Friday, December 31, 2010

Thank you!

Thank you! As 2010 draws to a close, I would like to say, “Thank you.” I’m glad to see this year go away. It was full of disappointment and grief. I’ve had enough for one year.

I am sure that you spent more time in medical facilities with players who were having surgery, were struck will disease or were otherwise indisposed. I did that six or seven times just this fall. For those you visited, I say, “Thank you.”

I am sure you made some visits to funeral homes for wakes or funerals or both. I did that several times this year also. For those who experienced such pain and many who are still grieving, I say, “Thank you.”

I imagine many of you fielded phone calls from coaching friends who were fired or from players whose roster spots had just evaporated. I received a couple such calls. No fun. Nothing I could say could fix that pain and disappointment. For those who trust you enough to make the call, I say, “Thank you.”

I have recently had some conversations with coaches in transition. I am sure you’ve had similar talks recently. One coach made a move and tripled his salary; he’s on the way up. One coach declined a new opportunity, hoping another would appear soon; he’s staying put. One coach feels like he’s the odd man out with his coaching mates; he feels like he’s standing on one foot. One coach is happy where he is; he’s the rare exception. For all those whom you have counseled, consoled, encouraged, challenged and inspired, I say, “Thank you.”

Thank you. Your ministry with the men and women of sport matters. May 2011 be your most effective and rewarding to date.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas morning - what can we be?

It’s 5:30 am, Christmas morning, here in Carbondale and our home will soon be flooded with family, young, old and one in the womb. This year I’m reminded of two people who are usually forgotten in the whole sweep of Christmas and its following days. Luke 2 tells the story of Jesus’ first days on the earth and on day eight he meets Simeon and Anna.

“In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:

God, you can now release your servant;

release me in peace as you promised.

With my own eyes I've seen your salvation;

it's now out in the open for everyone to see:

A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,

and of glory for your people Israel.

Jesus' father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother,

This child marks both the failure and

the recovery of many in Israel,

A figure misunderstood and contradicted—

the pain of a sword-thrust through you—

But the rejection will force honesty,

as God reveals who they really are.

Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.

When they finished everything required by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth. There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him.” Luke 2:25-40

Can we be like Simeon with those we encounter today and this coming year? Can we be long-term faithful? Can we patiently wait for the Lord’s promises? Can we bless our friends and even strangers? Can we see the potential for greatness in a child and the potential for pain in a mother? Can we see the purposes of God in a young life?

Can we be like Anna who worships night and day? Can we be as single-minded as she? Can we have hearts so full that we break into song as we recognize the Lord’s presence? Can we talk with everyone we encounter about the true source of freedom?

Can we be like the child Jesus? Can we grow strong in body and wise in spirit? Can we carry the grace which the Lord God puts upon us?

I pray we can be such on this day, on day 8 and on each remaining day of our lifetimes. Merry Christmas to one and all. Bless you, my friends.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dawg Blog on Team Building

Below is an article from our university’s media services department director, Tom Weber, about my work with the Men’s Basketball team. I think he summed up my role with this team pretty well.

Roger Lipe can't teach Saluki basketball players the finer points of trapping the high ball screen or how to execute a pick-and-roll, but the expertise he has brought to this year’s team cannot be underestimated.

Lipe is an expert at team-building — bringing players together from all walks of life and teaching them how to interact and work together for the good of the unit. There's a spiritual component, as well, but a player doesn't have to be a Christian to benefit from Lipe's teaching.

Ever since Jerry Kill was head coach, Lipe has worked with Saluki football — doing team-building exercises during training camp and leading team chapel on game days. He leaves the Xs and Os to the coaches.

"What I am doing is working on what is going on between their ears and in their heart," he explained. "It gets down to commitment level and values."

Like most Saluki fans, he wondered how a basketball team with so much talent could finish in ninth place last year.

So last summer, he got together over coffee with Coach Lowery to offer his assistance. Lowery welcomed the idea.

Lipe's sessions with the team began immediately and with two goals in mind.

