I love watching NFL games! Obviously, as a New Orleans Saints fan, I’m quite captivated as we come to the end of the season, and my team is in the playoffs. But I follow the game year-round, and I have been reflecting this week- as so many teams whose seasons have ended are letting coaches go and looking toward the next draft- about what each change a team makes really means.

I recall a statement by Adam Capland which I heard on an NFL radio show back in the preseason. He said, “Transactions always tell a story.” In other words, when teams trade, cut or hire, they express who and what they value. For example, just last week, a team in the playoffs hired a kick-off specialist because they didn’t feel like their regular place kicker could put the ball in the end zone on kick-offs. Simply hiring that other kicker meant they didn’t trust their own kicker to do his job. They didn’t value him or his abilities enough to believe in him.

Now, we can berate those team tycoons for the way they cut head coaches from the team coldly after several losses, or move on to the up and coming rookie because the crowd is tired of the veteran who is no longer in his prime. But the truth is that our transactions always tell a story as well. What we spend our money and time on speaks to what is important to us personally.

Each day, we have the opportunity to place value on people, to express how much they matter to us and to God. Simply saying yes to spending time with someone can speak volumes to them about how special and wonderful they are. Sometimes a small gift expresses immense love or appreciation. Jesus said that wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Our transactions always tell a story.

It’s true. We give our time, attention and money to those whom we value most. Andy Stanley has said, “Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to something else.” We only have so much of each to give, and so we prioritize. Who and what we love least will get cut or traded for who or what we love more or most.

Only people will last for eternity. People should always trump stuff. I know we can’t give everyone our undivided time and attention. Sometimes the money and the time truly aren’t available for everyone in your life. I’m not suggesting that you can give the best of yourself to all those to whom you want to give it. But maybe we could turn off the TV or put away the phones little more, and play a game with our kids. Maybe we could skip the meal at the restaurant and give to a friend in need. Maybe we could give up those few extra minutes of sleep to get up and spend some time with the Lord, reading His Word and talking with Him.

Transactions always tell a story. How has the story of your life read up to this point? Are you pleased with the story so far, or do you wish you could erase some of the story and re-write it? Well, we can’t re-write the past, but the good news is that the next chapter’s pages are blank. We have the opportunity today to begin writing the story in a way that tells the story our hearts longs to tell… Let’s tell a great story!

I cringe every time a player for the NFL team I’m cheering for scores a touchdown and begins to celebrate in the end zone. I just know they’re going to get flagged for “excessive celebration.” They don’t typically, unless they begin taunting the other team or use a prop, a la Michael Thomas in last night’s game against the LA Rams. Yet, I still cringe. I talk to the TV screen like I’m their coach or teammate, like they can actually hear me. I tell them not to celebrate too much, not to cost their team a penalty because they are happy they succeeded.

But there is no need to cringe anymore. Players can celebrate ridiculously and not be penalized. And that’s the way it should be. They did well, and they should celebrate. They should celebrate with others who helped them. They should rejoice that all their hard work paid off. It’s right to celebrate.

No, this is not my commentary on the state of the NFL today. It is my commentary to myself and other followers of Jesus Christ on what it means to live the kind of life He intends for us to live. By the time Jesus merged deity and humanity into one in His person here on earth, rules of religion had made it almost impossible to celebrate a life lived freely for God. The handful of rules given by God to help guide His people toward a life full of joy and abundance had morphed into a list of hundreds of rules– most created by humans– which sucked the life out of serving the Lord. Jesus reminded people to keep it simple… love God… love people… be kind… help the hurting… stay humble… sacrifice for others.

He came to say we don’t have to cringe when someone scores a touchdown. We’re free to enjoy a life lived for God. No, we shouldn’t be flagrant and offensive toward others. It’s not okay to use our freedom to insult or demean, like we think we’re better because we follow Christ. But that also doesn’t mean we have to go through life ignoring the fact that God has been really good to us. It doesn’t mean we can never smile, or be happy when He blesses us.

It’s time to live free for God again. It’s time to quit cringing because someone might get offended if we say, “Praise the Lord!” No flag will get thrown by the Heavenly ref if we do a little dance in the end zone because we got an “A” on a test, or because we got the job of our dreams, or because we have met that special someone.

