U.Va.


11.10.2017

Can I Rest on You?

So I finally looked at the calendar. Did you know Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away?

Yeah. You probably did. But I’m not quite there. In fact, I didn’t even think about the holiday until I ducked into T.J. Maxx a few days ago to see if they had any “Give Thanks” paper goods. I wanted some cocktail napkins for the buffet, and maybe some hand towels for the guest bath. Because nothing says “gratitude” quite like a printed paper towel.

Oh my.

T.J. Maxx is a holiday wonderland. But not for Thanksgiving. They’re all decked out for Christmas. I know their slogan says how they have “new merchandise arriving daily,” but honestly? I don’t think you could fit one more reindeer in there.

Not knowing what else to do, I flagged down a saleslady. “Do you have any Thanksgiving decor?”

She looked at me blankly, like maybe she’d never heard of the feast. Or like I wanted her kidney. Clearly, I was a couple months late.

I left with two little red Santas.

And then I sat in my car and wondered how I got so behind. Maybe it was all of that arduous Facebook training. Maybe I just over-blog. Or maybe I watch too much football (and if it’s U.Va., you stay for the whole game, regardless of the score, because #loyal). I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I figured the answer was clear.

I had to move faster in life.

No sooner had that thought formed in my brain than another one entered my head. And this one sounded a whole lot like God.

“Jodie,” he said, “You don’t need to move faster. You don’t need to move at all. You just need to trust me – and rest.”

Maybe it’s the fact that I was staring at two painted Santas, or maybe it was the Holy Spirit, but for whatever reason, I suddenly thought of my dad (who liked the Holy Spirit way more than he liked St. Nick, but his mom was a big Santa fan, and those things leave a mark). Either way, I remembered coming home one day, after Dad had been babysitting three-year-old Hillary.

“Granddaddy,” she had said, “Can I rest on you?”

He told me he wasn’t sure what she’d meant, but he said that that would be fine. And with that, my girl had climbed onto his lap, put her head on his chest, and fell sound asleep. It was something that all our kids did. And Dad loved it.

He loved it for the obvious reasons (and seriously, what’s better than having a little one do that?), but he loved it even more because he was a man who knew his Bible. And when Hillary fell asleep on his chest, Dad told me it reminded him of Deuteronomy 33:12.

Which (and I’m just putting this out there) I had to look up.

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
    for he shields him all day long,
    and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.

“When God invites you to rest between his shoulders,” my father explained, “he is talking about resting on his chest.”

(Now, I have never seen that claim repeated in any Bible commentary, but when your dad tells you something is so, you believe it. And I did.)

And sitting there in the TJ Maxx parking lot, I knew God was right. I did not need to move faster; I needed to move different. It wasn’t like God was telling me to come to a full and complete stop (he invented Christmas, after all, and I’m pretty sure there are parts of the hype that he likes). Instead, I felt like God was inviting me to enter in to his presence in the midst of the mayhem, to spend time with him, to be refreshed.

To climb up on his chest and just put my head down.

And if you are beloved of the Lord (and you are), that’s his invitation to you too.

Which is something that some folks will welcome. Others (and don’t make me name names) will read that and stress out. “I can’t stop,” you will say. “I’m too busy. My in-laws are coming. And that cranberry chutney won’t make itself.”

I hear you.

I am you.

But let me encourage you with this one little thought: Matthew 6:8. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

You guys, this is true. God really does know. And when we take time to listen, he always provides. Take, for example, my own situation.

There I was, napkin-less, with the biggest family holiday of the year looming in just under a fortnight (Michelle, that’s for you). And then I got a text from my friend Deb:

“We have napkins, half price, at the Lemon Cabana. I thought you might need them for your family.”

I will show you these napkins in just a sec. But what you need to know first is that U.Va. is – and I can’t type it without smiling – bowl eligible. I know all my SEC friends are like, “Yeah, yeah. What’s your point.” But you Wahoos out there…aren’t we grateful? And, knowing that Thanksgiving weekend brings the biggest game of them all – the game where, for the past more than one year we have gotten beaten by a team whose fans pull into the parking lot in RVs with names like The Rolling Turd – you will understand me when I say that God knew exactly which napkins I’d need. He knew I’d need more than “Give Thanks.”

