Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Gone, But Not Forgotten

As I write this, I have just learned of the passing of Pat Summitt. This is a loss not only to women’s basketball, but to sports in general and beyond. Tennesseans and Vol fans may be struck the hardest, but her loss is being felt around the country.

As a father of two daughters, I have long appreciated the leadership and example of someone as prominent and yet accessible as Pat. She represented the best of athletics and how that translated off the court. Following a difficult loss, she once said, “It’s a game, and winning and losing can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world.” Reporter Teresa Walker says, “Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.” As I tried to instill that same belief in my girls, I appreciated the fact they could see a real world example of it in Pat.

Social media is full of Pat’s inspiring quotes and personal encounters this morning. One that stood out for me is from an old friend who is now the general manager at WUTK. Allow me to share some of his post from Facebook. “She truly put students and their academic and career aspirations first. We talked about the blessing of sharing that goal. During one of those interviews, she said ‘You know, I always believe that if you are going to do something, do it right.’ Simple, powerful words that stuck with me, and still inspire me everyday of my life. I use that quote often when teaching and training students.”

Her example goes beyond her players. We can all learn to be more disciplined in our lives. To pursue dreams with faith and hard work. To handle success with humility. To inspire and encourage others to achieve their own successes, even if that means competing with you. To keep fighting against tremendous odds. And, of course, if you are going to do something...do it right.

The Scriptures that come to mind at this time are from Second Timothy. Pat seemed to live by verse 2, “Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” She could do all of these things simultaneously with a single look! Now that she is gone, verse 7 provides a fitting epitaph. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I thank the Lord for a special life that had such a wonderful impact on so many other lives.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

That Escalated Quickly

I joined Facebook in July of 2008 after a colleague of mine told me it was like “MySpace for adults.” I was immediately enthralled with the ability to reconnect with old friends I thought I would never hear from again. Staying in touch with people I care about is the main reason I continue to stick with it.

Somewhere along the way, however, Facebook became less fun. There is a meme that sums it up for me. “I used to wonder what it would be like to read people’s minds. Then I got Facebook and now I am over it.” Two of the primary culprits are people’s political opinions and their “faith” stances. I have grown weary of people sharing their about their candidate and also asking me to click if I love Jesus. That and telling everyone who they think is going to hell this week.

It used to be considered a social maxim that one does not openly discuss politics or religion in polite company. There must be something about a keyboard and screen that makes people cast aside this sage wisdom. I want to scream “To what end are you doing this?” Has anyone ever in the history of history changed their political stance based on someone’s opinion? The same is true with how people cram their religious views down people’s throats. This usually comes in the form of shouting from some moral high ground. I somehow doubt anyone’s “status” has ever brought someone to the Lord.

So the thing that was intended to bring us together is now often a wedge. The court of public opinion gets played out ad nausem on a regular basis whether it is debating the shooting of a gorilla, the flying of the rebel flag or who can wee wee where. I think part of the problem is because we call these platforms “social media” people think “media” means their opinions are somehow national news. People are now broadcasting the kinds of rants that used to be reserved for their poor kids after they were three beers into watching the evening news.

I am also dismayed at how quickly things escalate into name calling and “de-friending” and general rudeness if there are disagreements. Even if Facebook or other social media were intended as some kind of political forum, it seems there is no genuine discourse these days. It’s all or nothing.

As far as religion goes, if you really want to use social media as a means of evangelism, try demonstrating love of “enemy” to the world instead of condemning whole groups of people who do not think like you do. Jesus said to work on the log in your own eye instead of the speck in someone else's anyway. Everybody step back, take it down a notch and lighten up, Francis. It's easy if you try. So imagine this blog goes viral and everyone who reads it heeds my advice and the world will live as one.