Thursday, November 24, 2016

The wheelchair was filthy as was her clothing. Read her story here. It's got a good ending.

She jerked her head back and forth unnaturally, not to the rhythm of the beat, but to the madness in her mind.  On each trip backward, she opened her mouth wide and emitted a wail of nothingness, not anger, sadness, elation, or discouragement.

The girl was severely handicapped and accompanied by her tired grandmother and a young nephew.  The embarrassed lady shushed and quieted her while the boy pushed her wheelchair and goaded her into wailing more loudly and more often.  The trio shopped in the little pantry that distributed food to the needy of our county.  It was hard to hide their presence.

The wheelchair was filthy as were her clothing.  When her mouth gaped, it revealed teeth that were brown and black and sorely in need of care.  Her eyes were unfocused and whatever they were looking for, it certainly was not next to the pork and beans on the back shelf.  She sat at an odd angle in the wheelchair, her shoes were untied. The boy was not all that careful about the path on which he pushed, resulting in collisions with the shelves filled with laundry soap, lettuce, and lemons.  Her mind did not appear capable of responding to conservation or even obvious details of her surroundings.  She just did not understand.

We helped them through the pantry, but our feeble efforts were really not needed, as they moved quickly through the food available two days before Thanksgiving.  The selection was a little different that day, as some holiday staples were added to the usual mix.  Towards the end, the family struggled to move around other shoppers waiting to turn the corner, and weariness and impatience lined the face of the grandmother and the faces of the other patrons.  We bagged her selection quickly, wished them all a Happy Thanksgiving and God's blessings and helped them on their way.

I don't know where they live, what they drive, or who they'll go home to.  But I can tell you for certain, this young lady will not have a Happy Thanksgiving.

I wonder why God allows girls and families to suffer.  As I've volunteered at this charity, I've talked to addicts from 18 to 75.  I've helped the mentally ill and the criminally active.  I've shared Jesus Christ with some and prayed with many.  I wonder about those who are my age that must depend on charities for sustenance.  I wonder.

Friends of mine are quick to counsel, explaining that God has a plan.  It's easy to say that when bank accounts are full, homes are warm, and faces are friendly.  It's not as if I don't agree, He does have a plan.  But when I'm serving right in the middle of the mess, I wish his plan would be executed quickly and ferociously.  I wonder and I wish.

There is one certainty that I never wonder about, and the awe and humility it gives me was startling that day.  This girl with her stringy hair, feeble mind, lack of control, and filthy clothes will one day be transformed.  It caused me to pause that day as I've never done before.  Do you believe, as scripture tells us, in heaven, the least will be the greatest, and the greatest will be least?  Do you believe that it truly is the kingdom upside down?  Well, if you do, let me paint a picture for you then.

On the day when our Lord returns we'll see a wheelchair bound girl with no control, who wears someone else's discarded clothes unwashed, who cannot utter a sentence of her own, who drools incessantly, whose teeth rot in her mouth, who rarely has her hair brushed or combed, and who is shunned by almost everyone she meets.  We'll see her all right.  But in a wondrous instant, she will be radiant, clothed in splendor, with perfectly fitted white clothing, clean and bright.    Her smile will be filled with straight white teeth and it will light up the heavens.  She'll have a focused gaze on her Lord, her wails will be replaced with shouts of joy and songs of praise.  Her mind will be clear and sharp and precise and full of knowledge.  She'll be welcomed by all and loved by everyone.  She'll not have to depend on anyone but God.  She, finally, will be home.  And heaven.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, look forward to what awaits you Christ-follower,  but serve mightily while you're here, the lowly ones you meet will one day be great in the eyes of God.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I was a state champion (it's the truth and it's a lie)

Embellishment and omission are the presentable cousins of the bald-faced lie.  We dress them up and take them out and show them to our friends sometimes.  These cousins, if we allow, make us into someone we're not.  We're not sure we like who we are, so sometimes we pretend we're someone we're not.  Wouldn't it be easier to be comfortable in our own breeches?  

I was a state champion. It happened in 1984 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I was a decent racquetball player.  I won three university intramural men's singles championships, and one in doubles.  The state championship that year was held in Tulsa and I won.  I've got the dusty Oklahoma-shaped trophy to prove it.
OK.  Here's where I'd like to end my post, but if I did, I'd be dragging out a cousin or two myself.