Because I have two sons-in-law, plus their families, who are major Virginia Tech fans. And when we see them at Thanksgiving, and they help themselves to a drink, I don’t want them to simply be grateful. I want them to know it’s

#Wahoowa, y’all.


U.Va.


08.18.2017

I love Charlottesville. A lot.

I love Charlottesville. A lot.

And, like a jillion other people in our country, my heart hurts over the images of violence and hatred we saw descending upon that city last weekend.

And, like probably every other U.Va. alum and parent, I have received dozens of emails and text messages from school administrators, fellow alumni, and friends – some of whom have no personal connection to the school, but all of whom want to uncover and share a deeper message of reconciliation, understanding, and love.

On the wider message board of national media, there seems to be a fixation with pointing fingers and assigning blame. While I’m all for confronting (and learning from) our mistakes, I would rather focus on that which is good, noble, and lovely – like the marchers in Wednesday night’s vigil, where songs like “Amazing Grace” and chants of “Love wins!” served to scatter the darkness – than on setting our hearts and minds on what’s wrong. As John MacArthur put it in his book, Reckless Faith, “Federal agents don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing.”

The “real thing” in Charlottesville – and in any place where we want love to win – is Jesus. I won’t pretend to have all the answers (or even a couple of them) to society’s ills, but I am pretty sure that he does.

“Love one another,” he says. “As I have loved you [as in, being willing to give up his position and even his life], so you must love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Whether we are working for love and reconciliation on a national scale, or trying to find a way forward in the face of hurts on a more intimate stage (like in a marriage, or a friendship), these are the sorts of wisdom nuggets that make for lasting and positive change. These are the marks of the real thing.

Our son Robbie starts classes at U.Va. on Tuesday, along with more than 16,000 other undergraduate students. Am I worried about his safety, or about the perspectives he might encounter?

No. Not at all. The University of Virginia represents one of the warmest, most welcoming and inclusive, places I know.

I am, however, praying.

I am praying that Robbie will be devoted to his classmates and teachers, honoring their lives and their needs above his. I am praying for things like wisdom, joy, protection, and peace (to download four of those specific prayers, click here). And I am praying for him – and for myself – in agreement with one of the most beautiful emails I received this week, a forward from my U.Va. classmate, Alexis.

Alexis shared a prayer written by pastor and author, Scotty Smith. To read the whole prayer (in which Smith looks forward to the day when “honoring one another above ourselves will be our delight, not our discipline”), click here. It’s a raw and honest petition, and well worth the read…but if you only have a minute or two, here’s how Smith sums up his plea. Let’s pray this one together:

Jesus, bring the power of the gospel to bear in extraordinary ways in our relationships, churches, and communities. Grant us greater grief and repentance over the ways we love poorly. Stun us, humble us, and gladden us… again and again and again… with glory and grace. There is no other way we’ll change. So very Amen, we pray, with conviction and hope, in your grace-full name.

#Charl♥ttesville

 


U.Va.


07.04.2017

Jefferson, Jesus, and the Secret to Greatness

Robbie and I love U.Va.

People know this, and so whenever a friend or family member cleans out their attic, they give us their old U.Va. stuff. As a result, we have an eclectic collection of books, artwork, socks, Christmas ornaments, Wedgewood china, record albums, and even some Kentucky Straight Whiskey in a porcelain bottle, which (inconceivably) some Wahoo forgot to finish, fifty years ago.

I adore all of this junk, but I think my favorite relic might be a fundraising piece, c. 1946:

We inherited the magazine from one of Robbie’s uncles who was of the same vintage. In it, the editors appeal to “Americans of the atomic-power age” to “lift the general level of intelligence” so as to develop “competence for leadership.” In pursuit of this worthy aim, they (of course) quote Thomas Jefferson.

