Should You Root For An “Evil” Sports Team? What Makes A Book Last? What Biographies Should You Read?

happyrant1

It’s time for another scorching episode of The Happy Rant. This is a big milestone for us – episode #20. In this episode we talk about:

  • Should you root for a sports team, even if they have somewhat unsavory players? (see: Jameis Winston, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, etc.)
  • What makes a book actually last, as opposed to those that quickly disappear?
  • What are some good biographies that are actually worth reading?

Here’s what you do:

  • Download the podcast in iTunes.
  • PLEASE leave us a rating (it takes two seconds, and it really helps).
  • Listen using the player below if you don’t have iTunes.

When Your Childhood Hero Repents

01155403.JPG

Note: written by my friend Ted Kluck. Ted is the award-winning author of over a dozen books on topics ranging from pro football to the church. This piece is Ted at his finest!

“I can’t believe I still have this,” said a tearful Brian Bosworth in an ESPN 30 for 30 called Brian and the Boz. “This is something I’m not proud of. This is not who I am. And I’ve apologized to my teammates and my school and my coach because of this.”

He is the picture of brokenness and contrition. “If there is one thing I could take back…I would take this back. Sometimes it’s good to have reminders of the mistakes you make…so I’ll keep it.”

He is speaking of a t-shirt emblazoned with “National Communists Against Athletes” which he famously wore to the 1987 Orange Bowl game – a game from which he was suspended because of a positive steroid test.

For the uninitiated, Brian Bosworth was an All-American linebacker at Oklahoma in the mid-80s, a lightning-rod for controversy (more below), owner of a fantastic mullet, and perhaps the first and maybe only genuinely cool white athlete in the 1980s. He created an alter-ego called “The Boz” which became his “brand” (before that term was worn out by a generation of uncool business books) and which he used to gather and market to his “tribe” (see: uncool business books, worn-out terms).

I was a member of his tribe. I bought a copy of his “autobiography” (quotes because it was ghostwritten by a pre-fame Rick Reilly, who was really the first Bill Simmons) and read it all on a trip to the University of Wisconsin where I would attend their summer football camp as a mostly-uncool white linebacker trying desperately to be like my new hero.

Bosworth was ahead of his time inasmuch as he wasn’t okay with the NCAA profiteering from his exploding and very lucrative image while he got nothing. He would have fit right in today, but in 1987 he desecrated the first church of college football. He was never forgiven.

The Boz, today, is known primarily for the mullet, the steroids, getting freight-trained by Bo Jackson and a disappointing NFL career. The sentence that follows will, hopefully, set some of that straight at least for a few readers: The Boz was an exceptionally-good inside linebacker. He could run from sideline to sideline, had great instincts and, were it not for injuries, would have had a very successful NFL career. Brian Bosworth, the linebacker, was not a media creation. He was all football player. He was legitimate.

After his lightning-rod career at Oklahoma, Bosworth was selected in the supplemental draft, signed the richest contract (to that point) in the history of the Seahawks franchise, had a great rookie season in 1987 with Seattle and then fizzled shortly thereafter due to injuries. He then embarked on a series of B-grade action movie appearances and, apparently, very little else. He dropped from the public eye as quickly has he put himself into it in the late 80s.

But that’s not what’s interesting about the documentary. What’s interesting is repentance. There isn’t a shred of bravado or “standing on his own rights” left in Bosworth. What remains is a very humble, genuine, and likeable middle-aged man who drank deeply from the fountain of fame and ego and found that it ruined his life. Now he’s trying to explain all of that to his teenage son, who accompanies him on the documentary as they rifle through boxes of Boz-related memorabilia in a Texas storage facility.

This is a portrayal that should be meaningful for us, as Christians, being that true repentance and brokenness are such a part of our experience in Christ. His tears flow freely in this documentary as he shares his sins with his son. It occurs to me that I’ve never been prouder of a childhood hero.