Truth be told, I did win the state championship, but with the important qualifier that it was in the men's D bracket. Players selected 1 of 5 brackets.  The Open bracket was reserved for players of the highest caliber.  Not professionals, but any amateur that played at the very highest level nationwide.  A, B, C, D were the other brackets.  The A players were athletes that

played sports collegiately or at least could have.  The B, C, and D brackets represented different levels of ability and effort.  When I look back at winning the "D" state championship, I believe I gave 95% effort, and had 75% of the skill of other players at my level.  I only say this, because the time-honored cliche, "I gave 110%," is just another cousin.  I won a tournament or two at the "C" level, but only when some of the best players did not compete. I played close to the highest level for my ability, but not in a million years could I have ever won an Open, A or B tournament.

So if I was to just tell you, "I won the 1984 Oklahoma racquetball state championship," you would be left to figure out what that meant.  You might look at me and wonder how a skinny beanpole could have done that, or you might admire me for what I had done, even if I really hadn't done it at the level you thought.   Without the important qualifier, what you conclude established the level of my lying.  Yep, that's what it is.  The failure to speak accurately is no better than a lie.

Now, all that being said, wouldn't it just be easier to represent ourselves accurately to everyone we meet?  Wouldn't it be easier to interview if our resumes didn't embellish what we've actually accomplished?  Apart from trusting Christ as Your savior, the most important thing you will ever do is to have a realistic and accurate self appraisal of who you are.  Let me give you an example.

Lelisa Desisa won the 2015 Boston Marathon.He is a marathoner of the highest order, capable of a world record in the near future.  His time was 2:09:17 or about 129 minutes.  A marathon is 26 miles, 385 yards, or 26.22 miles.  His average pace for the entire marathon held in Boston was 4 minutes, 55 seconds per mile.  Other marathons have been run at a pace under 4 minutes, 50 seconds per mile.  That should cause mere mortals to pause.

I'm no athlete.  The best mile I've ever run in my life was slightly less than 6 minutes.  And that was just one mile.  I was exhausted when I was done.  I could train until the year 2525 and I could never match Desisa's feat this year at Boston.

I have never dunked a basketball, I've never hit a home run over a fence, I've never made tacklers miss.  I've never made a hole-in-one, but I have made two or three eagles.  I'm aging quickly and my back hurts most the time.  But I enjoy competition.  I like pickup basketball, I like tennis, soccer, and jogging from time to time.  For all these, the key is..I compete with those near or at my own talent level.  I don't try to pretend that I'm someone I'm not.

And that my friends is the one of the keys to being happy.  You certainly don't have to be content with what you've done , but you really need to be content with you are.  To be fulfilled in Christ means to trust that He made you exactly like He wanted you to be.

So if we're equipped with perspective, sometimes we still may tend towards despair.  Your spirals may not be Bradyesque, your jump shot is probably not Jordan-like, and your stride is not worthy of Desisa.  Even with the immense distance between ourselves and the very best in these pursuits, I can tell you something very important.  You can be the very best at something that matters most.

In our lives, if we pray diligently, God will present moments to us that are divine.  Bill Bright used to say, "Thirty seconds alone with anyone is a divine appointment."  In His perfect way, you will find yourself in encounters with people you may have just met or may have known for years.  In those moments, with his prompting, you are the perfect person to show God's love to them.  Better yet, take a risk and explain that the depth of God's love is Jesus Christ. Ask for just a minute to share your story.  At this moment, this perfect, beautiful moment, you are the very best in the world to accomplish this task.  God has picked you over all the others to communicate His truth.  You're a world-class athlete for Jesus.  

So today, lace up your Asics and get going.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Multiple choice Christianity - avoiding the wrong answer

In a properly written multiple choice test question, the question must have one choice that is completely correct, and three choices that are completely incorrect, but plausible with a common mistake or misconception in thought.  You can't have choices that contradict the question asked, so if you describe a situation and ask what the effect is, a choice cannot state "no effect" unless in the question you use the following phrase, "What is the effect (if any)..."  If this is properly done, the "no effect" choice is plausible if the student wrongly assesses key information and decides that nothing needs to be done.  Did you get that?  The student WRONGLY ASSESSES readily available information and decides that the best course of action is to DO NOTHING.  Now in my world, that's OK, because there's more than just one question on an examination. In fact, on examinations written at the end of a course, sometimes there's a hundred questions, and wrong thinking on one alone will not damage the test-taker.

In the Christian life, this problem is removed.  Know why?  Because I can say that the best course of action is NEVER to do nothing.  There's always something to do, unfortunately, our choices of what to do with our free time frequently lead us to the place of no impact, of impotence in the faith.  Let me explain.