So, whether it’s the electric slide, the bowling pin strike with teammates, or even the leap into the crowd, remember today that it is okay to celebrate when God does good things for us and helps us to succeed. Go ahead… live that full, abundant, joyful life He has always meant for us to live. A few folks may chuckle. A few may shake their heads in disgust. That’s okay. God will smile, and you’ll want to succeed again so that you can feel that overflowing sensation once more!

It’s football season. At our house, that means NFL. I’m not interested in the politics… I just watch it to relax and have fun. Now, the boys like watching with me, but they are not quite as captivated by all the finer points of the game. They do, however, love to play.

So, we have created a little ritual of our own. At commercial breaks, or halftime, or when a game is over, we play our own scaled-back games of football. We play inside because it’s air conditioned, and because we have a pretty decent size living room. One of the boys plays offense, the other defense. I am all-time quarterback… and referee. It’s that last part that creates the issues.

Basically, it doesn’t matter what call I make on any play… one of the boys usually gets frustrated with it. We often have to replay the down because I couldn’t see a play well-enough to call it accurately. The replay is mostly because I don’t want an argument from either one of them.

We’ve been working on having a better attitude. In most cases, that means not getting mad at the referee or at the opponent for making a great play. I’ve been challenging them to work on being good sports. Truth is, they both have some pretty decent skills. But I know that attitude trumps skills in life… even in football. A player can cost their team the game by losing their cool.

So, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday afternoon when Alex announced to me that they had decided to play with great attitudes and do their very best not to get upset during the game. I wondered how it would play out, but sure enough, they were young men of their word. They played the whole game with terrific attitudes, acknowledging calmly they wish a call would have gone another way, but moving on to the next play… or even congratulating the other player on a great play against them.

At one point well into the game, Alex said, “You know, Daddy, it’s way more fun playing football with a good attitude.” Austin agreed, and I beamed with pride at the lesson they had learned.

You know, life is way more fun when we have the right attitude… when we treat people the way we want to be treated… when give others the benefit of the doubt, knowing that no one is perfect except God… when we are big enough accept outcomes, even though they didn’t go our way. The Apostle Paul wrote that we should make it our goal to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. That’s a tall order, but God wouldn’t have said to do it if He wasn’t going to help us be successful at doing it.

This week, let’s determine right from the start to have a great attitude… at home, at work, at school, in the store, wherever we are. Let’s choose to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. My prognostication is that we won’t even get to the end of the week before we declare like Alex that life is, “way more fun!”

If you have read my book, I Got A “D” In Leadership: Anyone Can Lead… or if you’ve read this blog much… then you know that I love watching NFL football.  My closest word picture for describing to PR31 how much I enjoy it is asking her if she knows how she feels when the Countdown To Christmas starts on Hallmark Channel, and they start showing the Christmas romantic comedy movies every day.  When she lights up at those words, I tell her, “And that’s exactly how I feel about watching NFL games during football season.”

Additionally, when I’m traveling by myself, I enjoy listening to the NFL Network on satellite radio.  One of those shows allows fans to call in late in the week and make bold predictions about how they think their team will fare in the upcoming week’s games.  The only guidelines are that you have to predict that your team will win, and give a legitimate reason as to why in the form of a bold prediction.  So, some callers will say their team will win by a resounding score because their defense will score three times… or because their quarterback will throw for 500 yards and four touchdowns.  It’s both entertaining and inspiring.

I think Christians ought to live that way.  We ought to make bold predictions about our life.. our spouse’s life… our kids’ lives… our friends’ lives.  We actually have a solid foundation on which to base these bold predictions… the Word of God.  God always keeps His promises, and never fails.  So, we can make bold predictions when we line our lives up with Him.

We can declare:

– By His stripes we are healed.

– No good thing will He withhold from those who live uprightly.

– My God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

– God knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us.

– We will lie down in peace and sleep.

– He will never leave us nor forsake us.

– He will restore double to us for the trouble the enemy inflicts on us.

And there are a ton more bold predictions in His Word which we can hold onto.  The power of life and death is in the tongue, according to Solomon’s proverb.  So today, begin to speak those bold predictions out loud over yourself, your family and your friends.  Because if people can call in and make random guesses about the outcome of a football game, shouldn’t believers in and followers of the eternal God be able to make bold predictions rooted in proven truth?

Over the past couple of mornings, the temperature has been about ten degrees cooler than the dog days of summer have been recently.   

And while we were outside this morning with the boys, we saw two or three leaves fall from trees to the ground.