Some of the film’s participants extend forgiveness. Others don’t. Some understand Bosworth’s contrition. Others don’t.

“There’s more to life than paper clippings, accolades, and rewards,” he says, tearfully. He summed up the era best as he was showing a photograph to his son of himself, in sunglasses, on a media day podium surrounded by reporters shoving microphones in his face. “Awesome,” said his son. “You see ‘awesome’ but I see ‘lost,’” the Boz replies. “I’m up here trying to be a deity. But I’m just a football player.”

Lead Like Coach Wooden

44179_web.sp.10.14.woodenfeature.picao
From my most recent article at WorldMag.com:

John Wooden is the greatest coach in American history. I don’t mean the greatest basketball coach, I mean the greatest coach of anything. His UCLA Bruins won 10 NCAA men’s basketball championships, ran off an 88-game winning streak, and finished four seasons undefeated. But Coach Wooden, who died in 2010 at age 99, wouldn’t have said winning was his greatest accomplishment. He focused on preparation to succeed while developing young men’s character, academics, and athletics. The wins happened because he was so remarkable at doing those things.

What set Wooden apart as a coach was his methodology. It was remarkable for its complete lack of anything remarkable. He didn’t seek to out-strategize or out-scheme anyone. He simply taught his players to be the best at the basics, even so basic as to how they put on their socks while insisting that they always be punctual. He pushed them in practice to the point that games felt like a deceleration, but he made practices fun, too, a privilege for his players. By emphasizing the fundamentals, Wooden’s teams were better prepared than their opponents, always, because they never had to think about or decide anything—they simply executed.

The glue that held all those fundamentals together was Coach Wooden’s character. He was a man of committed and substantive faith in God. Even as a fiercely competitive man, Wooden exemplified and taught respect.

. . .

Bits of Wooden’s wisdom now hang in the offices of CEOs and coaches across the country: “Be quick, but never hurry,” “Little things make big things happen,” “Discipline yourself and others won’t need to,” “Failure is never fatal; failure to change can and might be,” and so many more. We read these and see that they apply to work, church, family, parenting, and so much more. But so few of us actually resemble the calm, sharp, determined, faithful persona of John Wooden. Somewhere along the way we got sidetracked.

. . .

Read the full post HERE.

Eat Your Heart Out Indiana Jones

national-treasure-the-treasure-room

We’ve all seen movies where the hero discovers a cave filled with treasure – Aladdin, Indiana Jones, National Treasure, etc.

There’s always the scene where the hero first walks into the cave or lights a torch that suddenly illuminates the interior of the cave, revealing piles and piles of treasures, gold and jewels and golden urns and crowns and cups. The room is usually vast and the golden piles reach back as far as the eye can see. It would take years and years for the hero to explore the marvels and the riches in the cave, to even begin to fathom the treasures and wealth that is now his.

Well, there’s something better in store for believers in Jesus. A treasure that cannot even be measured. A treasure so vast it will take all eternity for us to explore it. God has given us so much grace and kindness in Jesus that he will be revealing it to us for the coming ages.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. EPH 2:4-7

Did you catch that? in the coming AGES God will show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. How long is an age? Galatians 1:4 tells us that Jesus gave himself to deliver us from “the present evil age.” In Luke 18:30 Jesus says those who follow him will receive eternal life in “the age to come.” So how long is an age? 1000 years? 10,000 years? When we enter heaven God will begin to take us on a tour of the riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ.

After one age of say, 10,000 years of God showing us the immeasurable riches of his grace to us in Jesus, he’ll say, “Well, that’s one age. Time for another one. Here are even more riches of my grace and kindness to you in Jesus. One age won’t be long enough to take in the immeasurable blessings we’ve received in his Son. It will take age after age after age…exploring one heavenly storehouse after another. Eat your heart out, Indiana Jones.

Don’t live for this world. Don’t try to amass a few paltry possessions that are going to rust and decay. Live for the next world. Live for the coming ages. Store up treasure in heaven. Do as much good as you can now. Be zealous for good deeds. Send your treasures ahead. And thank God constantly for the treasures in Christ he has already heaped up for us there.