In the lives of most everyone I know, there is dreadful busyness.  There's 168 hours in a week, of which most of us sleep 50.  With the 118 hours that are left, we work 50, leaving 68.  Out of those remaining hours, we brush our teeth (at least I hope we do ), take showers, use the bathroom, eat, watch television, use social media, shop, talk, drive to restaurants, eat meals out, attend movies and concerts, cut grass, wash cars, and who knows what else?  For the religious sort, we can throw in church attendance, bible studies, potlucks, and a few other activities.

There is a problem here, and it's the priorities that we make.  If I read my New Testament correctly, the life of the Christ-follower involves the study of scripture, prayer as modeled by Christ and his disciples, fellowship with other believers, and love and care for our families.  There's others.  With the knowledge and wisdom we have gained, we then are commanded to love, serve, feed, clothe, visit, those who are "the least of these."  We are trusted to tell others about the free and life-changing love of Jesus Christ.  We show Christ's love to others in all these ways, and as a result, we change lives through His power little by little, one at a time.

That's the model we're supposed to follow.  But we don't.  We choose the "if any" option, or worse yet, we are passionate about things of far less importance.  Let me give you a few examples.

Many worry incessantly about the direction of our nation, while neglecting the power within us to help hearts change one at a time.

Many identify with a cause, a political party, or a ideology, much more frequently than they identify with Christ.

Many would rather engage a person in an argument over rights, politics, or laws than have a conversation about the One who saved their soul.

Many would clamor about the potential for their rights being violated rather than stand up and defend someone whose rights who are actually being violated.

Many try to change the moral values of those far from Christ, without taking the time to become a friend who can introduce them to Christ.

You see, these behaviors are the results of misplaced priorities, a lack of time, and a skewed direction.  No one in their right mind would claim that Jesus Christ fought for His personal rights, battled for the direction of a nation, joined forces with a political party, or eloquently debated laws with others.  No one would claim that Jesus told people to clean up their lives before they spoke with Him.  Yet, as Christ-followers, some unfortunately spend much of their time doing this. It is fruitless nonsense.

What little time we have in our weeks can be better spent.  Let me give you a few things to try.  You won't believe how much your life will change if you start serving others.

1.  Find a single mom  or a family suffering hard times and ask them how you can help this week.  Do Do they need their car washed or grass cut?

2.  Go to a store, a fast food restaurant, or a mall and find a person who is completely different from you to talk to.  Find out five things about them, then ask them if you can pray for them.  This may take all of fifteen minutes.

3.  Contact someone in your community who runs a food pantry, a shelter for abused women, or a crisis pregnancy center.  Take the necessary steps to become a volunteer.

4.  With your family, do a bible study on the actual activities that Christ and the disciples spent their time doing.  Pick one or two of these and actually do them.  WARNING:  They never watched MSNBC or Fox News and griped about politics.  SECOND WARNING:  You probably don't have the power to heal with a touch or make food magically appear.  You may want to start out with feeding the hungry.

5.  Have a conversation about the weather with someone and see if you can change the direction of the conversation to how you came to know Christ.

You see, my Christian friends, you only have a short time each day and only a few years on this earth to make a difference for Jesus Christ.  Please start today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Tragedy of Indifference or the Beauty of Love - Your Choice

In the 1993 film, "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray is cast as Phil, an obnoxious, self-absorbed weatherman sent to Punxsutawney, PA, to cover the iconic groundhog and his special day. Unbeknownst to him, he and his crew are caught in an endless loop of Groundhog Day, driving him to bizarre acts and even suicide...none of which have any effect on his stay in this town.  Eventually, Phil begins to make changes to his life and to consider the well-being of others, and at the end of the film, the time-loop is broken and life resumes.

Groundhog Day is a beautifully written and directed film that has had vast audiences and remains popular even today.  It reflects a sad life, missed opportunities, shattered dreams, and redemption. Unfortunately, many Christ-followers are stuck in an endless Groundhog Day loop, rendering them ineffective for ministry and for loving others in the world around them.

The principle is this.  The bible says that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  I like to say it like this...Acquiring knowledge without applying its principles results in arrogance.  Arrogance for those in your church, those who differ in opinion, and most importantly, those who need Christ so badly.  Many who sit in church on Sundays do little more, uninspired by clergy who value fellowship, peace, and consistency in their parish.

On this topic, two statistics are repeated in Groundhog Day-like fashion in American churches today.  I guess they are spoken to kindle guilt, but that guilt and conviction do not last outside the doors of the building.  How can I say this with such certainty?  Because the same statistic has been read to me for 25 years.  Nothing has changed because we still, as a church, do not have a passion for the lost.