And with today being Independence Day and all, I thought you might want to know what the guy who drafted the Declaration (and, in his spare time, invented U.Va.) had to say about greatness. Here are four qualities that, according to TJ, would make a great leader:

  1. Good humor.
  2. Integrity.
  3. Industry.
  4. Science.

As Mr. Jefferson saw it, “The preference of the 1st to the 2nd quality may not at first be acquiesced in, but certainly we had all rather associate with a good humored light principled man than with an ill tempered rigorist in morality.”

(Meaning, I guess, that we’d all rather hang with a cheerful rogue than a grumpy saint.)

(Which is true.)

Of course, no serious discussion of greatness or competent leadership would be complete without the words of another freedom-loving man: Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

That’s what Jesus said. And, at the end of the day, that’s what he did.

So today, as we celebrate our nation’s independence, let’s do this: Let’s take the advice of two men – one perfect; one not – and do like Jesus did, giving up our lives (our time, our position, our rights) to help others. But let’s not be all finger-pointy or stingy about it. Instead, let’s also take Mr. Jefferson’s counsel (and, for that matter, the Bible’s), and do it with a cheerful spirit.

Happy Fourth!

 

 


U.Va.


06.07.2017

“Shocking” New Findings on Friendship

News Flash:  Friendship is good for you.

Researchers at U.Va. recently revealed evidence that backs up the idea that the stronger your relationships are, the better your health will be. I won’t go into all the details (they use words like “hypothalamus” and “epinephrine”), but the gist of the report is that if you are under “the threat of electrical shock,” your brain will be a whole lot happier if “a trusted loved one” is near.

And, if you are holding that person’s hand, all the better.

“Having that hand to hold,” notes the lead scientist, “signals that you have resources – you have safety – so any particular stressor is just not as stressful as it might have been.”

But – and this is my favorite line in the whole article – “Nothing similar was found during stranger handholding.”

(How awesome is it that they actually studied that? I mean, if you took my husband and put him outside in a thunderstorm and asked him to hold hands with a stranger, the threat of electrical shock would NOT be his foremost concern.)

Anyhow…

I love it when science catches up with what Christians have known all along: We are created for connection. We thrive in community. When Jesus told us to “Love one another,” he obviously knew that we’d need an uninhibited hypothalamus in order to effectively respond to stress and other unfortunate circumstances.

In celebration of U.Va.’s findings, I’ve pulled together nine of my favorite “friendship” prayers and created a free printable for you:

To download these prayer cards as a letter-sized PDF (you’ll have to cut them up by yourself), click here. Pray the verses for yourself, for your kids, or for anyone who might feel a little James Taylor coming on (like maybe they are down and troubled, or they need a helping hand).

And remember, next time you get caught in a lightning storm (or if you find yourself in one of U.Va.’s brain imaging scanners while a red indicator “X” hints that you are about to be shocked), God has you.

He is with you, wherever you go.

And, as the psalmist says, he is always holding your hand:

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

(Psalm 139:9-10)


U.Va.


03.29.2017

To the Final Four…and Beyond!

To all my Tar Heel friends: Congratulations!!! Way to make it to the Final Four! I’m with you!

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(And yes, I was actually screaming at the television on Sunday night when your boy Luke sunk that incredible game-winning shot. I thought he was adorable then, but now that I’ve read where he showed up for his 8:00 a.m. class the next morning, I am smitten.)

It’s thanks to you, Carolina, that my bracket still looks okay. I always take every ACC team as far as they can go, and this year I could still be half right. I figured you’d make it all the way thru, at least until you met U.Va.:

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Speaking of…can we please just take a moment?

I love U.Va. Basketball. And even though the pundits didn’t give us much of a chance after we broke up with our big man, I thought we’d still be okay. Because Tony. And London. And those cute first-year boys (who will only get better). And so, when tournament time rolled around, I was all in.