Is Your Hard Work Displeasing To God? It Just Might Be…

8675285062_0b7caccbf2_k

Is hard work unspiritual? Let’s ask it another way: can you depend on God and at the same time work hard towards a goal? And what about hard work’s fraternal twin, planning? Is it unspiritual to have a ten year growth plan for your church or your business? Consider what James 4 says:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

There’s both a warning and a command here. The warning is simple: when you say, “Tomorrow I will go to New York and sell all my stocks and make a profit,” you have no idea what tomorrow may actually hold. It’s a form of boastful arrogance. But notice the command. It’s not, “So stop planning New York business trips.” Instead it’s a command about how you talk and how you think about your plans. Even such seemingly mundane, worldly things as business trips must be done in awareness of the sovereignty of God. If the Lord wills, you will do such and such.

So back to our original questions. Is it unspiritual, a sign of a lack of dependence on God and an arrogant, boastful heart, to plan and work hard to do business or make a profit? James gives us a conditional answer: not necessarily. What matters is how you plan, how you do your hard work. Let me suggest two ways to both work hard and work humbly.

In all your hard work, remember God is your Creator. Hard working, ambitious people like to confront challenges, analyze them, and overcome them by effort. That’s not a bad thing,– the apostle Paul was all for hard work (see 1 Cor. 15:10 and Col. 1:29)! And it’s especially a good thing when the goal of your hard work is something godly: a job that provides for your family, a nourishing sermon for your church, a business product that meets your customer’s needs. But remember this: successful hard work requires a set of favorable conditions over which you have no control. Here’s what I mean.

Can you guarantee you’ll sleep tonight? How about tomorrow night, and the next? How much will you accomplish this week if insomnia strikes night after night? Three, four, five sleepless nights will completely change your productivity – and you can’t guarantee sound sleep.

Or think about a relatively insignificant area like training for a race. I recently spent eight months getting ready for a race. One day during a trail run I slipped and almost twisted my ankle. I caught myself and wasn’t injured, but I realized in that moment that one loose rock could have derailed all my training plans. The blogs that sell you e-book training plans never mention that!

We could multiply the examples. The list of things that A) we have no control over, and that B) can completely change our plans and hard work is limitless. What does all this point to? We are not our own creators. We didn’t cause our hearts to begin beating, and we can’t keep them beating. We are not in control. But God is. He keeps us, cares for us, sustains us, watches over our going out and our coming in (Psa. 121). That’s what it means to say “It is he who made us, and we are his” (Psa. 100:3). From the tiniest loose rock to the most grievous health challenges, God is in control. If he allows hardship, it will be for a good purpose. But our lives are in his hands, not our own. So plan and work hard towards your plan. But remember as you do that God is your Creator.

In all your hard work, remember God is your Redeemer. This is the antidote for those moments when you’re tempted to survey your accomplishments and think what a valuable Christian you have been for God. Good thing he picked you! Sadly, if we’re honest, at some point we’ll all have thoughts like that. When you do, ask yourself this: if the blood of Christ didn’t cover your parenting, your sermon, your business achievement – would it stand up to the scrutiny of the infallible Judge? Could you stand before the throne of Almighty God and say, “This is free from sin, error, or defect – search away!” Even asking the question reveals how ludicrous a suggestion it is – but asking will deflate the balloon of pride like nothing else will. Don’t stop working hard because your works are tainted by sin. That would mean stopping all parenting, all ministry, all business! But don’t stand boastfully on your accomplishments, either. Remember, God is your Redeemer – and if your good works aren’t redeemed, they’re worse than worthless.

Remember God is your Creator. Remember God is your Redeemer. And then do what he’s called you to do. That’s the road to dependent, spiritual hard work.