The first is this.  95% of Christians have never shared their faith with anyone.  Second, if invited, 75% of those asked would attend church with a friend.  So what do pastors expect when they read us these statistics?  Do they expect us to bolt from the building and head to the mosque to chat up the adherents?  Do they expect us to dress like Jehovah's Witnesses and knock doors?  Better yet, should we invite a co-worker we barely know or a neighbor whose house we've driven by for thirty years but never met?  A better question of pastors is this.  Do they make it a priority to get out of the building and into the prisons, the shelters, and the streets?  Do they plead, beg, and cajole their members to invite somebody every Sunday?  Do they fear the response of those who have soaked in God's word for decades with hardly a breath of life outside the building?

The truth is...I don't know.  All I can say is, I used to soak it in without much effect on how I lived.  A few years ago, thanks to Five Oaks Church, Woodbury, Minnesota, I was challenged to get my hands dirty for Christ.  My family and I took the challenge on and blessings have flowed like muddy water down the Brazos ever since.

Look, there's no need to remind you, but I'm not particularly handsome, smart, or talented.  I can list 100 friends all over America who far exceed me in all these categories, and that's just scratching the surface.  But the Lord reminded me one day that I'm exactly who He's looking for.  There's only one quality required for a soul winner these days.  Show up.

Here's what I would encourage you to do.  Get out of your church building and live a life that gives you stories to tell.  Great stories aren't made at a potluck, Disney World, or a mall.  Stories that give people pause are the ones told about heartbreak and suffering that ends in triumph, prisoners set free, violence ending in peace and a new life begun.  You can only participate in these stories if you leave your church building, your home, and probably your neighborhood.  Contentment rarely leads to conversion.

When I recently served at two units in the Texas prison system, I met men hungry for a new beginning.  I could talk to them about anything, ask them any question, tell them anything about myself, because they were without judgment.  They had sunk to the lowest point in life and were crawling out little by little.  They didn't judge me because I didn't judge them.  The same thing happens when we volunteer at the soup kitchen, with refugees, or in other countries.  There's a reason that Christ tells us to whom we are to go.  These are the ones who will listen and respond.  The ones wearing rags who need clothing, the hungry who need food, the tired who need rest, the imprisoned who need freedom, the thirsty who need a drink.  Nowhere in my Bible does it urge us to spend time on those content and set in their lives.  Now I'm not saying ignore your neighbors and your co-workers, but sometimes you need to cut your losses.  The ones Christ mentioned are the ones who will respond to what you have to offer, which is a changed life.

I urge you, not as a leader, a scholar, or a director, but as a friend and fellow servant, to find someone outside of your own circle to love.  You will gain a friend and just as important, you will have a story to tell.  A story of God's great love that will inspire and impassion others to make a difference.

Don't wait another minute, people are searching for someone to love them right now.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

This used to be where Satan lives. He's moved out.

Brazoria County, Texas, subtly expands from the barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico to gently kiss Pearland, TX, which was recently defined in the news as "the most boring city in America."  The citizens of the county include bikers and bosses, refinery workers and the refined elite.  Pickups pass Porsches as often as Buc-ee's makes a buck.  The proud Texans that call Brazoria County home would tell you they do indeed lead a boring life.  And boring is good.  It's a good life.  If you've seen a BMW 750Li blow past a combine, you know you're home.  I've spent the better part of three decades in and around this iconic county, which includes the birthplace of Texas and the ruins of a couple of dozen sugar cane and cotton plantations.  If you drive Farm-to-Market Road 521 north, you'll cross Highway 288 and then settle into a pleasant drive through ranches and subdivisions, dusty cantinas and convenience stores, flea markets and farmer's markets.  Trouble meets boredom soon enough, however, as this road is dotted with several prisons, the most well-known being the Darrington Unit.

One man, after spending several years in and around Darrington remarked, "This is where Satan lives."  At Darrington in years past, contraband flowed like cheap booze in a juke joint.  Gangs dominated the landscape, separated by ethnicity, united by violence, death, and sexual assault.  God was pushed to the side like an unwelcome bystander, observing chaos and hate and rape and murder with hardly an objection.  Drugs and booze were available...but only for a price.  A steep price.  I can't say that everything has changed, but I know change has come.  From within.

I've known men and women who've volunteered at Darrington over the years with different organizations. Upon their return, they gave reports of salvations and commitments to Christ, but all-in-all, darkness prevailed.

