Wednesday, September 25, 2013

He Got Skillz!

I LOVE Ray Allen.  He has played on NBA Championship teams like the Boston Celtics and now the Miami Heat.  In the 2013 NBA Finals, I witnessed one of the most exciting cliff hangers I have ever seen, that's including the Lakers vs. Celtics and even the Bulls in the '90s! In game 6, the San Antonio Spurs were looking like they were going to overtake the Heat and win the championship. All hope was lost.  However, in the final seconds of the 4th quarter, they passed the ball to Ray Allen, who had positioned himself at the 3 point line.  With defenders throwing up long arms to block, Ray Allen threw up a prayer - swish! He tied the game, sending the game into overtime, keeping a spark of hope alive for the Miami Heat!

Check out what I'm talking about on Youtube:

I had previously just started tweeting and getting into social media (I'm a late adopter - sorry).  I remember that night that Twitter world was blowing up! (that means that a lot of people were busy sending tweets.) "Ray Allen is amazing"  "Ray Allen is my hero"  "Thank the Lord for Ray Allen".  That night, basketball fans were reminded of how valuable and clutch this quiet, veteran player was to the Miami Heat franchise.  The Miami Heat, led by LeBron James and Dwayne Wade went on to make history and beat the titan team, San Antonio Spurs.  Can you tell I'm excited? It's like it just happened yesterday :)

This year's 2013 NBA Finals re-ingnited my love for the game of basketball.  I started going on Youtube to watch older games and came across some videos of Ray Allen training.  I noticed how Ray was repeating the same drills over and over again.  Ray and his trainer even talked about how they know that Ray's sweet spot is behind the 3 point line.  So, they spend most of their time perfecting that particular shot.  Not only does Ray Allen work on his shooting technique, he practices drills on moving without the ball.  Ray works on foot work and on directional patterns on the court.  He practices moving off of a screen from another player.  His one objective is to find the most efficient way to get the ball in his hands behind the 3 point line so he can quickly release the ball to score.  Interestingly, he does NOT work on a lot of OTHER basketball skills.  He ONLY rehearses the few skills that he will use in games.

Something clicked inside of me -

I would begin to train myself in two or three moves on the basketball court, and not worry about trying to do many moves.  As I've grown older, I can't keep up with the younger guys I play with in games.  So why try? 

The next day, I went to the basketball court and started to figure out what moves I am better at, what comes natural to me.  (yes, at 40 yrs. old, I still have a little ball left in me.)
I started practicing dribbling drills and footwork drills.  I rehearsed them over and over, but with each repetition, I analyzed myself to see how I could improve.  I also used the drills to build up strength and endurance, so I could play longer, jump high, move faster.  I made a decision that in future games, I would position myself in my "hot zones" on the court and would only score using my three skill-shots.  (I won't tell you what they are, in case one day I happen to be playing against you.  I know my brother, Sam is reading my blog :))

Let's apply this lesson to our lives.

Wisdom coupled with experience shows us the power of focus.  We can accomplish more and get it done more efficiently.  Look at these thoughts:

Know Yourself
The Greek Philosopher, Socrates is known for teaching the concept, "Know Thyself."  I love that.  Be honest with yourself about what you are, and what you are not.

You can do great things, but you cannot do everything.

The sooner you can realize the gifts that you do not possess, the quicker you can fully embrace the gifts you Do possess.  In my career of music, I met many people who thought they could sing.  I was forced to sit and listen to many bad auditions.  Though I would kindly sit through the entire audition, I could tell within the first 3 seconds if they had the gift - truthfully.  After the long and painful audition was over, I had to carefully explain that there was not a spot on the vocal team for them, but that they did, in fact have a beautiful gift - they just have to discover it.  If you are clueless to what your gift is, start asking some honest questions of people around you.  If you really want to know the truth, you may have to give your friends permission to be honest with you - tell them that you appreciate them trying to help.  Prepare yourself for some pain (the truth hurts).  Then, open up your mind to some new concepts that you've never considered about yourself.  When you begin to discover the uniqueness and beauty within you, you will experience an incredible freedom!

Know What You Want
Do you really know what you want? If you got what you think you want, would you be satisfied? I love the saying,

Be careful what you wish for; it might come true.