I prevailed on Robbie to make his one-and-only signature dish (unless you count frozen pizza, at which he also excels):

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Knowing that we’d be playing over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I bought a new hat:

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And I even went to the beauty supply store to stock up on extensions and elastic so that even the most closely cropped fellas in our aging fan base could rock a man bun like our Guy:

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Alas, it was not to be. If you are the one Virginia fan who did not fill out a bracket this year (Nancy), I will go ahead and tell you that our Cavaliers lost.

Badly.

But the season was still amazing, and to the coaches and players who gave it their all (even the guys who are transferring now because people vary): Thank you. I think I saw every game and, even if you don’t count the one where you so vigorously took Virginia Tech to the woodshed (which I do), it was a very good year.

My favorite basketball memory, though, didn’t come during regulation. My favorite memory was of being at JPJ the night they retired Malcolm Brogdon’s jersey. (And Nancy, he’s the guy who was named ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last year, before moving on to light up the NBA by doing some very un-rookie-ish things, like dunking on LeBron.)

During the jersey ceremony, Brogdon got up and, in a speech that he said he hadn’t expected to make, he thanked his mom. That right there stole my heart. On the “Good Son” scale, throwing some public love on your mama ranks even higher than showing up for your 8 a.m. class. Like I said, smitten.

Malcolm

But that wasn’t all. Brogdon also thanked God.

“While I was here in my five years,” he said (and the man got his masters in public policy, so don’t be thinking victory lap), “I learned about having a faith and that, if everything else fails, your faith in God – your relationship with the Lord – will carry you through.”

If everything else fails, your faith in God – your relationship with the Lord – will carry you through.

Those are some very smart words. (Did I mention that Brogdon turned down Harvard to attend U.Va.? As one would.)

And on that happy note, Tar Heel fans, I will wish you the best. Basketball seasons (like so much in life that we mistakenly allow to define us, or to dictate our happiness) come and go, and I truly hope yours lasts ’til next Tuesday. But if not, don’t let that get you down.

Take a page out of Brogdon’s book, and go celebrate life’s biggest win.

140642-Love-Never-Fails

 

 

(Player photo credit @UVAMensHoops)

 


U.Va.


12.20.2016

Warmest Wishes for a Merry Christmas!

Charles Dickens begins his classic tale, A Christmas Carol, on Christmas Eve. It is a day marked by “cold, bleak, biting weather” and Scrooge can hear the people outside his office window “beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them.”

It was a day, in other words, not unlike May 21, 2016.

We were in Charlottesville then, celebrating Virginia’s U.Va. graduation. Rarely have I been so happy to have my parka and my hat. And my boots, which I bet I could have sold for a few hundred bucks (and which I did, in fact, loan to another mother whose daughter’s ceremony was after ours).

Like every other family I guess, we took the requisite Rotunda Photo that day. I couldn’t have predicted it back then (if I had, I would have at least ditched the ball cap), but it turned out to be our Christmas card pic:

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Which is fitting, actually. Not because it might as well have been snowing on Jefferson’s Lawn (and I promise you, I think I really did feel some sleet), but because of the joy – and the warmth – that Christmas always brings.

In the Dickens story, the thaw happens the moment that Scrooge’s nephew walks in. We hear him before we see him: “A merry Christmas, Uncle! God save you!”

When the nephew enters Scrooge’s office, he is “all in a glow.” He has a ruddy face, sparkling eyes, and breath you can see, like smoke. Eavesdropping as the young man catalogs the virtues of Christmas and all the good that it does, the clerk (who is in the next office, freezing) can’t help himself. He applauds.

I love it.

I love it because we do the same thing that Scrooge’s nephew did, when we say, “Merry Christmas!” to one another. We warm each other’s hearts with those simple, yet powerful, words.

And I love it because that’s what Jesus did for us, some 2000 years ago. He entered the cold, bleak, biting of our world and basically said, “Merry Christmas, Everyone! God save you!”

Isn’t that just the best?

You don’t have to hate the cold as much as I do to know that Christmas changes everything.

And you don’t have to be like the clerk to applaud.

Merry Christmas!


U.Va.


