Let me illustrate from football, especially since the Super Bowl is on everyone’s mind. In a recent post I referred to the 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. He has gone from backup to a sensational starter.
In midseason Coach Harbaugh made a change. He benched the starting quarterback and put in Kaepernick.
And it was not because Alex Smith was doing a poor job. Of course, all kinds of discussions abounded on all the sports networks. Was it the right move or not?
Like any coach, Harbaugh is relentless about upgrading the team, even when the team is winning.
So why the switch? Winning the division is one thing, winning the conference championship is another, but the Super Bowl is the ultimate win.
Here is the reason Harbaugh made the change. He knew that nothing matters more than getting the right player on the field and in the right position.
Jack Welch in his book Winning says he looked for three things in people he wanted to hire.
1. Integrity – truthful, dependable, authentic, and able to admit mistakes. Kaepernick does well here.
2. Intelligence – for Kaepernick he must be able to read defenses, understand complex looks on the defense, be able to audible and call the right play, and keep on learning.
3. Maturity – think about it. He is on national TV, you will get behind at times in a game, there will be lots of stress, mistakes will be made, interceptions will be thrown, etc.
Soon after the change had been made the 49ers started the game with the ball, but Kaepernick threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. So right off the bat he throws a pick and the other team takes the lead. How did he respond? With integrity, he admitted his mistake. With intelligence, he didn’t throw a pick after that one. Maturity, he kept his head in the game and led the team on to a victory.
While this in no way indicates that the 49ers are a one man team, but it does illustrate the necessity of getting the right players onto the field if winning is the objective.
To set the context, you need to know my dad was all about work. He never stopped for lunch. In fact, in his earlier days as a crane operator, while the others were eating lunch he wiped the crane down. He felt like he could eat lunch while operating the crane.
Once again, my dad is in his element when he is cleaning or working. To most of us we would say that dad never took time to enjoy life, but he was enjoying life if he was working or cleaning something.
To him those things were fun.
Well, one day my brother Mark, Scott, Mike, and I were working together on a job when dad pulled up. We had not been working long so it was still early.
Dad jumps out of the truck and says, “Let’s go skiing!”
Totally unexpected. Skip work and go skiing? Are you kidding? That simply never had happened before.
To this day it remains one of the most memorable days in my life.
I have skied many times. But only once was it memorable.
And what made it memorable? The unexpected.
Before you know it you have drifted so far up or down the beach nothing looks familiar. Or you have drifted so far out that you begin to panic.
In life it happens all the time. We tend to think drifting only happens at the beach. Yet that is not the case at all.
One of the most noticeable types of drifting is marital drift.
Ask any crowd of married people who is planning on getting a divorce and few hands go up.
So why is the divorce rate so high? Because couples drift until they grow so far apart that very little is left to the marriage. Typically by the time a couple senses that they have drifted, they have drifted so far away from the shore it’s almost impossible to paddle back in.
Let’s use the acrostic D.R.I.F.T. to describe and better understand the deadly affects of drifting. You may be drifting now and not know it. Here is what it looks like.
Distraction – Sometimes I feel like the king of distraction. I’m watching a ball game and get up to go do something. Then I get caught up in a project and do not return to the game for thirty minutes. In marriage couples get distracted by work, kids, activities, and television.
Rearrange – Soon our priorities change. A couple who used to go out for dinner once a week no longer makes it a priority. Something else has taken its place. The couple who used to take long walks has allowed time on the computer to take precedence.
Immune – Sadly it no longer bothers us. No dinner date for six months and no sign of remorse. Yet it is typically at this point that we live in denial which leads us to the letter f.
Fake it – However, as we venture out into the public eye everyone thinks we have a great marriage. In fact we so good at it that when a couple breaks up it is not unusual to here, “Wow, I had not idea their marriage was in trouble.”
Top it off – In marriage it may be an affair. In one spiritual life it may be that he bails on God.
Here’s the question. Do people have affairs all the sudden? Do people bail on God overnight? Do we become obese in a week? Does our house fall apart over the weekend?
We all know the answer, but how many of us are asking the real question: Am I D.R.I.F.T.ing in my life, in my marriage, or in my physical health?
Often it is easier to drift than paddle back to shore. However, it’s time to quit drifting and start paddling!
Growing up my dad was a strong proponent of hard work. Physical labor was always admired and held in high esteem in our house.
Now while I was more than ready to work, I also had a fondness for reading. Even as a kid I would sometimes sit and read in an encyclopedia. In fact, back then our family would purchase the yearly update to the World Book Encyclopedia. I would always find time to read part of that yearly volume.
Now that I am in the ministry I continue to read, about 500 pages per week. I am always reading, researching, and writing.