Photo by LaurPhil

In Which I Go All PBS On You And Ask You To Help Us Out

help

Yes, this feels like a PBS fund raiser. Yes, this feels awkward. But I’m awkward guy. It’s like a spiritual gift, or something. I can make a person feel awkward in fifteen seconds or less.

I’ve been doing this whole blogging/website thing for 8 years now. I’ve had a whole lot of fun doing it, and have gotten to meet lots of neat people. I really love getting to bless people with writing, music, humor, and podcasts.

As the site has grown, it has cost more money to run the site. The unfortunate reality is, it costs money to keep this site up and running, and it costs money to do podcasting, and it also takes a whole lot of time. Every week, various guys spend hours preparing articles and podcasts for your encouragement.

If you benefit from this site, would you consider becoming a “patron” (wow, that sounds pretentious)? If you would be willing to give one dollar per month, that would be absolutely awesome. If everyone who visits this site were willing to give a dollar a month, we would more than cover our costs. It would also help me to effectively support my family.

I’m determined to keep this site free. I love being able to bless, encourage, and build up the broader body of Christ. I love being able to make people smile. We will carry on, regardless. But, if you would be willing to help, I would be super, super, super, super grateful.

If you’re willing to help out, you can do so here.

Okay, Captain Awkward out.

Saturday Giveaway: Win Two Matt Chandler Books!

About the Giveaway

In case you have never participated in a Punchtab giveaway, here’s what you need to know:

The Prize

The Explicit Gospel and To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday, November 21st and the collection will be sent to the winner’s Logos account. Don’t have an account? No problem! You can sign up for free here and download free apps to read your books on any device here.

How to Enter

Login below with your email address or Facebook account and follow the steps in the widget. That’s it! Each prompted action you follow will earn you additional entries. You can always come back and share a link to the giveaway with your friends for additional entries.

*Disclaimer

By entering this giveaway you consent to being signed up to Logos’ “personalized offers” email list. You’ll receive emails from Logos based on your interests.

Moving Beyond Swear Word Checklists When Watching Movies

high_angle_view_of_group_of_spectators_sitting_in_a_movie_theater_wearing_3-d_glasses_1574R-013028B

Note: Ted Kluck and I wrote this together. Actually, Ted wrote almost all of this. I just made a few snide remarks and a few profound points. My notes are all in italics.

Being that dystopian future movies are all the rage, we recently took a Netflix-flyer on a film called “Snowpiercer”, which concerned a future in which everyone on earth was frozen to death (in a global-warming experiment gone awry) except for a few hundred people who managed to get a berth on a train that (stay with me) runs forever and keeps everyone alive. Needless to say there’s a lot of willing suspension of disbelief going on in this movie.

Okay, I know Ted is going to talk about this in a little bit, but I’m that annoying kid in class who was always answering questions before they were asked. Can we talk for just a moment about why dystopian future movies are all the rage? Hunger Games. World War Z. The Walking Dead (technically a television show). Left Behind. Left Behind Remixed, starring Nicolas Cage. Why is it that everyone is so infatuated with the apocalypse? I suspect it is because the apocalypse is much easier to imagine than a utopia. I look around and I see ISIS, Ebola, and global warming, and it sort of does feel like the world is coming to an end. The simple fact is: it’s easier to be gloomy than hopeful. In the face of the onslaught of gloom and doom, Christians should be the most hopeful people alive. Yes, the Prince of Darkness does appear to be grim, but we tremble not for him. Why? His doom is sure. King Jesus will return, place his foot upon the skull of Satan, and press down firmly. Boom. Evil is over. New heavens and new earth. Dystopia destroyed.

The movie stars a very “meh” Chris Evans, an awesome-as-usual Ed Harris, a creepy John Hurt, and a making-a-career-out-of-not-being-afraid-to-be-ugly Tilda Swinton. Not surprisingly Evans, who is the only good-looking poor person on the train, leads an uprising which, after lots of fighting and bloodshed, leads him to the front of the train. It is kind of a class-struggle movie meets “Braveheart,” except that the Evans character does a lot less self-conscious bloviating than William Wallace but probably just as much killing.