Are you pursuing something just to impress others? Are you pursuing something out of a sense of fear? Why not re-visit your core values, and from there, identify what it is that you truly want.  Shoot for that.  Let go of other pursuits.  Get busy pursuing your gifts today: 

     Do you enjoy golf? then play more golf.
     Do you enjoy quiet? create a secret place just for you where you can escape.
     Do you enjoy guns? go shoot some guns.  (that's what my son wants to do - he's just not old enough yet. :)

Sharpen The Tool
Practice what Ray Allen practices.  Start training in your gift.  You may think that because you are gifted at something, that you should rather spend more time working on your weaknesses.  I would say:

Be Aware of Your Weaknesses
Sharpen Your Skills

Ray Allen is known as a 3 point shooter.  I've heard commentators give him nick names like "Sharp Shooter" or "Assassin." Ray has developed a reputation in the league as a specialist.  Ray makes it looks easy, but watching a few Youtube videos of his training shows me the hours of commitment and work he has invested to develop his gift.  Dr. K. Andres Ericcson states that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice for someone to master a skill.  Ready to begin? :)

Like the NBA Star, Ray Allen, we all have greatness in us - potential that is waiting to be developed.  It's different for everyone.  And, every once in a while the clock will be winding down in the 4th quarter of our game.  The Point Guard is looking to pass the ball to you for the all-important final shot.

Are you ready to use your unique gift to send the game into overtime?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Jesus Understands You

Each of us is different.  Each of us has a different basic need and insecurity - something that we struggle with.  Each of us has a question we are always trying to answer for ourselves.

For some, it's "am I significant?"

For some, it's "am I good enough?"

For some, it's "is God real?"

Jesus loved all of His disciples, and He interacted with them differently.

Peter was the first to speak and probably the first in line.  Peter had a big personality and presence in the group.  Jesus would affirm Peter in public, and could also coach him in public.  Peter liked attention because he was always asking himself the question, "am I significant?" 

However, with John, Jesus probably addressed in private.  The only picture we have of Jesus' interaction with John is that John sat close to the Master, with his head on His shoulder.  Jesus must have known that John had some deep-rooted issues of not feeling loved, or not being accepted.  John was probably always following behind, stuck in his low self esteem.  He was asking himself, "am I good enough?"  Jesus would go to John and invite him to walk closely with Him as a sign that Jesus loved and accepted him.
My son, Michael is thoughtful and detailed.

Thomas was the only disciple that Jesus had to prove Himself to - that by touching His wounds.  I wonder if Jesus was always explaining Himself and clarifying His message to the group because He knew Thomas was sitting in the back row shaking his head skeptically.  Yet, Jesus was not frustrated with Thomas' desire to truly understand and believe (I'm sure the rest of the disciples rolled their eyes.) Jesus actually loves that we want to understand, that we want to go deeper.  The Master will lead us to a greater revelation of truth.

Peter - extravert - bold, brash, speak before thinking - Jesus could call Him out.  Jesus also knew that He needed public affirmation.
John - introvert - wounded, quiet, withdrawn - Jesus drew John close to Him.  Jesus connected with John on a more intimate level, beyond words
Thomas - logical, late adopter, skeptical - Jesus was patient with Him and explained Himself to him.  Jesus allowed Himself to be examined.  "Come and see."

My daughter, Madison is spontaneous and outgoing.

Jesus understands you, because He made you.  He knows exactly what you need, and He will connect with you on your level.  Jesus is not in a hurry.  Of all the things that Jesus could be concerned about in the universe, He is most interested in connecting with you - personally.  Jesus wants relationship - He is relational.  

If you need affirmation or coaching like Peter, Jesus will provide that.  
On the other hand, if you are like John and cringe at the thought of being called out in front of everyone, God will protect you.  God will lavish His love and embrace you.
Maybe you can relate to Thomas - you JUST need to know for sure - you need some concrete evidence - faith is difficult for you.  God will prove Himself to you over and over because He is True.

Whatever you are - whatever you need - whatever question you are asking yourself today - 

Jesus understands you. 

 He wants to connect with you today.

Take a moment to spend time with Jesus today and let Him speak to you.  He will answer your questions.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Brand New

Every year, I allow myself the freedom to spend money on some new clothes.  My wife has helped me realize the importance of looking modern.  ;)     So, I will go shopping with my wife who helps me pick out a few new outfits that I can utilize for the new season.

When I brought my new clothes home and hung them in my closet, I realized HOW LONG it had been since I had gone shopping.  :) There was a VAST difference between what I had been wearing, and what my new clothes looked like.  The colors were different, the cut of pants and shirts were different.  The look had entirely changed!

