Friday, June 30, 2017


Refuel. It’s likely that you are occasionally feeling that you are out of gas. You seem to be running on empty. Your normal passion and energy seems to be in short supply, but you press on anyway because people are counting on you. You need to refuel. How? What does that for us?

In twenty-three years of serving people in sport, I have had a few occasions like that. In most cases it was due to being overly busy, distracted with unproductive tasks, and losing touch with my “Why.” In his excellent book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek challenges leaders to operate from their “Why,” the central reason they do what they do. The people we lead, the people we serve, those with whom we serve certainly experience “What” we do. They also perceive “How” we do it, but how clearly do we communicate the “Why” that is central to the whole process? The “Why” provides passion, purpose, and long-term direction for our service. Sinek calls this the golden circle, as illustrated here.

What we do, serving the men and women of sport in the name of Christ Jesus, is certainly shaped by How we do it, with humility, respect, compassion, understanding, and other important values, but if our service is not connected with a clearly defined Why, it will probably not endure for long and will likely wander from a wise and productive path.

If you are running on empty, take some time to contemplate on the Why of your ministry. Why do you do this? For the paycheck? I hope not, as most of us are volunteers. Why then? To apprehend this idea, to write it down, to distill it into an easily expressed sentence, can be a key part of refueling your passions, your energy, and your impact. I recommend the reading of Start with Why, as Sinek’s explanation and examples of those who do this very well. Refuel.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Refresh. During a recent FCA Camp for collegiate student-athletes, I was privileged to facilitate a group for the FCA Chaplains and FCA Campus Ministry Directors who brought the athletes to camp. Rather than have these adults lead the groups for the collegiate athletes, the camp director asked me to lead this group so as to refresh them. I was thrilled to have this privilege for the second consecutive year.

In one of our small group discussions, we chatted about how their souls are refreshed. We all have our souls worn down by busyness, urgency, disappointment, demands, and the more draining aspects of ministry in sport, but what refreshes your soul? Let’s consider what it is to be refreshed and how we may experience that regularly.

Dictionary definition:
Refresh - verb (used with an object)
• to provide new vigor and energy by rest, food, etc. (often used reflexively).
• to stimulate (the memory).
• to make fresh again; reinvigorate or cheer (a person, the mind, spirits, etc.).
• to freshen in appearance, color, etc., as by a restorative.

Think for a minute about the people, moments, foods, drinks, books, movies, music, and places that refresh your soul. Go get some of that, soon.
The Apostle Paul wrote about how his friend, Philemon, refreshed the souls of people in Colossae at Philemon verses 4-7. “I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,5 because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; 6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
Philemon verses 4-7.
Ø The prayers of your mentor. Do the prayers of your mentor(s), and the mention of them in a letter refresh your soul as they surely did Philemon’s?
Ø Love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints. Does the development of these matters refresh your soul?
Ø Growing understanding of all we have in Christ. Do you find refreshment in sharing your faith as Paul told Philemon to expect it?
Ø Joy and comfort from love. Do you provide joy and comfort to your friends, mentors, and colleagues? If so, you are refreshing their souls.
Ø Refreshing the hearts of the saints. Philemon did this, do you? Who provides that sort of refreshment for your soul? Get some time with them.
You may have thought of refreshing places, foods, drinks, situations, or other things. I hope you also thought of refreshing people, groups, and occasions. Expect your heart to be refreshed by nurturing relationships with mentors, with peers, and with those whom you serve. Therein is new vigor and energy. They will stimulate and refresh your memory as to God’s faithfulness and goodness. They will reinvigorate and cheer your mind and your soul. They may even freshen your appearance, your color, and act as a restorative to your whole countenance. Refresh.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Read. Please, pick up a book and read it. We, as a people group, are not the most literary people in Christendom. Most of us are big on “go and do” and not so big on “read and think.” I would like to challenge you to read more. It helps to have a plan, and I am pleased to share with you the sorts of books I read and why I read them. I find them to greatly enhance my service of Christ Jesus in sport, my life as a man, son, husband, father, and grandfather.

1. Read your Bible. (Duh.) “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130 Your Bible will neither give understanding nor light unless you unfold its pages to read. I recommend a simple devotional reading plan, supplemented by more intensive study. I also recommend reading from various translations to keep things fresh and to gather insights from different translators. I particularly enjoy reading The Message translation devotionally.

2. Theology and Christian Living books. There is wisdom and insight to be gathered from these books; get some. I owe a debt I can never repay to the friends I made in my twenties as they introduced me to C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Oswald Chambers, John Stott, Brother Lawrence, and other good authors. Later in my adulthood I began reading authors like Phillip Yancey, Eugene Peterson, Os Guinness, G. K. Chesterton, and others. Regardless of your level of scholarship, you and I both stand to learn from these authors.

3. Psychology books. These books help us to think differently. They help us to understand people and why they do what they do. Just recently I read, Deep Work and found it to be remarkably helpful to my own thinking and personal disciplines. Other books (decidedly non-academic) like Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, Mindset by Carol Dweck, and Soul Keeping by John Ortberg (read last weekend), and several books by Malcolm Gladwell have also been very insightful. My mentor says, “Psychology is a good tool, but a terrible god.” Keeping this in mind brings perspective to my reading of psychology books.

