In 1983, I kind of had an experience where I had to ask myself, “What are you doing here?” When we are young, we pretty much think we are invincible and can take on the world. Where I grew up in Knoxville, TN., there is a big festival each year held each April called The Dogwood Arts Festival. It lasts for about two weeks and they have food, crafts, a huge national track meet at the University of Tennessee, top notch concerts, dogwood trail tours and an amateur tennis tournament. It just so happens that I was quite the tennis player back in my early days and played almost every day. I had never entered a tournament before, so I was really unsure which class to enter. I definitely knew that I was not an “A” class player and I thought I could probably play with some “B” class players. But, if I was going to have a chance to be the champion I needed to play with the weenies of the tennis world in the “C” class. At my first match I was pumped, I was going up against a guy who was probably 55 and didn’t look too athletic. Plus, I was using a Bjorn Borg Donnay tennis racquet. Success was in my grip! Some of you see where this going, right?
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A couple of weeks ago began another year of the great American past time of baseball. Players have finished training camp and have polished their skills in hopes of making it to the World Series in the fall. Over the past few years major league baseball has taken one on the chin because of the steroid use controversy surrounding Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi, Jose Conseco and Barry Bonds. Still, all across America little boys will be suiting up in Little League’s all across our land in hopes of making it to the majors. Baseball is still America’s sport and regardless of what has happened in the past, the very large majority of players are those who love the game and are purists and want to do what is right.
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This week has been a series of highs for our beloved city known as “the mistake on the lake.” First, the Republican National Convention announces their pick of Cleveland to host the 2016 RNC Convention and then LeBron announces he is coming home. I have said all along (feel free to check my social media feeds) that I believed LeBron would come back to Cleveland based on several thoughts, (1) He does not want to be known the rest of his life and beyond for “The Decision” (2) He has accomplished what he set out to do – win NBA championships, capture MVP awards and win two Olympic gold medals and (3) He has a love for NE Ohio that goes beyond basketball. I live, do ministry, and play here in NE Ohio and Cleveland and I am glad he is coming back.
The story of LeBron returning to Cleveland is about grace and growing up. For all the jersey burning, letter writing, and “decisions” there has been forgiveness and when forgiveness happens, it happens because of grace. LeBron in his letter has forgiven Dan Gilbert, Dan has forgiven LeBron, the fans for the most part has forgiven LeBron and in LeBron’s essay, it is clear he has forgiven the fans. I would encourage you to read the essay published exclusively by SI.com (click the image of LBJ in this article) and read his essay on why he is returning to Cleveland. People have not forgiven him because the odds are now in favor Cleveland having championship team. People are showing grace to LeBron because he has asked for forgiveness and he is proud to be from NE Ohio.
In his essay he makes a statement that going to Miami was like going to college for him as he went straight from high school to the NBA. While he had success in Miami he also did a lot of growing up. His role of father expanded. LeBron came to understand his place of role model to kids in NE Ohio and around the country. He still is a young man who may do things that we may not agree on, but there has been growing up that has been done and I expect that we will see much more growing up in the years to come as he mentors young players like Irving and Wiggins. LeBron is turning out to be a class act, not just because of his return, but because of how his handles himself as a pro athlete, a businessman, a philanthropist and a family man.
Dan Gilbert, LeBron James, and the people of Cleveland and NE Ohio have experienced grace in this situation. As a Christian I have to ask myself, “Am I a grace giver?” I want to challenge you to ask that same question. Maybe you are angry about LeBron coming back to Cleveland or it angers you that athletes make so much money or perhaps you really don’t care about any of this. That’s your choice, but everyday you and I need to be asking these questions to ultimately understand what it means to be a grace giver.
Am I quick to judge people on initial impressions?
Am I quick to criticize when people make a mistake?
Am I quick to write people off due to their persistent problems?
Do I give people a chance to change?
Do I attempt to rescue and restore or reject and restrain?
Can I see past the bad to do the best for people?
You can either be a grace giver or a grace killer. Your choice.
In America, we are passionate about sports. We are passionate about movies we watch. We are passionate about fashion, the clothes we wear. We are passionate about certain kinds of cars. We are passionate about restaurants—some of us more than others.
The amazing thing in our culture is it’s ok, even appropriate, for you to be passionate about anything as long as it’s not God. I can go to any sporting event and yell, scream my head off, jump up and down, raise my hands in the air and when we lose I can cry and when we win I can dance around and people would say, “There’s a fan!” But if I came to church and did any of that, they’d say, “There’s a fanatic!” It’s like it’s appropriate to get excited, be enthusiastic, have a passion for anything in life, as long as it’s not God. Yet Jesus said, If you’re going to follow Me, you’ve got to do it with passion. With all your heart.
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I did not consider myself a leader when I was young nor did I have aspirations to be a leader, but I became a leader. Leadership is contagious. When you are around a great leader, you learn, you grow, and you want to become like that leader. You know when you are around a great leader as others seek to be around that leader as well. Hopefully you have had the opportunity to be mentored by someone like I am describing. That person could be your parent, a teacher, a pastor, or a supervisor, manager or executive at the company you work or have worked for.
There is a very simple but profound leadership principle that I am not sure who to give credit to, but goes like this, “I do, you watch. I do, you help. You do, I help. You do, I watch. You do, someone else watches.” I want to unpack that into three steps. Follow along below the image to learn how to recognize a great leader.
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One of the reasons why many people never succeed in life is they give up too soon. I played lots of sports when I was young and still like to today. My favorite sport to play was basketball. Everybody knows that you often win in the last couple of seconds. The last couple seconds of the game can determine the ending. Great people are simply ordinary people with an extraordinary amount of determination. They don’t know how to quit. Failure is never final. It’s a temporary setback. They get up. Everybody fails. Effective people fail. But effective people have staying power. They get up and they keep on keeping on.
Often the matter of being effective is simply the matter of hanging on long enough. Maybe you need to do that in your marriage, or with your kids or your career. Hang on long enough.
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Congratulations goes out to the Perry High Pirates for finishing the season 12-2. The Pirates were defeated by Steubenville in the regional championship. Steubenvill has won the state championship in Division III, three out of the past four years.
The Perry community should be proud of the young men and coaches who represented Perry High School. To the players and coaches that attend Bridge Church, we are proud that you represented Christ on the field.