Feed the Need

There are two sides to every story…

The cup is either half empty or half full…

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

Take Feed for Need as an example. A local food shelter in Charleston was forced to cut out a meal a week due to budget cuts…

In steps local restauranteurs. Rather than allow the people of Charleston to miss a meal, restaurants and chefs teamed up to provide the missing meal…

Each week a different restaurant cooks and serves a meal, all at their own expense…

It’s a beautiful picture of people serving others and a great example of the power of people:

And while hundreds of people are being fed every week through the compassion of the Charleston’s chefs, these same hundreds are missing out on an opportunity to hear the Gospel…

We as believers are called to feed the hungry and clothe the cold and comfort the distressed and bring rest to the weary. And when we do these things, we carry the name of Jesus with us. It allows us the chance to share the Gospel…

Here’s a sobering thought – anyone can give of themselves to help others. Anyone can donate money, give of their time, give of their resources, give of themselves. Matter of fact, I would bet more money is donated by non-believers than believers (probably not hard when Bill Gates is on one team)…

But when the Church is not involved in the serving of others, neither is the Gospel…

When Christ is not the in the center of our giving, then God is not glorified – and people are still in need of a Savior. They may be full or warm or even able to relax – but for how long?

Wouldn’t it be better to offer the water that will never cause you to be thirsty again? Wouldn’t it be better to offer the bread of life so you’ll never be hungry – John 6:35…

I wish I could say followers of Christ could step in and serve every person in need, but we can’t. I wish I could sit here and type in a clear conscience, but I can’t…

One day there will be no pain or hurt or need or disease. But that day won’t come until Jesus returns…

And until that day, as followers of Christ, we need to Feed the Need and take the Gospel with us…

Clemson & Sports Illustrated

As Sports Illustrated find their homes today (and tomorrow if you live in SC), people will begin to see and understand what makes Clemson a special place…

For some, it is football under a warm fall sun. For others it is the small-town atmosphere with a sense of family. And others, it’s access to lakes and mountains and trails…

We each have our own reason for falling in love with Clemson:

There’s Something in These Hills…

Dabo Swinney, the young Clemson coach, was talking to a group of old players last Friday night at a reunion of the 1981 Tigers, the only Clemson team to win a national title. The players, most of them, had seen 50 come and go, and a few were wearing pleated Dockers with cellphones on their belts and championship rings on their thick fingers. Full onset middle age. Danny Ford, an even younger coach himself 30 years ago, sat on a sofa and listened as Swinney suddenly found himself talking about … Steve Jobs.

“Steve Jobs?” Swinney asked the room. You could hear his mossy boyhood near Birmingham in the way he said the name. Dabo got his own moniker from an older brother who called the new kid in the house, christened Christopher, a variant of dat boy. “The Apple guy?” Yes, of course: Steve Jobs, the Apple guy. The whole room knew, but Swinney understands the wisdom in taking nothing for granted. “I heard a quote about him from President Obama. President Obama says, ‘This was a man who was brave enough to think differently.'”

Ford, now 63, and his Clemson team were brave enough to think differently, Coach Dabo said, and they won the national title. The 41-year-old Swinney (pronounced SWEE-nee) was challenging himself and his team to do the same—and make the Tigers, who have not won even an ACC championship in 20 years, special again.

They have been thinking differently. The hallmark of Clemson football has always been stingy defenses. Now, the Tigers are looking to put way more points on the board, and after a 59–38 spanking of North Carolina last Saturday they are averaging 40.6, best in the conference, up 16.6 from last year. They have a new up-tempo offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, who takes his cues from the 32-minute full-court press high school basketball teams he used to coach. They have a new starting quarterback in sophomore Tajh Boyd, who offers at least the suggestion of Donovan McNabb. They have a new change-of-pace option in freshman back Mike Bellamy, and a new air option, in freshman receiver Sammy Watkins. Both run as if they were lifted off the track team. Keeping an almost fatherly eye on those youths, and teaching them some of the tricks of the college football trade, is Dwayne Allen, once the team’s biggest brat (or worse) and now one of its sage leaders, and a highly effective tight end too.