(I like William Wallace’s bloviating. They may be able to take my life, but they can’t take my freedom. Take that bloviation to the bank.)

The movie was good, but that’s not the point. The point is that it made us think about how to watch movies. “I wonder why people love dystopian future movies so much?” my wife asked.

“Maybe because they all have a sense that it’s not working and it all has to come to an end at some point,” I posit (Posit? Did you go behind my back and spend thousands of dollars at a small liberal arts school to get a useless degree in philosophy?) . “But this was really a movie about man’s total depravity.”

Which led to another really good conversation that I won’t bore you with the details of. But it occurred to both of us that “Christians watching movies” should encompass more than just checking a website to see how many cigarettes are smoked (exactly two in “Snowpiercer”), how many f-bombs are dropped (a few), and how many breasts appear (zero).

Too often we simply want to go through a moral checklist rather than digging deep and getting to the heart of the matter. We resort to counting the number of curse words and amount of violence instead of digging deep into what the movie says about life, God, me, goodness. We zoom in on the minute details of a movie and then neglect to examine how the film affects our desires and dreams and passions. If we’re truly going to watch God when we watch movies, we need to establish some big picture principles before we create swear word checklists. What are some of those principles?

Here are a few simple guidelines:

  1. Cultivate a conscience and listen to it. I think watching movies as a Christian is about more than just avoiding the wrong things but…it’s still important to avoid those things which might cause us to stumble. For example, I don’t feel like I’m more likely to cleave somebody in half as a result of watching “Snowpiercer.”

It’s helpful to identify “temptation triggers”. In other words, is watching a particular show or movie going to tempt you to participate in sin? Watching Breaking Bad doesn’t tempt me to make meth. Watching Californication probably would tempt me to lust. This is a wisdom issue. Wisdom is about knowing how to make God-honoring choices in a morally gray world. Know your heart, then steer clear of the pitfalls.

  1. Surround yourself with people who care about your conscience. This one is self-explanatory, but my wife and my friends know the kinds of movies that make me uncomfortable and I’m really thankful for that.

Movies that make me uncomfortable:

  • Anything written by Nicholas Sparks.
  • Comedies starring Adam Sandler. Honestly, why do people think he is so funny?
  • Christian movies.
  • Movies starring Michael W. Smith (yes, he was in a movie).
  • Movies where the trailer contains the phrase, “Only one man…”
  1. Watch movies in light of your Christian worldview. As I watched “Snowpiercer” I couldn’t help but try to think where I would be, as a Christian, in that scenario. How would I worship? How would I struggle? Could I, in good conscience, cleave anyone in half?

Other helpful questions to ask: What does this movie say about God? What does this movie say about what constitutes the good life? What does this movie say about the culture I live in, and how does the gospel speak to that culture? Does this movie glorify something God detests? Can I give thanks to God for this movie?

  1. Don’t be a pompous windbag about movies, but don’t be dumb about them either. There’s a happy medium between “Tree of Life” and “Sextape.” At some level it’s up to us to find that medium. I try hard not to turn every movie into an academic exercise (because, let’s face it, nobody in my life wants that), but I also really like “debriefing” the movies with interesting/thoughtful people.

When it comes to “interesting” and “thoughtful”, I think we all know who you’re talking about.

Ted’s responses:

  1. My worthless liberal arts degree was in creative writing.
  2. I was talking about my wife (re: interesting and thoughtful)
  3. Sandler is funny because he can somehow pull off the “idiot with a heart of gold” thing. People like that.
  4. Mel Gibson/Wallace’s bloviating led to a lot of residual chest-thumping and bloviating by otherwise wimpy evangelical guys in the late 90s and early 2000s…all of which just struck me as a little sad/funny. Which begs a more interesting question: Why are basically wimpy people so drawn to tough/aggressive/macho people in the movies? Could be another blog post in that…