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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