"First, I wanted to create a sense of community — where they know each other, trust each other and are committed to each other as teammates," he explained. "The second part was to develop a culture that is shaped by values. What do we care about? What do we think is important?"

These sessions with the team took place in the player lounge — a comfort zone for the team, where guys can open up and speak frankly.

"We are able to talk about what makes a winning community," he said. "It was a matter of getting to know each other on a successively deeper level so they are committed to each other as teammates."

The team agreed that there were chemistry problems on last year's squad.

"You could tell a lot of the players were contemplating what did happen last year," Lipe explained. "They said that will not happen again. You could tell there was more of a sense of self-discipline growing. That came from the values that Chris has for this program. It is just a different voice and a different way of approaching it. Sometimes, the coaches are saying it all the time, and it can be helpful to have an outsider's voice come in, especially someone older."

Lipe said he was struck by the negative body language of the players on the bench at times last year.

"Watching last year's group and this year's group — it is like night and day," he said. "This group likes each other. They really enjoy playing with each other and work hard for each other. They are not jealous of minutes or things like that. It has also helped develop leadership."

At a recent Saluki game, Lipe kept a careful eye on a player who was pulled from the game and had to sit on the bench for an extended period of time.

"He sat on the bench quite a while, but what I was impressed with was that he was engaged the whole time," Lipe said. "He wasn't pouting or griping because he wasn't getting minutes. That comes out of a community that likes each other and wants to play together, and they understand the values of the program."

As players understand each other better, they are more likely to make sacrifices and play hard for one another, Lipe said.

"The problem is in human nature — I'm not going to commit to someone I don't trust," he said. "We ask questions and discuss topics that are right to the core of who each person is. Guys self-reveal and show what they are about and what they are committed to. All of that gets you to play selflessly as opposed to selfishly."

The basic principles Lipe espouses are religiously based.

"When we do chapels, I am talking about the same principles that were discussed in team-building," he said. "I just illustrate it from what I see in scripture. Last week we talked about how championship teams love the game and make sacrifices for it. Instead of talking just basketball, I also illustrate it from the life of Jesus and how he showed great commitment and love in the sacrifices he made."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sports Liars - Here's some Truth.

In April of 2010 I wrote about two of the greatest liars in Sport – Success and Failure. I spent a lot of time exposing their lies, half-truths and a little about the truth of their whispers, shouts and snide remarks. Here is some Truth about our worth to God, the security of our identity in Christ and our freedom from condemnation.
All these lies gnaw at our souls, impeding our progress as lovers of God and hindering our Lord's gift of fulfilling enjoyment of sport. Both Success and Failure speak these lies with equally damaging consequences to our hearts, minds and souls.
The truth is that we have infinite value to Christ. The true value of something is determined by what another is willing to pay for it. In our case, God paid an infinite price to redeem us from our hopeless state of sin and rebellion. Romans 5:8 states, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” Such a strong, consistent and unmistakable expression of worth counters the sports liars’ assertions that our value is measured in wins and losses.
The truth is that our identity is inextricably in Christ Jesus. On our worst days, Ephesians 1:3-14 is true and these verses remind us of who we are.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; 4 for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment —to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.

11 In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.

13 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—in Him when you believed—were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.

On the day of our worst performance and in our least successful seasons, the truth is that “He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.”
The truth is that we are totally without condemnation before Him. Romans 8:1 states, “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus…” Even when our own minds condemn us because of our weaknesses, our sinful habits and our persistent flesh, the Spirit of Christ whispers to our hearts and encourages us with the Truth. Our Advocate speaks courage and confidence into our formerly condemned minds, enabling us to boldly seek God’s strength for the next practice or competition.
There is powerful wisdom to be found by focusing our hearts and minds on the process of training, competition, personal and team development in sport. Take care to listen wisely to the reports of success and failure. Understand that statistics, win/loss ratios and other measurements of sporting achievement speak truthfully about performance, but they lie about identity, worth and significance. The truth about these issues can only be found in an abiding relationship with Christ Jesus.