As I reflect on our season, I don’t dwell on the wins or losses, or the touchdowns or tackles; I instead think about the 3 lessons my fellow coaches and I have attempted to instill in each of the young men on our team.
(1) A Simple Motto. We ask our boys numerous times during each practice, “What’s our motto?” They respond at the top of their lungs, “Hard Work.” Their habit of hard work should stretch from the football field, to the classroom, to the doors of their home. We teach them to work hard not for our benefit, but because it gives them both dignity in a job well done today and the tools and character to succeed in the future as adults.
(2) Response-ability: As my good friend and a guy I used to coach with (Mike Hernandez) used to tell our team, “It’s not if you face obstacles, but when.” Sports provide a great avenue to teach our kids that life is full of obstacles. In light of this, we remind our team of their “response-ability” – translation – they have the ability to choose their response to each situation they face in life. They are not powerless when it comes to their choices. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, once wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s response.” It’s important our youth learn this lesson now!
(3) Identity: This is the most important lesson. From the first day of conditioning practices to the team party at the conclusion of the season we tell our boys, “You are loved.” Their identity is in no way tied to their position or performance on the field (for better or worse). For the Christ-following athlete and fan, identity in Christ becomes immeasurably important at this very point. Understanding that in Jesus we are loved unconditionally (Ephesians 1:4–5), forgiven freely (Romans 4:7–8), pursued endlessly (Psalm 23:6), and given meaning and purpose that stretch far beyond the scoreboard (Ephesians 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:9) can free us to rise above the scoreboard in victory and defeat.
I understand and respect the debate concerning youth sports. There are healthy arguments for and against competition at young ages. But ultimately I believe sports are a gift, a good gift, which God gave through human creativity for our enjoyment. And just like all of life, we ought to approach it with thoughtfulness, discernment, and intentionality.
From the cheerleaders who provide enthusiasm and spirit, to the parents who trust us with their boys, to my fellow coaches who sacrifice so much of their time, and most importantly to the boys we are blessed to lead, I am thankful for football season….and the lessons we all learn.
Throughout my military career, and even still today, I am an avid consumer of military history. Probably because I spent a majority of my military career on the east coast, I am particularly drawn to the Civil War. Like many who study this time period, I am often draw to the Battle at Gettysburg.
When it comes to this battle, I have continually been awed by the decisions and actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I have read Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel “The Killer Angels” and watched Jeff Daniels remarkably play Chamberlain in the movie “Gettysburg.” However it was not until I had the privilege of taking a group of my Marines to the actual battlefield that I truly understood this tragic conflict.
Together we climbed the slope of Little Round top and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge. We studied the defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and continually discussed the decision making of opposing Generals Lee and Meade. From human factors to combined arms, we immersed ourselves in the significance of this three day battle.
During a moment of reflection on the hallowed ground of Little Round Top, I paused to think about the decisions Chamberlain had to make. Against all odds, he stubbornly and courageously rallied his forces. Many historians claim his actions saved the day and possibly turned the tide of the Civil War. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation simply stated: “For daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on Big Round Top.”
It has been six years since I was last at Gettysburg. I no longer view Chamberlain’s actions through the lens of a fighter leader. I now view his actions through the lens of a father leader. The battlefield I must now protect and hold is called my home. At stake is the hearts and minds of my wife and children.
The world will continually tell my wife and children lies about their identity.
They will continually be presented with expectations that drown their worth.
They will continually be attacked….
I have always been amazed at how one man can change the course of a battle. Husbands and Fathers….more than ever before, I believe it is our duty to do so now!!
Like Chamberlain we must not back down. We must continue to love, lead and serve well. We must continue to point them to the Father who created us for His glory.
This is a battle worth fighting….Will you join me?
Thirty-three years have passed since the largest non-nuclear explosion since World War II took the lives of 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. At about 6:20 in the morning on October 23, 1983, a yellow Mercedes truck charged through the barbed-wire fence around the American compound in Beirut and plowed past two guard stations. It drove straight into the barracks and exploded.