11.25.2016

Praying the Scriptures for Your Football Team

img_8445Okay so it’s Thanksgiving weekend. Which means football.  Which means U.Va. plays Virginia Tech.

Which means I’m devoting this Friday Prayer space to my team.

Virginia fans will tell you that our beloved Wahoos have not won the annual contest in the last twelve years, and that our record this year (2-9) has not exactly positioned our team as a threat. Alert fans, though, will point to that heady season between 1895 and 1904 (a glorious stretch where we beat the Hokies every single year) as proof that we have winning in our genes.

If you’re not the type to pray about what coaching legend Vince Dooley’s wife Barbara calls “bawl games,” feel free to quit reading now. No hard feelings. Seriously.

But if you like the idea of doing all you can for your team, feel free to join me:

Heavenly Father,

U.Va. Football has suffered for more than a little while; may this be the year that you restore us and make our team strong, firm, and steadfast. Put your law in our players’ hearts so that their feet will not slip, and command your angels to guard them in all their ways. May they be on their guard, stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, and be strong. (1 Peter 5:10, Psalm 37:31, Psalm 91:11, and 1 Corinthians 16:13).

I know, I know.

Some of you are saying it’s not fair to pray for one team over another. I get that. Plus, I have two Hokie sons-in-law, and I really should show them some love. And so, in the interest of keeping things on the level, here’s a Friday Prayer for the other guys:

Heavenly Father,

You are the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. If the Tech folks feel sad, or even devastated, after tomorrow’s game, may your unfailing love be their comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3, Psalm 119:76)

Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all! (And #GoHoos!)

 


U.Va.


09.08.2016

Find Your Confidence and Keep It

Okay, so maybe posting that “Rough Road Ahead” photo the day before U.Va.’s home opener wasn’t the best idea. Or offering that prayer for perseverance. I kinda feel like I jinxed us.

Honestly, though, I think we can all be a little encouraged by U.Va.’s loss. Because getting all pumped up – and then having things go utterly sideways – could happen to anyone. And when I saw the headline in the paper this week (the one that said U.Va. needed to “find some confidence”), all I could think was, “Yeah, me too.”

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I can’t tell you how many times I come up with a plan (one that I think God has inspired or endorsed) and then, almost before I get started, I find myself getting clobbered. Unexpected obstacles, frustrating delays, and stunning defeats don’t just happen in football. And it can be easy, when you find yourself on the wrong end of a whomping, to wonder if what you’re doing is worth it.

I think it was Vince Lombardi who said that failure isn’t getting knocked down; it’s when you don’t get back up again. That’s a good one. But I like what the writer of Hebrews (who, incidentally, would have made a great football coach) said even more. He knew that those early believers had faced insults, persecution, and suffering. He figured they’d keep taking the hits. But he told them to stand their ground, and he offered this game plan:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36)

And so here’s thing thing:  If you feel like God has given you a job to do, or if maybe your mission isn’t as easy as you hoped it would be (and I’m looking at you, U.Va.), don’t be discouraged. Instead, anchor your trust in God, get back in the fight, and stand your ground.

And, whatever you do, do not throw away your confidence. It will be richly rewarded.

We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39)


U.Va.


09.02.2016

Friday Prayer for Perseverance

James 1-2-4Several of the folks on my prayer radar are walking a rough road right now. Some are facing obstacles that make it tough to see a way forward. Others are grappling with rejection and disappointment in jobs and relationships. And still others have come face to face with failure, whether it’s a short-term setback or the total death of a vision.

I’ve been praying for these loved ones, asking God to help them find joy. I know what the Bible says:  It says that the trials we go through produce perseverance, and that ultimately leads to good things. And this week I read an article that offers scientific evidence to confirm this truth.

U.Va.’s Jennifer Chiu wrote the piece, which you can read here. She maintains that reaching your goals “often involves persevering through failure, learning from mistakes, and the motivation to keep trying to find solutions or address problems.” Success, she says, isn’t always about getting it right. Sometimes, it’s about “daring to make mistakes and learning from failure.”

