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Learning from the Coach

I love football season. Around here, Nebraska football can get in your blood.  Some of my earliest sports memories are of going to a Husker football game. There just isn’t anything quite like a Husker game day.

Last fall I arranged a surprise for some of our RHYTHMinTWENTY leaders who were in Lincoln for a reunion. We were able to sit down in the coaching offices with Tom Osborne, the great Nebraska Football Coach, U.S. Congressman, and University of Nebraska Athletic Director. He was set to retire, and in fact, was being honored the next day at the last home game of the year. He  talked with us some about leadership and finishing well.

Tom Osborne is an incredible leader who has impacted tens of thousands of people; from players, to colleagues, to fans, and countless

Tom Osborne

others, with the way he has lived his life. As he was speaking, I found myself wondering what it was about this quiet and unassuming leader that makes him so special. What makes his impact on others so profound and so significant?  Even though we had only a short time with him, I feel I gained some insight into what makes this man truly great.

Years ago it was another football game day in Nebraska.  It was a Thursday evening and we were playing Rice. This game was significant because the terrorist attacks of 9-11 had happened just one week prior. There were 80,000 fans in Memorial Stadium and the mood was one of quiet fear. You could sense the tension; everyone was a bit on edge and seemed to be struggling to return to life as they knew it.  A video came on the HuskerVision screen with Tom Osborne addressing the crowd. He was serving as a U.S. Congressman at the time and in a voice so familiar to all of Nebraskans,  he said “We are going to be okay. We, as a country, will make it through this.” You could literally sense a shift in the crowd —  a sense of relief and of hope.  There was a palpable trust and comfort in his words. It was as if, collectively, 80,000 people took a deep breath and truly believed that no matter what else happened we really could make it. We will be okay.

It was an incredible lesson in the power of leadership. It was an incredible how this one man’s credibility, his character, his success, and his commitment to his principles and his values, and the consistency in which he lived his life both publicly and privately gave him such an incredible platform of influence.

As he spoke to us and gave us one of his last talks as an employee of the University of Nebraska, I could see those things in him. What I saw was a humble man whose life and actions had done all the talking. I saw someone who was not seeking the spotlight; someone who gained his strength from times of quiet and solitude. In fact he named those times of solitude as a key for him in sustaining leadership over the long haul, and setting him up to finish well.

So here is to listening to those key leaders that have been through some battles and have stayed the course. Here is to watching and learning from people who have been down the road a bit farther than we have.

And here is to some football…

Determined to Not Get Lost

I hate getting lost.

I was thinking again about that little church on the edge of the North Carolina campus that I wrote about last week. The church had lost sight of its mission, had lost its way, and had seemed to settle into the comfortable because it forgot the “why.”

Strangely enough, I was reminded  again of  that church, as I moved my son into the college dorms this past weekend. On the moving checklist for him?

  • Xbox
  • Multiple Xbox games
  • Retro Nintendo and techno bowl
  • 15-ish t-shirts
  • 10 pairs of shorts
  • Basketball
  • DVDs
  • Flat screen
  • Tennis racket
  • Bike
  • Golf clubs.

Oh and a plastic bag of books.  At least I think they were books. I might have had a little dad talk on not forgetting why he was there, and I am sure he soaked in every word! Truth is, I was a little jealous because those college years were some good times, but it can get real easy to lose sight of the why in that setting as well.

Given what he has been through the last year, I have no doubt he gets it. He is well invested in the bigger story God has for him. For any of us, there are just so many distractions that can get us off course. So many things can cause us to compromise, settle, or get thrown off. It happened to me in college, and a few other times along the way. Don’t get me wrong; I think having fun, enjoying this journey we are on, and doing things that fill our tanks, are not only important, but absolutely critical. But along the road we have to  ask ourselves why we are doing what we are doing, and remind ourselves of that often.

In the next six weeks we have three RHYTHMinTWENTY and one Rogue Journey events, all in Colorado. It is an exciting but overwhelming time. In the details, in the planning, in the inertia, and the business, it is easy to forget and get stressed out. So today I am remembering why we are doing this: Coming along strategic leaders, encouraging, and  inspiring them to keep chasing God, to not lose their families along the way, and to lay a foundation that will leave a true legacy for others. That is the why.

