Graduation: 10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago

I had the honor of speaking at a commencement ceremony at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville last week.  It was an exciting afternoon- with happy graduates, proud family members and smiles everywhere.

As I began preparing my remarks, I realized that it was the 20th anniversary of my graduation from UT.  It was an exciting time.  I had just accepted my first “real” job on a college campus, I was about to marry Hollianne, and we were preparing to move to Ohio to begin our lives as a married couple.

Looking back, I realized how much I’ve learned in those twenty years.  I decided to share ten of these life lessons with the graduates.

10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago:

10) Every decision you make in life impacts someone else.  Think about the implications of every choice you make.  One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.  Proverbs 14:16

9)  The job isn’t ever just about you.  The opportunity to have your job is a privilege.  Treat your coworkers with care…as equals.  Success is earned by working together as a team.  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

8)  When it comes to “being in the know”, those who talk a lot usually aren’t in the know.  Idle talk is useless in the workplace.  Be a part of the solution…not a part of the problem.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

7)  Take tasks off your boss’ desk.  Leadership is a lonely activity.  Those that we serve in the workplace have numerous demands on their time, and they need to find people that they can trust.  Become someone worthy of that trust.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Matthew 5:41

6)  No task is too small for you.  Humility is a wonderful thing.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Luke 14:11

5)  You are replaceable.  No single person is essential to the success of a business.  You will never be bigger than the organization you serve.  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2

4)  Everybody has a first name.  All people have worth.  All people deserve our respect.  It is essential that we know those people around us who are investing in the success of our organization.  Get to know their interests, their joys and their pain.  Invest in them.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3

3)  Whatever task you are asked to do, do it with all your heartWhatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…  Colossians 3:23

2)  Dinner with your family is important. We are all busy.  We will never complete our to-do lists at the office.  But it is essential that we invest in those that we love…and that love us.  The work will always be there.  It’s important to build our relationships with those that bring us joy and renewal, too.  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  1 John 4:7

1)  When you don’t know what to do, remember to do no harm until you do.  Find good, trusted mentors and seek their counsel.  Wisdom comes from careful reflection and life experience- so seek help from those you trust when faced with difficult decisions.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  James 1:5

Let’s pray for all the new graduates- high school and college- this week.  May they find success and peace during this period of transition, and may they glorify God in all that they do.

God bless you.

(reprinted from May 2015)


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Adopted

I want you to meet my new friend, Ben.

Ben is a nine-year old black Labrador Retriever.  He’s had a rough year.

His owner died two weeks ago.  He’s had cancerous cysts removed from his legs, which have left some debilitating nerve damage in his hindquarters.  Ben has gained a lot of weight and has developed arthritis in his front shoulders.

So when we met last week, the dog I encountered was overweight, limping and in incredibly poor health.  And depressed.  He really missed his owner and the family farm where he grew up.

Hollianne and I agreed to foster him, as Ben had no place to go.

We were prepared to deal with the health issues,  but Ben’s depression was the saddest part.  He wouldn’t look us in the face.  Ben simply wanted to sleep or just sit by the window and look outside.

Sound familiar?

Life is hard.  We face sickness and sadness.  Unexpected blows hit us at every turn.  People disappoint us.

But there’s one constant for the believer.

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  Galatians 3:26

God loves us.  He sent his son, Jesus, to provide salvation for the sinner and hope to the downtrodden.

For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.  Psalm 27:10

We have hope.

Ben’s demeanor has changed quite a bit over the past week.  He loves getting exercise with the kids.  Our veterinarian has prescribed some medicine to help with his physical ailments.  But best of all, there’s a renewed sparkle in his green eyes and a constant wag in his tail.  The personality is coming back quickly.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  John 14:18

When you are weary- remember the one who has promised hope for all of us.

Please pray for us as we try to care for Ben.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

 

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New job and big transitions…

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I’m beginning a new job in January.

Oh, it’s not entirely new.  It’s with the same university I’ve been associated with for the past twenty years.

But it’s a different role in a different city.  It involves a move for my family and a new set of faces and increased responsibilities.

There will be lots to learn…with new names, duties, rituals and events that will occupy my day.  Hollianne and I will have to learn the names of a new set of teachers for our kids- and get them acclimated to a different social and educational environment.