What's changed?  The men of Darrington have taken the reins from the volunteers, and rightfully so. In 2011, a theological seminary took roots at Darrington thanks to a local foundation and a Baptist Seminary up the road in Ft. Worth.   A couple of hundred men from the unit attend daily classes, study diligently, write papers, take tests, and most importantly...begin to change the culture and the lives of the men they're around. Upon completion, they minister at Darrington, or accept assignments

Seminary students at the Darrington Unit, Texas Department of Corrections
at other prisons around the state of Texas.  Once there, they walk through solitary confinement (administrative segregation, in prison-speak), through the cell blocks where prisoners rarely leave their cells, and breathe the words of life into the dank quarters these men call home.

Darrington is where I went today. I've never spent a day in a prison, other than through volunteer efforts, but when I enter the cold, steel gates I am eager with the anticipation of hearing the stories of these men.  Because they are true stories of redemption.  Let me share just a couple with you.

Chavez (I never caught his first name), is a former Hispanic gang member with nineteen of his thirty-six years spent in the Texas prison system.  He's smoother than a river rock, and his many talents made him a leader in contraband distribution.  A businessman of circumstance, he bought and sold drugs, booze, cell phones, weapons, and whatever else was smuggled into the unit on a given day.  A gifted artist, he provided tattoos for all his fellow gang members. I got the feeling he could call a Chevy Citation a Rolls Royce and sell it to me for the price of the latter.  The crafty con courted a local girl on a contraband cell phone, got married, and looked forward to the day he would be out of prison and into wedded bliss.  Christ interrupted his plans four years ago.  The man of many talents began to use them all for Christ.  He told his wife on the outside about his change on the inside, and she trusted Christ too. "I can't wait to get out and see my family.  They'll all come to Christ before I'm done," he told me.  I have no doubts he'll be successful.  In the meantime, Chavez is sharing Christ left and right, his magnetic personality attracting all races to the Lord.  

Stanley is a man with a conviction also.  Not only the criminal type, but one for the Lord as well. Quiet and almost bashful, he loves people not so much with eloquence but persistence.  He's not scheduled to be released for a decade, so he's walking the passages at Darrington, quoting scriptures, praying, and holding hands with the men without hope.  We were born in the same year and share a military background.  "I shoulda stayed in the Army," he told me.  "I got into trouble when I got out, and here I am today.  I'm a product of my own choices."  Stanley is a man without hope, who then gained hope, and now gives hope in Jesus Christ.  It was a privilege to meet him as well.

I volunteered at Darrington with CHARM ministries, which is an acronym for Christ's Hope and Reconciliation Ministries. It was founded by Dave Trickett, a human dynamo, who will not rest until every prisoner in Texas has the hope of Christ in his heart.  Our role is a little basketball, eat a meal, and worship with prisoners.  I can't do much more than encourage.  I don't know their pain, I haven't lived their life.  But I do know this...Christ set me free from a life of sin and death in exactly the same way he's freed many men inside Darrington.  Although we're different in background, lifestyle, and appearance, we're the same to Christ.  He loves us with an everlasting love.

I'm proud to join a bunch of suburban guys going in to prison to love a bunch of inner city guys who made mistakes but who now understand redemption as only Christ can explain.  I love these guys.  I can't explain it, which means that it must be Christ within me.  I can't wait to go back to see the work they've done to bring the love of Christ to the lost and the hopeless.  Which reminds me once again...I'm wrong.  There is always hope, and no one is permanently lost.  Jesus saves.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

If Buc-ee's were a church, I'd be the first in line.

There's three kinds of churches.  Number one, we're trying real hard to be like Willow Creek.  Number two, we closely examine the direction of American culture, and then hone our biblical interpretations to fit the direction.  Finally, number three, we maintain law and order and we'll be damned if anybody will change that.  Yes, yes, I know that your church is a combination of all three, or maybe a number four, but hang with me for a minute.  Let me tell you about Buc-ee's.  

My family and I have lived all over America and we've been to every kind of gas station and convenience store.  The absolute worst are the ones in which the customer is made to feel like an inconvenience to the clerks as they status Facebook, drink energy drinks, and chit chat the night away.  The average ones try a little, but the filth of the gas pump area and the restrooms make the thought of trying one of those delicious Cheddar-Brats beyond reach.  As I said before, let me tell you about Buc-ee's.

