Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Soccer and Life Story: A Coach, A Team, A Championship...

Two years ago I read for the first time Donald Miller's exceptional book A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS...I was grabbed not just my Miller's retelling of his fascinating life journey, but more so by the book's main idea that God invites us, calls us, often pleads with us to actually live a better a life's one thing to dream it, but another thing to passionately and purposefully pursue it...the book's central themes and ideas fit well with the curriculum we've been putting together for our first year experience course and it now is the summer pre-read for all incoming CU students as we invite them to conside the kind of story they are going to write and live during their time as college students...

I was talking one day with our men's soccer coach here at CU who happens to be one of my best friends and gave him an extra copy I had in the office to read...he resonated with Miller's words and decided to send out a copy to each of our returning and incoming soccer players to read before we began our fall 2011 season together...there was a hope, a belief, a prayer that God would write new stories in the lives of all players as each CU soccer guy would daily choose to live out the story of being a Kopion team together...

Last night there was what I would call the first ending to the story that is CU soccer 2011 version...we clinched the first WHAC regular season championship in a few long years and as a group giddily celebrated a rather extraordinary run of soccer over the last month of was to be honest a bit of a twist in the story that seemingly was being written when we had a 2-5 record heading to a game in Cedarville, OHIO...the story leading to a conference title featured highlight wins against Aquinas and Davenport teams that had ruined previous seasons and a commitment to hard work and playing one's roles that raised our level of play to one that simply sucked the life out of opponent after opponent...and there is much more to go...the story is not finished and our final game hasn't yet been played...and who doesn't love a story with post-season drama and excitement?

But the story of our soccer community is about much more than just a 9 game winning streak and a string of shutout victories...this particular soccer story is also about individual life stories where the hand of God has been at work changing and moving in His team at CU...there are the stories of these guys who make up this very special group of young men:

*a winger whose commitment to keep working and playing with a reckless energy enabled him to score some of the biggest goals of the year...
*two central midfielders from Canada who rejoined our team and immediately gave us life and skill and a huge dose of fun as they combined with a wonderfully gifted kid whose chose CU over bigger programs to form a remarkable midfield presence...
*a rock solid group of defenders who became a literal wall that couldn't be taken down thanks to backs who refused to make mistakes and a keeper who just kept the ball from hitting the ned inside his goal mouth home...
*a former MLS player who chooses to invest his significant soccer mind and experiences as a coach in the lives of NAIA players because he believes so much in them and this little soccer program in Grand Rapids, MI...
*a host of guys who compete every day in our training sessions and are able to come through with moments of meaningful play when asked to do so and can rejoice with the team's success in the times when they aren't personally out on the pitch...
*and a relentless senior striker whose return from ACL surgery this year has meant so much as he leads with example, encouragement, and faith in the idea that God has even more in store for us than what we could have imagined as he keeps putting the ball into the back of the net...

And as I read in my mind again the story of this team there is a larger story that overshadows many other is the story of a coach who never wants to take the spotlight off his players and even in 2011 hasn't really wanted to get attention or sympathy despite a dramatic life and faith challenge in his own life...when Mark was laying in a hospital bed suffering after a colon cancer surgery operation that was completely unexpected, I know he was wondering what in the world kind of story was being written in his life and the soccer program he's invested so deeply in as its leader...there were and continue to be moments of fear and confusion and struggle as he attempted to walk the very long road of recovery...we were walking to our cars after this fabulous night at Davenport saying to each other, "Who could have imagined this night six months ago?" And as I drove away from the lighted field I thought to myself, "I think only Jesus could have imagined such joy in moments of deep pain and sorrow..." I love the way that the themes of redemption and restoration are so clearly present in the text of the Scriptures, and God has indeed is redeeming even cancer in Mark's life and restoring his health and family and his team through the peace and provision of the Holy Spirit...One of Mark's favorite verses is I Corinthians 15:58 where the Apostle Paul writes, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." CU soccer is very much the story of coach who has imprinted his Kopion spirit upon a team this year as they have stood firm together to fully pursue a better story as a follower of Jesus and a Christian soccer squad...