Eyewitnesses said that the force of the blast caused the entire building to float up above the ground for a moment before it pancaked down in a cloud of pulverized concrete and human remains. That day was the largest single-day loss of life of Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Americans were shocked at the devastation, but at the time few grasped the significance of the deadly bombing. It marked the emergence of a deadly new form of terrorism never seen on this scale. For those who served or joined soon thereafter, this was their generation’s 9/11 moment…a call to service in the midst of a terror attack.
Almost all of the 241 deceased service members were from Camp Lejeune, NC. 241 dads, husbands, and friends from one town gone in an instant…the impact was devastating to the small military town of Jacksonville, NC. Imagine what it would do to your community to lose that many of your men in one moment.
Today, near the entrance to Camp Johnson, a subsidiary base of Camp Lejeune, a memorial wall is nestled among the Carolina pines. The Beirut Memorial Wall, completed on Oct. 23, 1986, bears a list of those Americans who died in Lebanon. Only four words are inscribed on the Wall: “They Came in Peace.”
The Marines lost at Beirut are also remembered in another way. Soon after the attack, a middle school class in Jacksonville decided to raise money for a memorial for the Marines. The money they raised was used to purchase 241 trees.
For over a decade on my way to work, I would drive down Highway 24 (Lejeune Blvd) into the main entrance of Camp Lejeune. What makes this drive different is the center lane. It is lined with the 241 Bradford Pear Trees purchased by local students….one for each man lost.
What many don’t know is that on the other side of the world there is a matching set of trees. In 1992, the director of the Haifa, Israel USO coordinated the creation of a memorial park that included 241 olive trees. The trees lead to an overpass on Mount Carmel looking toward Beirut.
Col. Charles Dallachie, who was a survivor of the Beirut Bombing once wrote, “For Marines, great victories, great defeats and great sacrifices are never forgotten, but are remembered with battle streamers attached to unit colors. Unfortunately, there are no battle streamers to remember the ultimate sacrifice made in 1983 by Marines, sailors and soldiers in Beirut, Lebanon.”
He is correct, for the Marines lost at Beirut there are no battle streamers…there are only trees.
This month at my church is Milestone Month. As part of this family ministry focus, Liz and I get to lead a class with new parents. In this class we discuss a list of topics ranging from “Remember Forevers” to basic household boundaries. We will also spend a portion of this class helping families develop a list of Family Core Values.
You see, in my previous organization, we had a list of 3 core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. As Marine leaders, we consistently led numerous discussions on how these values were lived out and demonstrated by individual Marines and collectively as a warfighting organization. More importantly, we were expected to model them on a daily basis.
Realizing the importance of core values in my “job” solidified the need for my family to define our own set of values. A few years ago, after much prayer and discussion, we came up with five.
Our Core Values are:
Prayer with Expectation
Truth with Compassion
Scripture with Application
Generosity without Reciprocation
Leadership with Humility
(*I’ll save future blog posts to describe each one and why they are important to us*)
The purpose behind defining your family core values is not to have something nice to put in a frame or hang on the fridge, but a clear list of values that drive your decision making and provide focus for how you “do life.” To paraphrase author and leadership consultant Will Mancini, core values are the shared convictions that guide our actions and reveal our strengths. Simply put, they should be a constant reminder of what is important to your family.
When you don’t know or you haven’t clearly defined your values, you end up drifting along in life. Instead of basing your decisions on an internal compass, you make choices based on circumstances and social pressures. Conversely, when your family’s core values are clearly defined the benefits are numerous:
- Provides a framework to make individual and family decisions
- Helps ensure unity
- Makes life simpler because it frees you to say “no” to certain things and “yes” to better things
- Most of all: core values allow you to do more of what you do best!
Your family already has a certain set of core values….maybe you just haven’t clearly defined them yet. They are underneath the surface of your daily activities. Your role as a leader in your home is to pull them above of the waterline. The more your family knows about itself, the better it’s able to deal with life. Trust me… there’s something about actually writing down your values that makes you more committed to living them out!
A former survey of parents by The Barna Group found that “close to nine out of ten parents of children under age 13 believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters.”
This is great news!!! Scripture clearly commands us as parents to teach our children the truth of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6). I was happy to hear so many families agreed!
However…..(there’s always a however).
