Monday, November 24, 2014

Mark Richt's Got it Right

I slam down the remote.  I yell. I kick my heel against the couch. "What in the world!??!?!" I groan.

Yep.  It's a typical Saturday afternoon watching a little Georgia football in my living room.

As a season ticket holder, I enjoy home games from the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium.  And, for some reason, I am mild-mannered and keep my composure quite well when I am standing among 95,000 other Bulldog faithful.

But, in my own home, I am an ogre when we turn the ball over. Or hit the ball carrier late for a 15-yard penalty. Or miss a chip shot field goal. Or go three and out.  Or, heaven forbid, LOSE the game.

But, suddenly, the TV camera pans to the Georgia sideline.  We've just given up a first down on yet another third and long, and there's Head Coach Mark Richt.  Calm. Stoic. Seemingly care-free.

Now, I have seen Coach Richt get fired up.  When officials really screw up, he gets upset and lets them know about it.  But, that is not the norm.  

I know Dawg fans just get ticked off when they see Richt so calm and peaceful on the sidelines in the midst of chaos - both on the field and in the stands. They think to themselves, "He doesn't even care. He needs to have more fire out there.  I care more about the football game than HE does!"

Well, yes and no.

I doubt there's anyone who truly cares more about what happens on the football field than the head coach - especially a man like Mark Richt.  But, to obsess about something and to care about it are totally different.

I was listening to his call-in show a couple weeks ago after the Kentucky game. It was the week leading up to the Auburn game, and one particular caller said something like this: "Great job, Coach.  The team is really playing well, and with getting Gurley back this week, I think we're all going to be sitting here really happy next week after another big win."

Richt's response (paraphrasing): "Well, I'd hate to think that someone's happiness is based on that...but I guess it helps."

That kind of response infuriates people who eat, breathe, and sleep Georgia Bulldogs football. To suggest that a Dawg fan could possibly be happy even if we lost a game?!? That's crazy talk!

But, the truth is, that response is EXACTLY why I pray Mark Richt coaches at Georgia for another 15 years.  His perspective is not the perspective that maybe Nick Saban has.  Or Urban Meyer. Or Steve Spurrier. 

If you find that, not only is your entire Saturday ruined...but your entire weekend, or even the next week...because the team you root for lost a GAME, you really do need help.  If you allow the outcome on the field to dictate your mood or countenance beyond the 4th quarter (or overtime), there's a problem.

The answer to that problem can be found in the peace that Mark Richt has.  A peace that is available to all of us, if we seek the One who can grant it.

This Thanksgiving, I pray for peace in my own heart - but I pray for peace in yours, too.  And, I thank the Prince of Peace for loving me...even when I love Georgia Bulldogs football a little bit too much.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Joy in a Small Plastic Box

A few years ago, I received one of the best Christmas gifts ever.  It wasn't valuable.  It wasn't expensive. It wasn't an electronics device or designer name shirt. It was a small, clear plastic cube.

I remember opening the gift and immediately noticing that there was a $20 bill in the center. The cube itself is approximately 4" x 4" x 4" - not much larger than a Rubik's Cube. But, the solution to Rubik's Cube paled in comparison to the fight I had before me.

Between the outside of the cube and the center - where the $20 bill was located - is a complex maze, and a small silver metal ball.  The only way to open the cube and remove the $20 bill is to move the ball through this clear plastic maze and position it in one very specific spot to release the lock.

It seemed like child's play at first.  "How hard can this be?" I said to myself as I began to roll the little ball around. Click. Clack. Ding. Ping. Grrrrrrrrr. Dead end.

After about ten minutes, it was back around to me - we always go around the room and open gifts one at a time.  My turn had come up again.  But I was only focused on the puzzle. "You can skip me," I said.  I had some business to take care of.  

I studied the plastic demon intently. It was not going to get the best of me.  Three centimeters left. Two down.  Four right. Turn cube. Five millimeters forward. Flip cube. Beads of sweat on my forehead, I would not be deterred.

The problem with staring at a clear cube for 20 minutes is that you begin to hallucinate. You begin to see openings that don't really exist. And so it was that I continued to toil with what had become my arch enemy.

Ultimately, my mind was just too strong for this weak opponent.  I mastered the cunning plastic cube through will and determination. I could not be defeated. 

I still remember when I finally had the silver ball in the sweet spot, and the cube clicked open. Sure, I was appreciative of the $20 gift inside.  But, the true joy came from the challenge to acquire it.

John Ortberg once wrote, "Challenge produces joy."  While I don't always embrace the challenge like I did with the clear plastic cube, I can say that when I look back at the times in my life that I faced adversity - and overcame it - the joy I felt was exhilarating.

Sometimes, we take the easy way out.  The path of least resistance. We don't have the time,  we don't have the patience,  and we don't have the desire to battle.  But I think we cheat ourselves when we throw in the towel so easily.

If you don't believe can borrow my clear plastic cube and test yourself.  I still have it.

But, you'll have to get the 20 bucks somewhere else.