New neighbors.  New house.  New everything.

Change is coming.

We are excited about the opportunity, but even the most adventurous souls get a little anxious when faced with so much uncertainty and change.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

There’s one thing that does not change, however.  Our God is an ever-present comfort to us.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

We have the promise of comfort and stability.  While our lives on this earth will change, the steadfast love and support of Jesus Christ never waivers.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Please pray for me as I enter this new chapter of my life.  Pray for me to have a servant’s heart, open ears for listening, big shoulders for obstacles and clear eyes for vision.  And pray for my family to have a smooth transition into our new environment.

And as always, please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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No need for a Hail Mary

img_0098Last week’s Tennessee/Georgia football game was one for the ages.

A capacity crowd of 92,746 witnessed it live from Stanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia.  Another 4.2 million college football fans watched it on television.

The storyline went something like this…

Georgia scored a go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds remaining to lead 31-28.

Thousands of Tennessee fans turned off their television sets, computers and radios and missed what happened next.

The ensuing kickoff got the Vols just inside Georgia territory.  Tennessee quarterback  Josh Dobbs had time to run one play…a Hail Mary pass into the Georgia end zone as time expired.  (see the play here)  Tennessee wins 34-31.

Statisticians later gave the Vols less than a 1% chance to complete the pass and win the game.  Think about that…a 99% chance for failure.  Victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39

We are faced with challenges everyday.  Worry and fear can overtake us and leave us feeling helpless. But the sacrifice of Jesus gives us victory over all obstacles that this life can present.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  I John 4:16

There’s no need for a Hail Mary when it comes to life on this earth.  We have all we need for victory.

Please pray for me to worry less- and to trust in Jesus more.

And let me know how to pray for  you.

God bless.

 

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The Summitt

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We lost a great champion this morning.

Pat Summitt died today at the young age of 64.  While she lived a full life- one that included eight NCAA women’s basketball championships, thirty-two combined SEC championships, Olympic excellence and 1,098 victories on the basketball court- Pat Summitt’s life was cut way too short.

Above everything else, Coach Summitt was a teacher.

Several years ago she introduced a list for leaders called the “Pat Summitt Definite Dozen.”  These twelve items were guidelines for leaders…a primer for her players and students…and a blueprint for leadership success for audiences of all ages.

While Coach Summitt’s words weren’t presented in a Biblical context, you can certainly make strong correlations between her thoughts on leadership and what Jesus tells us about working and living with others.

Pat Summitt’s Definite Dozen:

  1.  Respect Yourself and Others
  2. Take Full Responsibility
  3. Develop and Demonstrate Loyalty
  4. Learn to be a Great Communicator
  5. Discipline Yourself so No One Else Has to
  6. Make Hard Work Your Passion
  7. Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart
  8. Put the Team Before Yourself
  9. Make Winning an Attitude
  10. Be a Competitor
  11. Change is a Must
  12. Handle Success Like You Handle Failure

Biblical parallels:

  1.  RespectDo nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2: 3-4
  2. Responsibility–  For each will have to bear his own load.  Galatians 6:5
  3. LoyaltyA friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.  Proverbs 17:17
  4. CommunicationLet your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:6
  5. DisciplineFor the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
  6. Hard WorkWhatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men...  Colossians 3:23
  7. Working SmartFor the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…  Proverbs 2:6
  8. Put the Team before Yourself- Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.  James 4:10
  9. Attitude–  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
  10. Competitor–  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
  11. ChangeHave I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9
  12. Handling success and failureI know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

Coach Summitt’s Definite Dozen are a template for leadership effectiveness.  These guidelines and lessons were passed down for decades to hundreds of players, coaches and fans of basketball.

These same themes are relevant for those of us trying to become better Christians, too.  All of the principles outlined in the Definite Dozen are present in the teachings of Jesus and the word of God.

Let’s keep the family, former players, coaches and friends of Pat Summitt in prayer this week.  And let’s all reflect on the Definite Dozen in our own lives…and see how we might improve our own effectiveness.

God bless you.  And let me know how I may pray for you this week.

 

 

 

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