However according to the same survey, “a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters with their children.”
Instead, the parents surveyed typically “rely on their church to do all of the religious training for their children.” Unfortunately this runs contrary to God’s plan for the discipleship of our families. To quote a friend and fellow Pastor, Brian Haynes, “the family is plan A and the church is plan B when it comes to the spiritual formation of the next generation.”
So what can we do about it?
The first thing to determine is the “why?” Why do parents who believe they should assume the responsibilities as the primary faith trainer in their home fail to do so?
The report provided the answer: “a majority of parents are willing to provide spiritual leadership for their children, but feel ill-equipped to lead them in this way.”
Like most things in life, specifically in parenting and marriage, we over complicate what was meant to be natural. We add pressure to live up to a standard presented on a blog or a Pinterest page. We grab our Bible, our spouse, our kids, and our best intentions and off we go!
And then life happens…..
So in our own strength we try harder….
And we fail (according to the unrealistic standards)….
Then we become overwhelmed or feel defeated and we give up…..
Then unfortunately we don’t do anything.
Thankfully, many years ago before I arrived at my current church, the staff provided a clear blueprint on what the role of a Primary Faith Trainer looks like. We continue to teach these habits in our parenting classes.
Simply put – a Parent as a Primary Faith Trainer does three things:
- Lead Faith Talks
- Capture God Moments
- Celebrate Milestones
In the next few weeks we will walk through each of these in more detail but for now I want to leave you with a question, “Are You Willing to Be the Primary Faith Trainer in Your Home?”
It’s that time of year again. Here in the next week or so we will start to see the sweet pictures on Facebook and Instagram of kids heading out the door on their way to school. For some it is their first day of preschool and for others it may be the first day of their last year. Some go to public schools while some study at home. Regardless of the age or location, one thing remains the same, it can be a scary, exciting, and challenging time for the kiddos and the parents. But this time can also be used to have some powerful conversations with your child.
So here is my back to school advice….I don’t have much….just one lesson, one tip, one challenge for you.
Focus on the people they are, not the places they will go. In 1990, Dr. Seuss wrote the national best-seller “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” This is a great book that has some profound lessons for each us; but more essential than our child’s journey is their identity.
Undoubtedly there is excitement in the places they can go and it can be healthy to challenge them toward future goals, but there is much more fulfillment in helping them answer the question, “Who am I?”
As parents we have a duty to bless our children for who they are – a child of God created with infinite value, dignity and worth – not for what they may or may not do.
You see when we accidently or unconsciously build a link in our child’s mind connecting their acceptance or approval with their performance (or the places they may or may not go) we miss the mark.
So before your child heads out the door this school year bless them!
Remind them that they are chosen, loved, and accepted….fully and unconditionally.
Remind them that your love is in no way tied to performance….performance in a class room, performance on a ball field, performance in life.
Enjoy the school year!
(If you want to know how Liz and I practically do this with our two boys click here.)
Day 5: July 15th / 10:45pm local time.
Every night this week, all 61 of us gather outside in a little pavilion, sing a few worship songs, and “download” our experiences for the day. But tonight was different.
Tonight I sat on a concrete floor and listened for over two hours as student after student got up and spoke.
Tears flowed as I heard our young ladies hurt for the local women they served at House of Hope.
Tears flowed as the young men spoke about the mantle of leadership they inspire to hold within their schools and at church.
Tears flowed as adult leaders continually praised the students, many of them they have known since preschool.
Tears flowed as student and adult spoke about how God had used them even in the mundane.
I ended the night by quickly reviewing our theme for the week, “It’s not about me” and then I reminded them of the 2 previous questions we have discussed:
- What breaks your heart?
- What does love require?
Our last question this week was: “Where are my feet?”
You see this week many of our students have talked about what they wanted to do in the future. Tonight I wanted to remind them that it is important for us to remember that we don’t have to wait. For all of us, our feet are currently resting within the exact geographic circle of God’s calling on our lives. In the future God may call you outside that circle but it is where He has us for now. Our obedience to Him only matters in the present!
There are many more stories to hear about this week. Find one of our students, sit down with them, and ask them to share. You’ll be inspired…..I was.