I think I am ready for Colorado, and maybe in the meantime some biking,  hoops, and maybe even a little Xbox for fun.

Seize the Season

In some ways the last few years have been a blur. Even though time has flown by, I have done my best these last several years to enjoy life, make great memories, and live life to the fullest with my family. I have seized the days and the seasons of my kids’ lives as best I could, and I have really enjoyed the journey without a doubt.

But this week is different.

As we move another one of our kids off to college, I am finding myself pretty reflective — okay, really reflective — and I’m asking those classic questions: What happened? Where in the world did the time go?

We have all heard people say, it seems like yesterday…  But this week, for me, it really does seem like yesterday. Seems like just yesterday when I was heading to college.

A few years ago, I was taking a college tour with my oldest son at Colorado State. I found myself getting really excited. About halfway through the tour I realized I was experiencing this thing first hand! I had to quickly remind myself  it was not me about to head off on this new adventure. I was going to be on the not-so-fun end of helping pay for this deal! Time really does go fast  and we just  cant remind ourselves of that fact often enough.

In our family we  really love basketball. In fact I got to coach our sons’ and daughter’s teams from third grade on. And you know what? All of that time… totally worth it.  Seems like yesterday I was coaching Dylan’s third grade basketball team.

Proverbs reminds us that time is fleeting and that our lives are like grass in the field;  the moments are passing way too fast. Even though  today I find myself really reflective, at the same time I’m plenty thankful I have lived this season of life and the several years of parenting with few regrets. I was not always at my best, but ,for the most part I gave it my best shot.

I am reminded again today to “carpe diem” — to seize the moments and make the days extraordinary. Life just moves too fast to do it any other way.

Enjoy the View

You never know when or where you will get inspired. I had just finished with an exhausting but great Rogue event. And I am in a restroom in this great little coffee house in Estes Park,Colorado, last spring. It is a pretty cool restroom because it is just a few steps from the river. Anyway…

Inside the restroom, there is this picture of this great looking tree, and below it are these words:

Stand tall and proud

Sink your roots deep into the earth

Be content with your natural beauty

Go out on a limb

Drink plenty of water

Remember your roots

Enjoy the view

Those are some pretty good words to live by. Actually they have my mind racing as I think about them again today. As I think about what it means to plant my roots deep, Jeremiah 17 comes to mind. I think that will be an important passage for the weeks ahead. At some point, I just might  have to write some about each of those thoughts.

For now I think I will keep looking for inspiration around every corner. You never know where it will come from.

The Why

I am a little reflective these days. Today I was thinking about this great memory I had a few years ago with my son Dylan. It was a dream trip for him. He got to attend a North Carolina basketball camp. He was able to meet and play in front of Roy Williams, and a future NBA player was the referee for his first game. For a 13-year-old, it was as good as it gets. While in Chapel Hill, I popped in on a service in little Methodist church on the edge of this incredible campus. The message that day was a great reminder of living with mission and pursing the dreams that God had given us.

The pastor described ministry as the work of God, done together by the people of God utilizing their gifts, strengths, and dreams. God works through the dreams of his people who long to reach and serve the culture, the hurting, and the searching.  Ministry is accomplished when we love others and come alongside them. Ministry is accomplished when we stay true to our mission.

He asked us to look around the building, to see its beauty, but to remember why it was built on the North Carolina campus; it was built to reach and impact the future leaders on this campus. What was so striking, was that there were a total of about four college-age people in the whole place, maybe two families, and the rest were all very old. Somewhere along the way, this strategically located church that was founded with great vision and mission, had completely lost its way. It had forgotten its mission, and even though the guy was preaching a good word, I had to wonder if he was willing to do what it takes, to stay focused, and stay on mission with the calling God had given them.

This memory has caused me to look around and take a good look at my own journey. I need to remind myself of why I do what I do, and clarify the mission in the critical areas of my life, like relationships, ministry and what I want to be about as a leader over the next few years. It is just way too easy to let things slide, to coast. But life is way to short to be sitting in an empty church, or to be a part of something that has lost its way.