Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coastal Transcript

Here is the transcript I worked from when I spoke to the Coastal Carolina Men's Football Team a few weeks back.

Well, as I thought about all of the different things I could get up here and share, a few ideas came to mind. For starters, you don’t play until 1:30 tomorrow. So having me coming in to fire you up would be kinda dumb; to give an inspirational speech that makes you want to run through a wall, when the reality is you have to go to bed soon.

So I am not going to do that.

I thought about standing up here and delivering all of these football analogies. Talking about how in life sometimes you have to hit someone, or real men go for it on fourth down. But as I thought about that, the ideas were all really cheesy and there was an even bigger problem – I’ve never played a down of organized football in my life.

So I am not going to do that, either.

Finally, I thought I could sit up here and lament with you guys about a less than ideal season thus far. Talk about teams that I have been on that haven’t gotten the results we wanted; bad breaks we suffered, or calls we never got. But this isn’t meant to be a pity party, so that went out the window.

Instead I thought we might take a look at the reality you are facing. That though things haven’t been ideal; maybe not the way you had originally planned them, you still face a task at hand. And in order to approach it appropriately you need to know what that task is, what’s expected of you, and how to move forward accordingly.

The question then becomes how are you going to respond? How are you going to deal with what has been put in front of you.

Now, if we are to deal with this task, we need to know exactly what it is and whom we are doing it with.

FIRST of all, though it has become clichéd in athletic circles I honestly believe it is the job of a team to become the best team by the end of the season that it possibly can be. And in this, it is up to you whether or not that happens. Now, regardless of what has or what will happen this team has a unique opportunity that no Coastal team has had before and no Coastal team will ever have again. The men that comprise your 2010 roster will never again be recreated. Sure, the majority of guys may come back. A high percentage of starters might return from year to year. But this specific squad will only exist for one year. Seniors will leave and new freshmen will join. Certain things might get re created but you only exist in whole for one season.

Additionally, you love to play football. I know you do. You may be frustrated with results, playing time, teammates, or anything else, but there is something about this game that you fell in love with. Have you seen the movie The Rookie? It’s a baseball movie, but I think there is an incredibly cool picture painted in it. As things aren’t going well for Jimmy Morris in Triple A Durham he makes a phone call to his wife to tell her he is coming home. Soon after he walks to a nearby little league field and takes in a game from beyond the fence. He sees kids laughing and playing, enjoying the game. The camera pans back to him and we see him smile before the scene cuts out. The next day we see Jimmy Morris approach his teammate and ask, “You know what we get to do, Brooks? We get to play baseball.” See, that was it for him! He LOVED to play the game. There are countless other movies and stories like it. When THIS is over, there is no going back. Forgive me for being the old “I”m telling ya…” guy in the room, but believe it! Ask your seniors? Where’d the time go, guys? Tomorrow, you have the opportunity to go out and play the game you love. And you get to do it alongside your teammates, your roommates, and your best friends. You get to represent your school, your coach, your families, and yourselves. I cannot myself think of anything better than that.

SECONDLY, if we are going to deal with the task at hand, we have to know what is expected. Now…I cannot answer that for you, but I do know this. Back in August, and probably back in December last year, you each made a commitment to Coastal Football for the 2010 season.

Whether it was committing to play here, showing up to off-season meetings, or checking into camp this summer, you all made an initial and continuing commitment.

I understand those commitments may be what I like to call “Coffee Conversations.” Do you know what I’m talking about? Things that sound great in theory; over a cup of coffee on a nice afternoon. For me anyway, I love to talk about how I am going to work hard, or how great things are going to be when I am sitting on my ass. That’s easy. Anyone can sit there and dream of how things are going to be.

But it takes a man, one who is in the arena, who has been knocked down and kicked in the teeth, to continue striving after the task. That shows commitment.

In front of you is a choice. I have seen your results. There have been some pretty tough losses. Are you a team, are you an individual who is going to cash in his chips, or put them all in?

But let me tell you, this decision extends well beyond your football team. Too often in life, the realities don’t exactly line up with the dream. How do I know? On the outside, I’m a pro soccer player who walked in with a cute girl and seem to have it together, right? The reality? I get paid almost nothing, live paycheck to paycheck, am simply friends with this great woman, and have no real idea what life looks like for me after soccer.

But that’s life. Hopefully most of you will be married some day, with a family. At some point no matter how good you are you will probably be in a different job. And I can promise you at some point or another all of those are going to suck. I promise. Your wife won’t look hot, your kids will annoy you and your boss will be an idiot. Trust me, it will happen.

Then what? Do you walk out? Do you quit your job? Your wife? Your kids?
And I know what you are thinking. But Ryan, that is life. This is just football. And I tell you what, how you act now is exactly how you will act then. Are you a man who is going to run away from the problems, or towards them looking to get things fixed? In front of you is a perfect opportunity that you are a man, a group of men that exemplify the latter.

AND FINALLY, if we know what the task is, who it’s with, and how committed we are to it, the final question becomes, how then do we go about completing it?

Now, you can say whatever you want to about this book. You can say it’s inspired. You can say it’s dumb. You can say anything in between. But I will tell you this, there is some good stuff in here. Whether or not you view it as a religious book doesn’t matter. There is wisdom in here.

I want to read you a section from Philippians. Maybe you have heard it before. Now, to give a bit of context, the speaker Paul has basically started a new job. He has all of these old credentials that one might be worried about. Things that might keep him from occupying his position in this new vocation. But his response is amazing. He says in Chapter 3, starting in verse 13: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize…”

I don’t believer there was football in Phillippi, but if there was, what a pre game speech Paul has just given!

