know if we needed to bring anything else. Mama Rosie said she had everything she needed.

If I don’t know anything else, I know how much pride Mama Rosie takes in her cooking. She is not going to put just anything in her recipes to make up for something that is missing. That would de-value the dish – even if only in her own eyes. People may not know, but she will know.

This made me think about how often we just throw something together; especially if we convince ourselves we are doing someone a favor. Or worse, when we are required to repeatedly to a job or task because the person we are working for changes their mind back and forth.

Sometime we seem to stop taking pride in our work when it is for someone else. We will give others something we would never accept for ourselves. We don’t seem to understand how we de-value peoples expectations by just throwing anything together. Even when we are certain they won’t know. But we know when we have not done our best.

We de-value our gifts, talents, and skills by being complacent in our preparation and presentation. The hardest thing in the world for me to do is to shortcut a job, mess it up, then have to undo it and start over. Have you ever gotten through a project and have parts left over?

Take a cue from Mama Rosie. Have enough pride in your work to be prepared before you begin. And don’t let just anybody bring ingredients to add to your recipe.


Tandem bicycle

Do you have a prayer partner? …A workout or jogging partner? …Business partner?
Back in 1988, I had the occasion to meet Dr. Logan Hampton, who was elected president of Lane College in June of this year. We were both attending the CME Church’s General Conference in Atlanta. I was an avid fitness buff at the time. Based on Dr. Hampton’s lean appearance today, he probably still is.
Two guys, looking like pastors, ran into each other while in the health club at the hotel. Realizing we were likely in town for the same conference, we introduced ourselves. I mentioned that I alternate lifting weights one day and jogging the next. I told him I had jogged twice down to the University stadium and back. He said he’d like to jog with me, so we agreed to meet in the morning. I forewarned Dr. Hampton that the distance was just over three miles and I would need to slow to a walk a couple of times as I had done the days before. He said he would need to slow down too, as he knew he couldn’t jog that distance, either.
We met as planned, stretched a little, and struck out jogging. I don’t remember exactly when, but I am certain that several times I was thinking, “I thought he said he would need to stop.” I discovered as we arrived back at the hotel, he was thinking the very same thing. We both said in unison, “I thought you said you couldn’t make it all the way without stopping.” I have honestly thought about that day hundreds of times.
Neither of us thought we could make it, but neither of us wanted to be the one to slow the other down. It may have been the distraction of our fellowshipping while we jogged. Perhaps a more honest reflection would be I was too proud to let him know I needed to slow down. It matters not for my point, though. What matters is that both he and I went further than either of us thought we could go. …And farther than either of us would have gone had we been jogging alone.
The right partner will urge you beyond your imagined (self-imposed?) limitations. The right partner will prod you to keep up with them and push themselves so as to not slow you down.
Dr. Hampton and I have been in each others’ company many times over the last several years. As I had the opportunity to greet him shortly after his installation as the President of Lane, I whispered to him, “Run with someone who doesn’t know your limitations.”
That is a real partner.

Right Turn On Red


I had an inner conflict of sorts just the other day. In reality it is pretty common, but that day sitting behind a car with it’s right turn signal light flashing while he waited for the green light, really got my attention. My mind was screaming, “Why won’t he go on and turn?”

The answer: Because it is not required and it is his prerogative to turn or not on red. Yet I felt like that guy was supposed to make the right turn on red. Making my thinking worse, I was not in a hurry: just impatient for no good reason.

The dilemma: How often do we attempt to push our choice between two equally correct options onto someone who has the right to choose otherwise? We go as far as to believe they are wrong, and even get angry.

The fact that something is right or acceptable does not make it a requirement. That something is legal does not make it mandatory. The Apostle Paul went further to say, in effect, “Just because something is legal does not necessarily mean it is best or right to do.” To think this all the way through, what is right for me may not be right for you. And we both can be right.

Some folks that I hang out with have a saying. “Live and let live.” The great truth is, within the boundaries of wholesome living there is a multitude of acceptable choices. I do not have the right to expect you to make the same decisions I would make.

To be sure, we should not watch anyone do wrong or make bad decisions and not express some concern for their well being. At the same time, mature adults have the right to make well-informed bad decisions if they choose. The day that the gentleman in front of me chose not to make a right turn on red, his decision was better than my decision – to be offended at his decision.

Flagrant Foul

penalty flag referee

A flagrant foul is called when a player makes contact with an opponent that is deemed intentional, excessive,  and unnecessary. It is an unsportsmanlike act and the offending player is ejected immediately. While this is most commonly during the game and course of play, it can occur off of the court or field. The penalties vary to the degree of the foul.

By now almost every person in America is aware of the NFL player, Ray Rice, who knocked his then fiance unconscious while arguing in an elevator. They were vacationing in Las Vegas. The first video showed him dragging her, unconscious, off of the elevator in February of this year. The most recent video last week shows the punch which knocked her out.

Domestic violence in any form is unconscionable. It is intentional, excessive, and unnecessary. Domestic violence is at least a flagrant foul. Rising to the degree of injury, domestic violence is far worse.

Friendly fire is an armed forces term for when one soldier shoots his or her fellow soldier in the course of battle. In the team context, I will equate domestic violence with friendly fire injury or death. Why so much worse? Because the harmed person is not an opponent. Ray Rice’s fiance – and any partner in a relationship – is supposed to be on the same team. They are fellow soldiers.

Considering most professional sports teams’ take on domestic violence they are just as guilty of the flagrant foul because of their continued overlooking the incidents. This overlooking has a lot to do with the team wanting their players to keep the fight alive. No team can win if the players are not pumped and hyped with the killer instinct.

There is much needed change in the domestic abuse situations we see too much of from professional athletes. The offending players need to keep their aggression on the field during the game.

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