Then… and this has me as excited or more than PR31 gets about Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel… the first pre-season game of the 2017 NFL season kicked off tonight with the Hall of Fame game.

These are the initial signs that Fall is coming.  For those of us who live in the Deep South, it’s been hot for at least four months, and it still has at least three months to go before we experience truly cooler temperatures.  But now we have hope.

Hope is what helps us believe.  Hope is what helps us hang on.  Hope is what keeps us from giving up when we feel overwhelmed or weary.

When you’re drowning in life, even the smallest life preserver gives you hope.  So look for hope tonight.  Look for anything that will help you hang on a little longer.

If you’re weary, know this… you’re gonna make it!  Don’t give up.

Picked Last

As a kid, I was always small for my age.  So, inevitably, when it came to sports I was also typically picked last.  It feels pretty bad to be standing there as two people pick who they want on their team… to watch the number of people standing around you dwindling… and just hoping that you won’t be the very last one chosen.  But it feels even worse when they have picked everyone except you and one team leader says to the other, “You can have him.”  Yeah, been there, done that.

So, I suppose I’ve always had a heart for the underdogs in life.  I know what it’s like to be picked last, and even not selected at all.

An NFL Kind Of Guy

Oh, don’t cry for me. I wasn’t scarred.  It’s not like I chose to avoid sports altogether.  I just realized I’m better at watching someone else play than playing myself.  And I really enjoy following NFL football. (No, this is not a post exclusively about football. I have a point to make and some encouragement to share.) 

As I write this post, the SuperBowl is coming up this Sunday, and I know that I will be deprived of my weekly fix for about si months.  But at least I know the NFL Draft is coming in April.  And hopefully, that will give me enough to hold me over till September.

The NFL Draft is a crazy thing.  Teams are betting that they have scouted players well enough to sign them and give them massive contracts to play football at the level expected of them.  But the history of the NFL shows that plenty of first-round draft picks never panned out.

And then there are those players who were drafted in later rounds that turned out to be superstars… like a guy you may or may not have heard of by the name of Tom Brady.  Someone thought he was good enough to draft, but certainly not good enough to take in the first round.  Even though he worked out as a good choice, someone probably ought to either get fired or get a bonus for picking him in a later round.

Of course, there are players who came into the NFL as undrafted free agents.  In other words, no one was willing to take a chance on them by drafting them.  But these guys have turned out to be superstars…. people like Tony Romeo, Antonio Gates, Arian Foster, Wes Welker, Adam Vinatieri, Kurt Warner and Priest Holmes.  If you watch football at all, you probably recognize those names as great players.  Players who no one wanted initially.  They were the guys standing there like me… waiting and wanting to be picked… but left standing there with one team saying, “You can have him if you want.”  Whose laughing now?

Jesus’ Undrafted Free Agent Disciples

Interestingly, Jesus picked twelve undrafted free agents Himself.  Some Biblical scholars believe the disciples were all in their teens and twenties with John the Beloved being the youngest at about 16 years old and Peter possibly being the oldest at approximately 26 years of age.  That may seem young to you, and that Jesus was picking His team before the “disciple draft,” but the truth is that most rabbis of that time chose the boys they would train to be leaders in the community and in the Jewish religion by the time they were 12 or 13 years of age.  And if you didn’t get “drafted” by a great rabbi, you simply went on back to pursue your family’s business.

So, if the guys Jesus picked were 16 to 26 years old, they were certainly passed up by other rabbis.  But that didn’t stop Jesus from choosing them.  His Father had scouted them and given Jesus the nod to pick each of them.

Can you imagine their delight in being picked after the draft?  And what they may not have realized originally is that they were being picked for the greatest team of all times.  They may have realized that Jesus was a great coach initially, but they certainly didn’t get how big of an impact He would make on them and they would make on this world.

Still Scouting

For the record, Jesus still signs undrafted free agents today.  You may have been passed up by a lot of people for a lot of things.  Rest assured, God sees value in you.  God sees talent and ability in you.  God sees a superstar in you just waiting to be developed and allowed to shine.

If you’ll sign with His team… get into His system… follow His plan for you… then one day you will take the field and everyone else who passed on you will sit back drop-jawed in amazement at all you are capable of accomplishing.  They will start talking about trying to trade to get you.  I say you should stick with the One who saw the potential in you first and took a chance on you.  You won’t regret it!