Look at what he says! He addresses the group as brothers! Now, if he sees them as brothers he must understand that they are in this together; not unlike the group of men sitting in this room. He knows it must be done together.

Next he admits that he doesn’t have it all together. He hasn’t accomplished everything that there is to accomplish. No one in here would make that claim either; I hope.

He goes on…Forgetting that is behind…

There it is. How do you continue to deal with the task at hand? In complete and total freedom.

There is a straining that is necessary, but Paul is very clear. Forget what is behind. Press on to what is next.

The men in this room have the opportunity to press on. To, in complete and total freedom, forget about what has, or hasn’t been and to, as one team, press forward together toward the goal, towards the prize.

And I for one, completely and totally believe it is possible. Now, it’s up to you guys.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kingdom Pursuit

'Let me put it this way. In my Kingdom, if you go running off…I’ll drop everything; that’s right everything, in order to come and find YOU.' Matthew 18:12 (RSV)

One of the cool things I was able to be a part of this past season with the Eagles was just a simple team retreat before the season began. We went out to a supporter of the club’s ridiculous property in South Carolina to hang out, and do some other team activities. One of the more unique opportunities while we were there was to carry this absolutely massive cross a considerable distance as a team. I know this doesn’t sound difficult, but trust me…it was.

Now, I was fortunate enough to not be a part of last year’s team. Well at least as far as the morning team activity consisted of. The team got up early and met outside of their sleeping arrangements and played a game entitled “PURSUIT.” In short, the team would take off one by one with equal spacing in between each guy. The goal was to run the covered distance (it was either a mile or two, I don’t recall. Either way, it sucked) and you were to pursue and chase down a teammate, trying to pass as many teammates as you could by the end, with repercussions for being passed, etc.

Additionally, I have been living here in Charlotte for a little while and have had the incredible privilege of making some amazing friends. The majority of them are believers whose life example, friendship, and accountability are absolutely amazing. It is a unique group in that people here are in all sorts of different walks and places in life and yet it has no real bearing on the community. We have married couples, soccer players, medical workers, singles, office traders and all other kinds of classifications you could put onto someone.

What has been really interesting to me though is the inner workings of single people here. Because of the teams in the summer and the general community being in their mid twenties there are a fair amount of single people who have similar passions and interests. And while it is done very well and tastefully, I have found one aspect of it has particularly tuned my ear to it.

There is a code word here in Charlotte. One that everyone knows and will tune anyone else in to know exactly what is going on. The word: pursue. It is amazing! It is the default word everyone around here uses when describing a relationship that might be starting, how one started, or the misuse or judgment of one gone awry.

It is usually used in conjunction with males and their intention with women. You might hear someone say, “Yeah, he was very intentional about his pursuit of her.” Or you might hear a woman say, “I just really want to be pursued by a (certain) guy.”

In general, you get the idea. It seems that there is much ado about nothing until the P word is thrown out. Until a guy is declaring his intentions as pursuit, there is at best cloudiness.

I do find it a bit funny. It is literally like a magic word.

And while I laugh, understand I do think it is a good thing. The Scriptures speak very clearly of guarding your heart, as it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Song of Solomon cautions not to arouse love until it so desires; or until it is ready (2:7, among others). So in this sense, I totally buy in. There shouldn’t be a whole lot of middle ground; there are intentions or there aren’t. This isn’t something to be messed around with.

Yet, this pursuit, of a woman by a man only seems to mirror that which is so available; that which we all long for amidst our own daily pursuits.

I have found myself pursuing a woman, a job, a title, a position, a friendship, a grade, and a number of other things. And as I think about what that has meant it seems to me anyway, an almost agonizing rejection of self for whatever it is I am pursuing. Haven’t you been there? We lose sleep, don’t eat, train without stopping, study til we fall off our chairs in order to obtain that which we are pursuing.

But for myself anyway, in the midst of my own pursuit I end up running from that which is pursuing me; or should I said He that pursues me.

There is a song by the band Third Day called “Just to be with You”. It is one of my favorites. The lyricist speaks in a tone as if God himself were singing to us. He uses some clichés that are usually said of a man pursuing a woman. He talks of a man that would climb a mountain just to be with the one he loved. Or another man, who would cross the sea, just to be with the one he loved. He goes on, “how many times has he broken that promise? It has never been done.”

He’s right! I know men who have been head over heels for a woman and yet none of them literally climbed a mountain. None crossed a deep sea.

Now as we know Christ didn’t do that, he pursued us in such a manner that led him to the cross. That his pursuit knew and understood how messed up we were; how much it would take for us to be reconciled to him. And yet he did it.

But not only did he do it, he also continues to do it.

This is my biggest struggle.

We serve a God who pursues us. And he does it in such a way that is greater than anything we have ever pursued in our life. And all we have to do is give up; give in.

As one who is always pursuing I will be honest and say that is difficult for me; very difficult. Yet as I continue to run, continue to pursue whatever it is I am after, I truly believe that if I slow down and quiet myself just enough I will be able to hear rustling behind me; accompanied by a faint voice calling my name; desperately wanting me to come back to the pen; to join the other 99.

It is in this location that our pursuits can ease. In the midst of our Shepherd, grades, jobs, titles, spouses, none of it matters compared to being in the midst of the Shepherd who left everything to come after and pursue us.