And as is almost always the case for those watching the hand of God at work in the lives of people in their world and especially for me when soccer is involved, the story of this particular group of guys is personal...simply put, they add depth and meaning and joy and stress and abundant life to my own life story and those closest to me...there's no group of guys and no team my 8 year old would rather cheer for; there's nothing quite like serving together among God's people near and far as His sports ambassadors; there's a unique life transformation that will happen for thousands of Zambians who will escape malaria's curse because of a new CU tradition called NIGHT OF NETS; and I have a remarkable community of men where I experience the love and friendship of the body of Christ as we travel to games, eat meals together, practice and play, and even win a championship...

So this is the story being written on a 75 by 120 yard piece of grass this fall on our campus, the story being written in the lives of college students who are bonded together as teammates playing the game all the world adores, the story of hope and healing reaching into a long time coach's life whose story is so very different than it was just one season ago...and that's what I celebrate and write about tonight...the very real reality that the author this remarkable soccer story isn't finished writing yet..and we aren't done living by any means...I can't wait to see and read and experience the final chapters this fall and in the days and years to come...

Monday, October 24, 2011

20 Points on Leading Millenials by Brad Lomenick at CATALYST

Here's some great thoughts from a leader whose about my age as we all work at empowering and engaging those dynamic under 30 year olds we get to lead and watch lead every day...

1. Give them freedom with their schedule. I’ll admit, this one is tough for me.

2. Provide them projects, not a career. Career is just not the same anymore. They desire options. Just like free agents.

3. Create a family environment. Work, family and social are all intertwined, so make sure the work environment is experiential and family oriented. Everything is connected.

4. Cause is important. Tie in compassion and justice to the “normal.” Causes and opportunities to give back are important.

5. Embrace social media. it’s here to stay.

6. They are more tech savvy than any other generation ever. Technology is the norm. XBOX, iPhones, laptops, iPads are just normal. If you want a response, text first, then call. Or DM first. Or send a Facebook message. Not anti calls though.

7. Lead each person uniquely. Don’t create standards or rules that apply to everyone. Customize your approach. (I’ll admit, this one is difficult too!)

8. Make authenticity and honesty the standard for your corporate culture. Millenials are cynical at their core, and don’t trust someone just because they are in charge.

9. Millenials are not as interested in “climbing the corporate ladder.” But instead more concerned about making a difference and leaving their mark.

10. Give them opportunities early with major responsibility. They don’t want to wait their turn. Want to make a difference now. And will find an outlet for influence and responsibility somewhere else if you don’t give it to them. Empower them early and often.

11. All about the larger win, not the personal small gain. Young leaders in general have an abundance mentality instead of scarcity mentality.

12. Partnering and collaboration are important. Not interested in drawing lines. Collaboration is the new currency, along with generosity.

13. Not about working for a personality. Not interested in laboring long hours to build a temporal kingdom for one person. But will work their guts out for a cause and vision bigger than themselves.

14. Deeply desire mentoring, learning and discipleship. Many older leaders think millenials aren’t interested in generational wisdom transfer. Not true at all. Younger leaders are hungry for mentoring and discipleship, so build it into your organizational environment.

15. Coach them and encourage them. They want to gain wisdom through experience. Come alongside them don’t just tell them what to do.

16. Create opportunities for quality time- individually and corporately. They want to be led by example, and not just by words.

17. Hold them accountable. They want to be held accountable by those who are living it out. Measure them and give them constant feedback.

18. They’ve been exposed to just about everything, so the sky is the limit in their minds. Older leaders have to understand younger leaders have a much broader and global perspective, which makes wowing Millenials much more difficult.

19. Recognize their values, not just their strengths. It ain’t just about the skillz baby. Don’t use them without truly knowing them.

20. Provide a system that creates stability. Clear expectations with the freedom to succeed, and providing stability on the emotional, financial, and organizational side.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Christians Are Not in a Culture War by LAURA ZIESEL in Relevant Magazine

Here's a pretty thought provoking article exploring both sides of our "countercultural calling."

“The church has been called to counter and bless the culture.” - Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

"[The church should be] unapologetically countercultural in our teaching of the Scriptures.” - Mark Chanski

We are gridlocked in a stubborn culture war. But I want to address the issue of being "called" to be countercultural. Opposing “the culture of the day” is often something I have heard we should do as Christians. But what does that mean?

Both of the above quotes seem to indicate a lack of understanding regarding the fact that we live among dozens of cultures as Americans. Shall we simultaneously be countercultural to each separate culture? That’s quite difficult since they are often opposed to one another.