And, of course, the next few days, you know which clothes I wore to work? My new clothes.  I felt so good walking into meetings looking modern.  I felt taller, I felt younger, I felt skinnier :)
So, after I had worn the same shirt and pants three times in the same week :) , I thought to myself, I guess I had better wear something different.  So, I started to go through my closet to find something, but, beyond the 3 new outfits I had bought, everything else was that old and faded look...

It took me a couple of days, but I finally decided it was time to schedule a "cleaning day." I needed to go through my closet and purge out some of my old and faded shirts and some of my old and faded pants. So a few days later, I attacked my closet.  I saw so much stuff in my closet that I had forgotten was there.  I saw old shoes, posters, books, old belts. I found a dirty t-shirt that I had just laid down and forgotten to wash :(   there was dust and junk everywhere.  In fact, I had to schedule another day just to go through and clean and organize the room.  I did not realize what a project I had gotten myself into.  

This is a picture of the inner part of our life.  All of us have a "closet" where we keep our hidden stuff.  We can let the junk, the dust, and the dirty t-shirt collect in our space.  And because we are so busy, we let things accumulate.  We can get so used to the mess, that we let the dirty, smelly t-shirt remain on the floor to stink up all of the clothes.

There is a lesson in this, so I thought I would share it with you :) Three simple points:

1. Our "old" does not compare to God's "new"
It's amazing how we get used to and live with our junk, our addictions, and negative thinking! The truth is that we are scared of change and fearful of new things.  I know I tend to resist change, probably for fear of the unknown.  Truth be told, we are more comfortable with holding on to our security blanket of our familiar junk than reaching for something new and better.  A month ago, I would never have believed that I would be wearing the modern clothes I am now wearing.  Now, I can't imagine wearing the clothes that I USED to wear.  To understand the love, the power, the freedom of God, you have to EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF.  It's something you have to decide to do in your life.  No one can do it for you.

2. Clear out to Clean up
The day I decided I needed to get a hold of my disaster area I call a closet, I thought that in just a few minutes, I could get it in tip-top shape.  However, as I started to clean and organize, I FIRST needed to clear out the old things.  The same is true in our journey with God.  You may be wondering why you are not seeing God's promises and power showing up in your life.  Maybe you need to first look in your closet, and decide that you are going to clear out some junk, some past, some hurts, some addictions.  Better yet, ask God to show you some of the stuff you need to throw away.  You see, you have to first make room for God so bring the new, fresh things that He has for you.  

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Forget the former things;

    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

3. Let God do His thing
See the passage of scripture in Isaiah, "See, I AM doing a new thing Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" See two things in this verse:

First, Remember it is God, and God alone who can bring newness.

Don't think that you are good enough or strong enough to change on your own.  You've tried to break your addictions- but you've failed.  You've tried to stay positive through a tough season - but you've become discouraged.  You've tried to be everyone's problem solver - but you've run out of answers.  It is at the end of your ability that God is waiting to work beautifully in your life.

Secondly, Be prepared for the new thing to be a "NEW THING."

Many times when I go to the store to buy clothes, I am looking for a new pair of jeans that look like the jeans I have on :)  How crazy is that?! Don't be surprised if God does something different that will totally surprise you.  At first, you may say "God, I wouldn't pick that out for me!" But God is saying, "trust me - these jeans will look good on you." :) God knows what you need.  You may not "perceive it".  You may not recognize it at first as being a blessing.  It may not fit right at first.  But once you put it on and walk around in it, you will soon begin to see that it not only fits, it makes you look great.  In fact, when you have a new, great outfit on, you have a whole new sense of identity and confidence! It makes you feel taller, younger, and skinnier! (not always).

Maybe you want the new thing that God has for you, but you are having a hard time understanding what it is.  Maybe for you, you have always known about God, but He has been only a marginal part of your life.

Truth be told, you still have a messy, unorganized closet - full of faded, old clothes.  God has a new life He wants to give you - some new clothes that will change your whole look and feel.  And the great thing is, He will change you, fix you, and provide for all of your needs.  

But before He changes you, He simply wants you to know that He loves you.

God accepts you even with your closet.  God accepts you - the question is: will you accept Him?

To accept Him, pray this simple prayer:

Father, thank you for loving me, just as I am.  I accept your gift of love for me.  Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins and for my closet.  Forgive me of my sin and cleanse me- from the inside out.  Make me a new person.  Take out the old and bring new life.  I trust in You alone to save me and I surrender to your purpose for my life.  

In Jesus' Name.  Amen.