Ready for some football?

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And so it begins.

Another year of setting lineups and managing our pretend teams. Another year of hilarious rituals, memorized chants and victory celebrations. And, yes, another year of grown men dressing up in their favorite team’s colors as if we are participating in some weird seventeen week version of “grownup Halloween.”

Yes, it’s time to start another NFL season and I can’t wait to hear those all familiar words… “Are you ready for some football?!” How about you? You ready? How’s your team gonna do this year? Have you gone through the schedule? Have you picked your wins and loses? Have you circled the key dates? Tell me…are you ready?

Before the first kick-off tonight and all the high fives begin to be exchanged – can I ask something of us? For those of us who follow Jesus, I just have one request…CAN THIS YEAR BE DIFFERENT?

Can we participate in this passion of ours in view of who we are? Can we root for our team without cussing the refs, the other team or our own coaches and players? Can we celebrate a touchdown or a victory without being a pompous jerk to the guy with the other team’s colors on, sitting across the room? Can we honor the humanity of an opposing team’s injured player instead of excitedly anticipating how this might help our team win? Can we allow ourselves to be entertained and still value people over the entertainment?

You see, for all that we put into it, football is simply entertainment. It is some of the most gifted athletes coming together to perform for our enjoyment. So, enjoy it! Scream. Cheer. Yell until you’re hoarse. But remember the people. The athletes, coaches, refs, and fans – they are all people who have intrinsic value. Don’t miss this! See them. Consider their individual stories. Don’t check your identity at the door. Come on…I dare you…watch this year as a Jesus Follower and you’ll never be the same.

So, are you ready for some football?

What do you see?

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Have you ever really considered how you see the world? Why do you notice certain things and completely miss others? Why are you offended by some people and easily accept others by default? What causes your heart to leap in celebration? What moves you to tears? And why are these things different from some of the people around you?

It’s unbelievable how conditioned we are as people. The places we live, the parents we have, the teaching we receive and the experiences of our lives shape us deeply – often far beyond what we realize. These influences in our lives work to shape our reality. Our perception of the way things are and the way things ought to be.

What is amazing is how much of this happens below the surface. Beneath our awareness. It’s so easy to allow ourselves to simply drift through day-to-day, absorbing the ideas and values of our encounters and our culture.

But, what if we live aware, with our eyes wide open? What if we ask authentic questions about why things are the way they are? And what if we turn this vision on ourselves? To our own hearts? What would we find at the core? What have we allowed to become our center? To drive our hearts and our pursuits? What will we find there?

As a Jesus Follower, this has become a huge issue for me. You see, I want to really see! I want to experience the world with awareness and intentionality. I want to encounter people with the eyes of my God. To see them with the love and compassion he has for them. To ache for a world that is broken and to be moved to joy when they find life as it should be.

This kind of vision doesn’t come easily. It takes practice. It requires pursuing the heart of God that we find in Jesus. And it demands that when we find him, we stop and listen deeply. Authentically. Humbly. And invite him to uproot what we have known and who we have become. We will have to be honest with ourselves, often seeing our own lives and pursuits differently. It will change everything.

No, it’s not easy but wow…the indescribable beauty that is revealed when we have eyes that see!

Have you ever answered, “Why?”

I often really struggle with the word, “Why?”

Years ago, when I was still pretty new at the whole parent thing, I couldn’t wait for my child to grow and advance to the next stage. I couldn’t wait to see him roll over…then crawl…then walk and talk. On and on it would go. One thing would be accomplished and then there was always the next thing to anxiously look forward to. Then it happened. The next stage came and I wasn’t at all sure that I was happy about it. In fact, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t. But I knew there was no going back.

My son had advanced from beginning to talk and say a few words to being able to verbally process information. He was beginning to learn about the world and he liked it. In his pursuit of gathering more information, he unfortunately became armed with that one terrible word…”Why?”

Everywhere we went, in all situations and as a part of every conversation, out came that word, “Why?” Sometimes it was sweet and innocent and my precious son would look up at me and say, “Why Daddy?” But other times there was a darker expression. One of rebellion and stubbornness and he would ask with every ounce of defiance he could muster, “But why?”

Now, as my third child is well into his 3’s, I am more prepared for this exchange but still do not care for it. There are some days that I simply don’t want to answer to question and I want to ask him back, “Why do you ask me why so much? Why do you want to know that? Why did you say that? Why? Why? Why?”

But there is another experience I have with this question, quite often. When asked from people who love me, who are leading me, who long to challenge me and see me grow, “Why?” becomes a transforming question. I’m immediately called to the deep places of my heart and pushed toward greater clarity and growth when I’m asked:

> “Why did you choose that?”

> “Why do you want that?”

> “Why are you pursuing that?”

When my wife or a close friend has to courage to ask these questions of me, I am at the same time challenged and deeply loved. In these moments, my motivations are made more clear and the noise in my heart quiets. I can see myself for what I currently am. And I can see the version of myself I desperately want to be.

So, I ask you, “Have you ever answered, ‘Why?’ Why do you believe in God? Why do you love God? Why do you go to church? Why are you involved in ministry? Why do you teach your kids to turn the other check? Why is a life of selflessness and sacrifice better? Why?”

I ask because I really want to know. I ask because I really believe the answers matter. I ask because I believe wrestling with these things can and will change your life. It can be the difference between the brokenness of religion and renewal of authentic relationship.

And so, I ask again, “Why are you a Jesus follower?”