It is implied that Christians should be countercultural regardless of what values are upheld by the culture. But acting in that way only encourages pride, stunts the growth of the Church and ignores the Spirit of God at work among all peoples. In fact, the Church can learn a lot from non-Christians—and if non-Christians agree en masse about something, that's called culture. And sometimes non-Christian culture is right.

Many cultures without the influence of the Church, for instance, are right about the importance of respect for their elders. Other cultures are right about personal liberty in the face of oppression. So to be blindly countercultural ignores the image of God emblazoned on each and every culture. Somewhere in each culture, He's there. We must learn to recognize those aspects, learn from them and use them as inroads for the Gospel.

Perhaps more embedded in the countercultural stance of the Church is the message that “you non-Christians” and not “us Christians” are full of worldly culture. A false dichotomy is established: “You” need redeeming while “we” are agents of redemption. The implication is that either a) the Church is cultureless or b) the Church has its own holy culture and that, because of a) and b), the Church is susceptible to the disease of contemporary culture and must always fight it.

And that is a major problem.

It is not true that the Church is cultureless. Culture is everywhere, even in God’s established Church. When tutoring some middle school students years ago, they asked me to define the word culture. The best thing I could come up with on the spot was the explanation that culture is those things in your life that seem normal to your family or friends but abnormal to other people. That isn’t the most sophisticated definition of culture, but I think it is helpful. The Church is full of behaviors and values that are abnormal to people outside (and often inside) our community. To say that any group of human beings can be cultureless is to be ignorant of what culture is.

In addition, it is impossible for the Church to be culturally holy. My argument for this is not theological as much as it is practical. The global Church is multicultural, and many of the cultures among our own brothers and sisters are contradictory to one another. Cultures within the American church alone oppose one another. On a global scale, the differences among cultures of the Church are overwhelming. So which one is right? American middle-class Southern Baptist culture? New England upper-class Presbyterian (PCA) culture? Kenyan poverty-escaping Pentecostal culture? Chinese house-church culture? They certainly don’t all agree.

I wholeheartedly agree that the Church is susceptible to the influence of worldly culture. But I disagree just as wholeheartedly that worldly culture is “out there” and is advancing into the Church unless we fight it. Because the Church is culturally imperfect just as the world is. So the problem with our view of the disease of culture is not that it exists, but where it exists. The Church should be made up of people who point to themselves and say: "Me. It's me. I am the problem with the world."

When Christians, as His representatives on Earth, fail to recognize the sin in our own hearts, even the cultural sin, we mar His image and bring ill repute to His name. Yes, there is sin in the world that we should fight. But we must always look to find the sin in ourselves first. When pastors, authors and teachers encourage us to counter contemporary culture without regard for the broken cultures within the Church, we look like a bunch of finger-pointing hypocrites.

I agree completely that the Church should be outside of culture, and even counter to it at times. But being countercultural should not be the aim of Christians and Christian teaching. We should be advancing God’s redemption first into our own hearts and then into the heart of each and every culture on the globe. But God’s redemption certainly doesn’t look like the exact opposite of whatever culture you are in. To be blindly countercultural regardless of the context is to make an idol of culture by shaping the Gospel around it instead of shaping our cultures around the Gospel.

Instead of simply being countercultural, Christians must counter the fallen and broken aspects of all cultures, even Church cultures. But while you do so, honor and build upon the redemptive glimpses of God you find.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Global Hunger Examined...Thoughts I Shared at our Feasting and Famine Event

Global Hunger Conversation Notes

1. Two different conversations taking place around the world:
a. What should I eat?
b. How can I keep from starving?
c. World produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17% more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago. Can provide 2720 kilocalories per person per day for all in world. We will need to double food production by 2050 to meet global food needs…

2. Hunger – issue is Malnutrition… lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health…lack of food that provides energy…
a. Children who survive early malnutrition suffer irreversible harm- poor physical growth/compromised immune function/impaired cognitive abilities

3. Causes of Hunger:
a. Poverty – between 1.3 and 1.4 billion people in extreme poverty… living on $1.25 a day or less
b. Economic Challenges – high food (consumer demand increases) prices (maize, wheat, rice, soybeans@ 40% higher than in 2007); rising fuel costs to transport food and water; global recession; poor agricultural challenges and methods…
c. Conflict – over 12 million displaced refugees globally due to wars and violence…
d. Climate Issues – environmental patterns may be changing… increased levels of drought, flooding, and climatic pattern irregularities…
e. Hunger Itself – poor health, low energy levels, mental impairments as hungry people can lead to greater poverty by reducing people’s abilities to work and learn…