4. Sports biography books. These books allow us inside the lives, minds, and hearts of people in the sporting world. Often, these are very insightful and occasionally quite painful to read. Among the best I have read are: The Man Watching by Anson Dorrance, Open by Andre Aggasi, Leading by Sir Alex Ferguson, and several by John Feinstein (not all are biographies, but all are helpful). This is especially true for those of us who find our service of sportspeople a little cross cultural. If you did not grow up as a competitive athlete, you may find the people you serve quite odd. These books can unlock their mentality for you.

5. Leadership books. Whether they want to be or not, sportspeople are leaders. Coaches want to be leaders, but they often don’t know how. To read leadership wisdom equips you to serve them well and loads your mind with a bank of knowledge they can access. We are leaders by our very nature. Let’s sharpen our leadership swords with some good reading. I suggest these as a starting point: Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney, Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft, Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels, Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders, and Legacy by James Kerr. “We are all leading, and we’re leading all the time. The question is whether we are doing it well or poorly,” is a quote from Chris Lowney’s Heroic Leadership and it is directly on point. 

6. History books. It is of tremendous help to anyone serving Christ to understand the context in which he or she is serving. Reading the history of a team, a club, a community, a region, a nation, a continent, or the entire planet is key to understanding the people and how they view their world. This sort of reading has been transformation to my service when I travel abroad. Reading books on Central American, Cuban, Ukrainian, and Eurasian history were profoundly helpful to the development of ministry in those regions.

7. Culture. These books are of great value as one seeks to ride the stormy waves of societal change. Over this weekend I will turn sixty-one years of age. It would be so very easy to retreat to the culture of the 1970s and to become the curmudgeonly old dude, but I refuse. To have any grasp of societal and cultural changes I must read about it. Books like Millenials, Hillbilly Elegy, Outliers, Soul Tsumami, A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Food Café, and others have transformational to how I approach cultural matters.

8. Business Management. If you think strategically or analytically, the authors of these books have something to say to you. Among my favorite authors in this genre are: Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, and Jim Collins. Some of my favorite titles are: The Starfish and the Spider, Good to Great, Great by Choice, Originals (read in April), and others.

Do yourself a favor, read a book. Do those you serve a favor, read a book. Whether you do it old school via paper and ink, or on your portable electronic device (I read on both), read a book. Commit to learning for a lifetime. For what it’s worth, I read faster and with greater comprehension at 60 than I ever did at 20, 30, or 40. 

By reading good authors, we welcome mentors into our lives from across the centuries. I regularly receive counsel from John Stott, Francis Schaeffer, C. S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers, Brother Lawrence, and other brilliant men of God who have passed from the earth years, decades, or centuries ago. Read.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Rest. For many of us it is a mysterious, confusing idea. For others it is as elusive as a unicorn. For others it is something we have trouble embracing as our compulsion to work drives us to work more hours, more days, and to leave vacation days unused. Rest. It’s important. It’s imperative. It’s a commandment of God.

A few years ago during an FCA Sports Chaplains conference, a speaker verbally punched me in the nose. He said that, morally speaking, to fail to Sabbath is equivalent to committing murder. Each is a violation of one of God’s ten commandments. Ouch. I was immediately deeply convicted. I had to confess and repent of my ridiculously consuming work schedule that had far too little margin for rest. While still sitting in the auditorium, I opened the calendar in my phone and blocked open every Sunday with a long green bar titled, “Sabbath.”

The commandment is stated rather simply, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.” Exodus 20:8-11 MSG

Before you lose your mind about legalism, Sunday vs. Saturday Sabbath, and more, take a breath. Focus on the second sentence, “Work six days and do everything you need to do.” The Lord God rested 1/7 of creation week, who are you to think you should not? Sabbath is blessed by God. Sabbath is set apart for God’s special use. Sabbath is good for you. Remember Jesus’ words about the Sabbath? “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but you don’t know how much I have to do.” That’s exactly how I tend to rationalize my failure to Sabbath, to rest. The problem is that when we fail to rest, we remove most of the margin in our lives that allows us to think clearly, to spend time with family, to enjoy life, and to experience God at an unhurried pace.

You’re probably thinking, “How am I supposed to do this?” This is the most difficult part of the process, beyond the simple decision to do it. For me, it was a simple choice to schedule for Sabbath. I set a recurring appointment for all day Sunday, each week, forever. However, life is seldom that simple. Sometimes my life requires that I work and/or travel on Sunday. When that occurs, I immediately schedule for rest in that same week on another day. It’s a matter of personal discipline. Rest restores your body, mind, and spirit.

Below are some simple ways to build rest into your weekly, monthly, and annual calendars:
·        Schedule a day weekly for rest. At least one. Most of us have a five day work week. Rest.
·        Schedule one day per month for quiet and contemplation. (Thank you John Stott for this idea.) Guard that day from busyness. Use it to read, to plan, to contemplate, to pray. Rest.
·        Schedule your vacation days well in advance and use every one of them. Urgency will pressure you to leave some unused, but if you plan well in advance you can maximize their effectiveness. Use every personal leave day you are allowed. Rest.
·        When you embark on your days or weeks of rest, maximize their benefit. Shut down your social media. Silence your phone. Surround yourself with people whom you love and who help you relax. Rest.

The Lord who created us knows how we function best. He says to rest 1/7 of our weeks, our months, our years. (We haven’t even opened a discussion of sabbatical years or years of jubilee.) Trust Him more than you trust your Protestant work ethic. Trust Him more than your obsession with your calendar. Trust Him more than your performance based identity. Trust Him and rest, as He did.