One of the hardest mental concepts I have had to overcome is that I am really working even when physical labor is not involved. Ministry includes things like reading, writing messages, meeting with people, and praying. And while the apostle Paul said that he labored in praying, most people cannot identify prayer alongside hard labor.
Abraham Lincoln grew up in an agrarian society in which physical labor was highly valued. Yet Lincoln found himself reading.
Of course, in his day, reading was somewhat frowned upon. His own cousin considered him lazy, actually very lazy. To the cousin all Lincoln wanted to do was read and write poetry.
However, it was his reading that eventually paved the way for him to seek the presidency of the United States. Somewhere along the way he became comfortable challenging the old concept that placed a high value on physical labor and a low value on reading and writing.
Somewhere in the recesses of your mind you are holding on to a concept that may be holding you back from being who you were meant to be. Whatever your vision, it may not be encouraged by your peers.
Recently my 98 year old grandmother passed away, and I shared a few thoughts at her funeral. Never underestimate the power of influence you have in others, especially younger children.
If you are like me you can look back at an unfavorable circumstance that ultimately worked out in your favor.
Stories like this abound in the Bible. There is the story of Jonah who ran from God. That is not the brightest thing to do. Eventually Jonah found himself on a boat in the midst of a violent storm. Then the men on board threw him into the sea and Jonah winds up inside a large fish. God used all of those unfavorable circumstances to accomplish His purpose which was for Jonah to bring revival to the city of Nineveh.
Joseph was loved by his father, hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, cast into prison in Egypt, and forgotten. Yet God used the positive and the negative circumstances, one circumstance after another to bring Joseph all the way to the position of Prime Minister of Egypt.
Your life will likely be the same (excluding the Prime Minister part). Circumstance after circumstance, good or bad, will be used by God to accomplish His purpose in your life. It takes all kinds of circumstances to produce the person and the outcome God is after. God has a particular design in mind for you, and He will work through each one until He arrives at the finished product. His personal development plan for your life will be multi-faceted, but you will like the finished product.
Circumstances. At times you will wonder what’s going on. Your patience may run thin as you speculate as to whether God is actually in your court.
In fact, God is right in the middle of your circumstances!
In my recent post, Life Can Be Cruel, I mentioned three things that seem to compound the intensity of our sufferings. Joseph experienced all three and stands out in the Bible as one who maintained a positive attitude and reflected a kind, and uplifting demeanor through it all.
For many of us it is much more natural to become angry when we do not get our way. Or we become very impatient after a ninety second wait at our favorite fast food joint. If someone really ticks us off or highly offends us then we get bitter.
Our series of misfortunes and mistreatment run the gamut. When we survey Joseph’s life I wonder if we just gloss over it figuring he must be the exception.
But the Bible is clear that the stories were written to encourage us and give us an example to follow. With that in mind, three words come to mind as we take a closer look at Joseph’s life.
1. Walk. Joseph knew that he was walking with God. There was no obvious sin in his life which brought on his personal hardships. While he was not perfect, he was not living under a cloud of guilt.
2. Willingness. One of the hardest truths to accept is that God often uses suffering to refine us and shape us. In the NT Peter mentions this in one of his letters. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” Yet how many of us find ourselves willingly suffering and trusting in God’s purposes?
3. Witness. This no doubt gets overlooked way too often. One reason we keep singing and smiling is to show God’s strengthening grace. You can’t explain it, but you can experience it, and expose it. What a testimony to those who do not know the Lord. What a testimony to fellow Christ-followers. What an example for our kids.
There is too much at stake to allow the hardships, the unjust cruelties, and the slander of others to get us down and keep us down.
Three simple words to keep you smiling when life is down.
I can still recall playing outside with one of my best friend in third grade. His brother was also playing with us, and for a reason I can no longer remember he picked up a rock and hit me upside the head. I do recall he that he got in a lot of trouble.
Rocks hurt. They hurt worse when coming from a friend.
Reminds me of Joseph. He seemed to love his brothers, but their feelings for him were just the opposite. In fact, they hated him. So much so that one day as the opportunity presented itself the brothers sold Joseph into slavery.
Joseph’s story includes three things that often occur in our own lives, and all three seem to intensify the pain. You can read the whole story in Genesis 37 and 39-50.
1. Indifference. Later in the narrative the brothers are discussing how they heard his cries, but they ignored them and continued to eat their lunch. Let’s be honest most are thinking only of themselves. There were many Saturdays when I was the only one to show for work. They weren’t too worried as to how their absence affected me. People quit their jobs without any notice at all, being totally oblivious to any hurt they may cause. Friends hurt friends, spouses hurt spouses, and employees hurt employers and never stop to consider the hurt they cause. Indifference hurts.
2. Injustice. Joseph was later thrown into prison by his master after he was falsely accused of attempted rape. There he sits in the cell thinking, “What good does it do to be good?” I can imagine a wife feels the same way after her husband leaves her for another woman. How many times does life appear to go well for the guilty husband. It just doesn’t seem fair, or just. And injustice intensifies the hurt.