The reality of Hunger Globally & Locally

1. Globally:
a. In 2010, it was estimated that 925 million people suffer globally from hunger – spike upward…1 in 7 people in our world today
b. About 3 million children die each year from things directly connected to malnutrition issues… children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness per year.
c. Countries with high levels of childhood malnutrition, economic loss can be 2-3% of GDP
d. Global Hunger Index: 3 Key Factors… (2010)
e. Prevalence of underweight children; proportion of undernourished kids; and the under-5 mortality rate
f. Top 15 rates: 13 nations in Sub-Saharan Africa; Haiti and Yemen outside Africa
g. The Thousand day Window of Opportunity: Conception to age 2 is huge!!

2. Locally/In USA:
a. 15% of households, more than 50 million Americans, struggle to put enough food on table for families today…
b. ¼ kids at risk for hunger… 1/3 for African-American and Latino children
c. 20 million kids receive free or reduced price lunches each day
d. 100,000 people classified in Kent County as food insecure (600,000 people)
e. $4.37 per day per person if you are living on food stamps---$135/month

The Famine in Horn of Africa
Job 5:10-11… He provides rain for the earth; he sends water to the countryside. The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety…

1. What is a Famine?
a. Acute malnutrition levels/rates among kids exceed 30%
b. 2 deaths per 10,000 per day or 4 under age 5 deaths per 10,000 per day
c. At least 20% of households facing extreme food shortages

2. Current Famine Reality: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania
a. 13.5 million people being stalked by hunger/ 35% of all children facing emergency levels of malnutrition
b. Water prices have increased more than 300% - families selling assets and going into debt to get clean water/food.
c. Animals and humans getting water from same place spreading diseases--Dying livestock, as high as 40-60% in localized areas
d. ¼ of Somalia’s 7.5 million people is displaced
e. 1500 refugees daily waiting to register at Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, with over 400,000 people now living there – 3rd largest city in Kenya
f. Maize, staple food in Kenya, is currently priced 80-120% about normal, while projected harvest remains 30% below normal…
g. Historic levels of drought – some areas without measureable rainfall for several years
h. Children and adults now much more likely to die now from diseases like: malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles…because of malnutrition issues…

3. Prayers to Pray:
a. End to drought – rain enabling food to grow and wells to be filled
b. Delivery of aid and implementation of long-term solutions
c. Pray for malnourished children and their families
d. Peace and good systems to deliver help in these days.

A Final Hunger Memory: Eating Porridge at Pre-School in Zambia…

Monday, October 10, 2011

DOES GOD REALLY CARE ABOUT SPORTS?...Some Thoughts Shared in Chapel at CU

7 Reasons I Think He Does…
Reflections from a life-long sports junkie…

*163 million people watched the 2011 Super Bowl while only 132 million people voted in the most recent presidential election of 2008.
*The 50 highest-paid athletes earned a combined $1.4 billion, or $28 million average in 2010
*Over 2.5 billion people watched some of the action on the field in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa
*In 2006, Americans spent over $17 billion dollars on tickets to sports contests and $90 billion dollars on sporting goods, over double what was spent on books. ($42 billion) The magazine Sports Illustrated sells as many copies in a month as To Kill a Mockingbird has sold since it was published in 1960.

REASON#1: We find joy in doing what we were created to do...

ROMANS 12:6-8: In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

REASON#2: We experience community as we cheer our teams...

HEBREWS 10:25...And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

REASON#3: Sports offers a dynamic place of Kingdom impact and witness through the influence of the athletic platform...

I CORINTHIANS 9:22-23...I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

REASON#4: Real character is modeled and displayed in the crucible of competition...

I PETER 1:7...These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

REASON#5: We get to reflect on what we are truly passionate about and the level of engagement we have with certain things in our lives in comparison to others...

COLOSSIANS 3:2...Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things..

REASON#6: There is great learning and growing thru the challenges and risks and disappointments found in athletics...

ROMANS 5:3-5...We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

REASON#7: We often come to the realization that all things are spiritual and each thing in our lives matters to God

COLOSSIANS 3:17...And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down barriers. It laughs in the face of discrimination.“