If you, your child, or anybody else on your “love list” is struggling with a setback, why not ask God to put that trial to good use so that it will produce long-term benefits?

That’s the motivation behind this week’s Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help _____ to consider it pure joy when he faces trials of many kinds, since the testing of his faith develops perseverance, and perseverance is what works in us to make us mature and complete, not lacking anything. Make _____ mature and complete, Lord. (James 1:2-4)

Amen.


U.Va.


08.31.2016

Wahoowa and Welcome Bronco!

The Olympics are over. I am always a little sad to see them go, but never more than this year, when what’s left in their wake is…November. As in, the election.

I’d consider tossing the TV, except for one thing.

Football.

More specifically, U.Va. Football. The first game is Saturday.

Now, I realize that not everyone gets as up for the season as our family does, and that U.Va.’s record (34-61 in the past eight years) is not exactly something to start The Wave over, but hope springs eternal. Especially when you have a new coach.

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For those who don’t follow sports, Bronco Mendenhall came to The University from BYU where, over the past 11 seasons, he led a team that became one of only a handful of programs in the entire country to make it to a bowl game every year. Every year! For comparison purposes (and to bring the non-sports people up to speed), during that same time period U.Va. went to…less.

Maybe all those bowl games happened because the BYU players made their beds. I don’t know, but I heard Bronco speak earlier this summer and he said that, statistically speaking, just making your bed means that you will be 30% more effective during the day. He also talked about how he, his wife, and their three teenaged boys are “literally and figuratively closer than ever” after spending six months in an RV instead of bunking in a hotel while their new digs in Charlottesville were being renovated.

(Six months. In a camper. With a mom, a dad, and three strapping young men, all of whom lived out of a backpack and a small carry-on. Mrs. Bronco – who, I gather, came up with the plan – is my new hero.)

Anyhow, the conversation eventually turned to football, to things like “fiery execution” and “position mastery,” as well as the “swift and certain” consequences that Bronco said would follow both good and bad decisions. With every sentence that came out of the coach’s mouth, I found myself mentally putting another touchdown on the board. And, being the mother-in-law to two Virginia Tech grads, I could hardly wait for the Q&A. Was this the year, I wondered, that my beloved Wahoos would finally take down the Hokies?

You can hear my question – and see Bronco’s answer – by clicking here.

Or I can just tell you what the coach said. Painful as it was to hear, he noted that U.Va. hasn’t beaten Virginia Tech in football in twelve years, and that (given those stats) the in-state match-up could hardly be considered a “rivalry.” Not only that but, until we upped our game, Bronco wasn’t even sure we oughta be calling ourselves “the” University of Virginia.

Ouch. Talk about speaking the truth in love.

But things are about to change! In addition to the bed-making thing, the new coach has all sorts of strategies for getting his guys to perform, both on and off the field. If a player misses a class, for example, the “exchange rate” for that choice is 350 burpees (those awful push ups where, between each one, you have to jump – and in Bronco’s world, the jump is onto a 36-inch-high box – and reach for the sky). After each practice, the athletes are expected to take their own pulse, just to be sure they are still alive. Noting that all players will need to prove that they have what it takes to wear the U.Va. jersey (the mantra is “earned, not given”), Bronco’s plan is to ensure that opponents will be “mentally exhausted from the physical pressure.” Which is not, actually, unlike motherhood.

So I think it will work.

And, come Saturday, I will be right there in Scott Stadium, cheering for Bronco and his guys. And being so glad, I just have to say, that he is our coach, instead of our savior.

Can you imagine? What if we had to earn the right to wear the name of Christ? What if the Christian life meant having to check, at the end of each day, to see if we were still breathing? What if, every time we did something wrong, we had to do 350 burpees? Even without the box-jump, I’d throw in the towel and just head straight to hell.

My hat is off to the U.Va. players. I can’t even begin to think what this blazing hot summer was like, as they won the right to show up on that field. I am grateful for their effort, and I think that “earned, not given” is a great way to play football.

And that “given, not earned” is a great way to play life.

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For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)




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