Founded in 1982 in Lake Jackson, Texas, Buc-ee's prides itself on its "customer experience."  A lot of other establishments also do this, but the pride leaks like a sieve when the customer smells the bathroom or the clerk's breath.

I went to the Buc-ee's at Highway 288 and Plantation Drive in Lake Jackson today.  Let me tell you what I noticed.  The gas pumps are shined with Windex, the trash cans are clean and relatively empty.  The receipts come out of the pump station quickly, and the large and shiny car wash is next door.  When you go through the car wash, Buc-ee's offers a pre-wash area if you want to get out of your car and put a little soap on the rough spots and brush them down.  When you enter your car wash code, you are presented with the following..."Would you like a free vacuum token?" and "Would you like a free tire shine?"  Sure, gimme.   

The car wash attendant has a huge smile on his face like he actually wants you to be there.  He guides your left front tire to the right spot and reminds you of the requirement to have you car in neutral, foot off the brake and hands off the steering wheel.  The car wash is speedy and shines and dries your vehicle brilliantly.  There are at least 15 stations for vacuuming your car out and they all actually work!

Following this great time on a Sunday afternoon, I went inside.  Check this out, there was a Buc-ee's employee using Endust and a clean rag to shine the bottles of wine on the shelf.  The store was spotless and I was greeted as I came in. Buc-ee's sells Borden milk at $3.59 a gallon or approximately $2.00 a gallon less than Wal-Mart. There is a large deli that is staffed with three workers to fill your order quickly.  Buc-ee's sandwiches are delicious, I mean really delicious.  You will not use the term "gas station food" here.

Oh, before I forget to mention it, the store is swarming with customers.  All get in and out with little drama, because there are four, yes four, checkout areas.  

Now, let me ask YOU a question.  Does your church care for those who walk in off the street like Buc-ee's?  Hell no.  Why?  Because none of us really care that much.  We prize our much needed fellowship with people we've known for years much more highly that the recent transplant from another part of the country. We use the standard "greet those around you" time as another excuse to chat up our friends, while the guests that walk in are pretty much left to themselves.

We're checking our smart phones one last time before worship starts, or sometimes after worship starts, while the ones who are visiting wonder where the love of Christ actually is.  It's insane, says Bill Hybels, that a broken-hearted person can sit in a church service and not a single person could reach out to them.  Yet it happens every Sunday in churches all across America.  Why?  Because we don't care.  We don't  Even when we do care a little, it's not really that much

Now I love my church.  We are friendly, warm, and welcoming.  But not nearly enough.  If we were, our front doors would be swarming with people like       Buc-ee's.  We'd be planning new parking lots. 

We should be a LITTLE more like Buc-ee's.  We should be a LOT more like Christ.

Friday, January 24, 2014

If my children ask about Richard Sherman, this is what I would tell them...

Being an avid sports fan and sports talk radio listener, I've heard several hours of conversation concerning Richard Sherman and the words he spoke following the Seahawks victory over the 49ers.  Much I agreed with, but some I did not.  

My daughters don't know who Richard Sherman is, but my son has inherited my love for sports and follows NFL football with a passion.  If my son asks, here is what I would tell him...
  • Find out who Richard Sherman is.  Read his Wikipedia page. This will enable you to put his comments in the perspective of his life.  Too often, we judge those around us based on rumor, gossip, or a single bad interaction. How would you like to be judged based on the worst thing you ever did?  Do the homework, then draw a conclusion, if necessary.
  • Avoid name-calling.  "Thug" paints a picture in the hearer's mind and may ascribe qualities to the person that are inaccurate or unfair.  Have you ever been called a name that labeled you as something you're not?  Instead, discuss what occurred and put it into the proper context.
  • Measure your words carefully.  Only about one in a thousand people are skilled at delivering wise speech under pressure.  Instead, when put on the spot, pause, collect your thoughts, and say something that conveys how you feel or what you believe without being inflammatory.
  • Err on the side of kindness.  We've all heard that unless we have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.  Sometimes we have to deliver tough messages, but even at these times, we can be kind to the one receiving the message.
  • Deliver words of praise publicly, deliver words of correction privately.
  • Every word of criticism spoken about someone else should be accompanied by words about the person's strengths.  Be fair.
  • Realize that those in their youth say and do things that those of us with a few more years on our resume find deplorable.  Too often we forget our own youth and all the stupid things that we said and did.
  • If you claim Christ as your Savior, then strive to speak and act as He did. Save your strongest and harshest words for self-promoting, self-righteous blowhards.
I'm sure you have a few more to add.  Let me hear from you.  Have a great weekend!  Bill