3. Ingratitude. After some time in prison, Joseph gained hope. He gave the interpretation to Pharaoh’s former cupbearer’s dream. Three days later the cupbearer was released from prison and forgot all about Joseph. So after Joseph requested that the cupbearer remember him, he forgets him. It’s as if he is not thankful at all for the interpretation of his dream. That had to hurt. Ingratitude.
If you are Joseph how do you maintain hope? If your dream has been dashed by family and friends how do you keep hope alive? How do you keep smiling? Is it possible to persevere with a positive attitude?
It is, and in my next post I will give you three keys to surviving the cruel encounters of life, because life can be cruel.
The NFL has had a labor dispute with the refs since before the season began. And yes, there were some horrible calls by the replacement refs. However, the NFL maintained that the integrity of the game was not being compromised, and the bad calls were not changing the outcome of the games.
Then it happened! Monday night as Savannah and I were watching the Green Bay Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks the unthinkable transpired right before our eyes on the last play of the game.
At that point Green Bay was leading by a score of 12-7. Seattle’s only hope with just seconds remaining was a hail mary to the end zone. Not only did a Seahawk receiver push a Green Bay player to the ground, he never caught the ball. Another defensive player for Green Bay did. No problem. The Seattle receiver simply put his hands on the ball and the ref called it a touchdown.
Now without going into all the rules, everyone in America knew it was an interception and not a touchdown. So Seattle escapes with a win, and Green Bay is delirious as they fly home with a loss in a game they actually won.
It finally happened. On Monday Night Football! A bad call by the replacement refs changed the outcome of a game. As upset as Savannah and I were (we were actually pulling for Seattle) at the call, I told her, “The good thing about that call is the NFL and the refs will make a deal this week.
And they have. But why did they wait until the last minute? Why did they wait until the unthinkable happened?
It got really bad. Isn’t that how life is? We wait, we procrastinate, we hope things will not deteriorate, we assume the bottom will not fall out,….but it does. Yet we wait.
So while we were all screaming at our TV sets, how many of us were screaming at ourselves? After all, some of us no doubt were right in the middle of waiting…just like the NFL. And guess what? Things will probably get worse before they get better, just like the replacement refs.
We wait until a bill is overdue that we get serious about our finances.
We keep an employee on the payroll who has a bad attitude, hoping he will change, and he doesn’t and the company is hurt.
We ignore the leak in the roof since it is only a small drip right now.
We leave the pitcher in the game for just one more out.
We even fail to change lanes for the upcoming exit until we are forced to cut someone off.
So after all the fallout in the NFL and even in our own lives we continue to be plagued by waiting.
After all the lessons from life, Why do we continue to wait until the last minute?
A new era has begun at Penn State. Coach Bill O’Brien has somewhat of a formidable task. Due to the unfortunate incidents over the last several months several of Penn States top players left for other colleges to continue their football careers. When Coach O’Brien arrived the situation was already bad. However, after his arrival things became even worse as players left. With that sad here are some of my thoughts.
You have walked into a mess. The current is against you. There are few favorable winds at your back. But you took the job knowing all that, and because you believe your previous experiences, your character, and your success coaching football have prepared you for this undertaking.
I would add at this point that unless you have ever been broken at some point in your life, this job will become even tougher. You have walked into a broken situation, you will be surrounded by broken people, and you must be able to walk in their shoes.
One of the great stories from the book of Genesis centers around the life of Joseph. Let me encourage you to read that story multiple times and learn from how he led during a great famine. And quite frankly, Penn State football may be entering a time of famine, and it may last for a few years.
Here are six lessons to begin with:
1. Not all leaders can lead during a famine. Egypt went through seven years of famine and Joseph led the way. Part of your job is going to be to lead Penn State through the current crisis.
2. Do not complain. Everyone knows the circumstances. Everyone knows there is a famine in the land. Be proactive and lead.
3. Don’t play the blame game. Yes, people previous to you made some poor decisions. We get all that. Remember, you took the job knowing all that, and you felt like you measured up to the challenge. Deal with it, and do not bring up the earlier administration.
4. Set the example. Avoid spending too much time looking in the rear view mirror or you will wind up in the ditch.
5. Identify some benchmarks or milestones to track your progress along this long journey. As you travel, you will gain hope as you reach these along the way.
6. Cast a compelling vision for a bright future. Stay positive, encourage those around you, and serve your coaching staff and players well.
Yes, the sun has gone down on the University of Penn State. But it will rise again. And you can be the coach who is at the helm when that happens.
One more thing.
Remember that the country is pulling for you. Yes, Penn State has that much influence. And many will be cheering for your success.