Swinney and Morris loved what they saw of Bellamy and Watkins in preseason practice, and Swinney committed to his youth movement from the start of the season. Landon Walker, the starting right tackle whose father was on the 1981 squad, said he’s never been on a team in which player assignments are so clear. On the sideline Swinney looks so animated, but his mantra, as Walker described it, is this: “Execute, execute, execute.”

This is a team that doesn’t panic. In the second week of the season the Tigers were playing Wofford. After two quarters they were tied 21–21. At home. Against an FCS team. In the second half Clemson figured a few things out and allowed its superior fitness, as much as anything, to take over, winning 35–27. The following week the Tigers, who entered the season unranked and picked to finish second in the Atlantic division, beat defending national champion Auburn 38–24. They are now 8–0 and ranked sixth in the country. Mojo has returned to Death Valley.

Swinney and his wife, Kathleen, and the oldest of their three sons, Will, scurried out of the 1981 reunion, and made a quick stop in Daddy’s office before joining the team at a Friday-night movie, Dream House. In the office, among many posted credos, one stood out for its simple genius: THERE IS NOTHING LESS IMPORTANT THAN THE SCORE AT HALFTIME. Swinney, a wide receiver on Alabama’s 1992 national championship team, believes that for football and even more so for life. In his own boyhood, he says, he lived through the havoc caused by his father’s addiction to alcohol. He has also, he says, seen his father, Ervil, turn his life around 16 years ago and become sober.

After the movie Dabo and Will headed to the team hotel. Campus offers many distractions, while the Hilton Garden Inn off I-85 in Anderson, S.C., offers none. Two team buses, one for the offense and one for the defense, left for Memorial Stadium at 9:30 the following morning. Before boarding, each offensive player was given a sealed envelope with a handwritten pep note from his position coach. Morris started the practice this fall. He’s the Bill James/Billy Beane of this Clemson team, thinking of new solutions to old problems, like how to score more points than your opponent. So far, so good. Last year, the Tigers were 6–7.

At the stadium the players changed into their uniforms while the muffled music of the Clemson marching band and the chants of fans oozed through the cinder-block walls of their locker room. With the band, the cheerleaders, the dance team and the majorettes, there are almost three uniformed supporters for every uniformed player, and that’s not counting the dozens of male fans wearing nothing but purple and orange body paint north of their navels, with Tiger paws painted on their nipples. (For this and other liberties wars have been fought.) Among the female fans the look of the moment is a short orange skirt, bare legs and mid-calf, square-toed cowboy boots. Death Valley on game day is a spectacular place to be.

There were 79,000 people in the house on Saturday. The Clemson library, modern and often packed, practically shuts down on Saturdays when the Tigers are at home. The library owns a Bible that once belonged to one of Swinney’s predecessors, John Heisman. In it, somebody wrote Heisman’s 14 football do’s and don’ts. The last of them:

DO: WIN

DON’T: LOSE

Heisman, surely, would love the Tigers’ record but would be surprised at how it has been achieved. Against North Carolina they scored 35 third-quarter points, tying a school record. Boyd threw five touchdowns in the game, tying another school record. Watkins, his long dreads flying, caught one of them and has already scored nine times this year. Allen snagged one scoring pass.

Last season Clemson averaged 66.6 snaps a game. This year, with the institution of a high-tempo, no-huddle offense, the team is averaging 78.3, and on Saturday the Tigers had 84. Morris, age 42, majored in math and minored in statistics at Texas A&M, and snaps per game is his OPS. His goal for every game, whether ahead or behind, is to reach 80. “When you’re working fast like that, your defense is going to be on the field more, so they have to be in better shape, and the offense is so up-tempo, it has to be in better shape too,” Morris said late on Saturday afternoon. The coach looked exhilarated, but exhausted. With Oklahoma and Wisconsin losing that night, Clemson jumped from seventh to fifth in the BCS standings.

Swinney, who hired Morris away from Tulsa, has an analytical side, like his offensive coordinator. He has a spiritual side, like the coach who hired him as an assistant at Clemson, Tommy Bowden. And he has a boyish side, like Ford had 30 years ago. The old guys from the 1981 team were saying last week that Ford was a players’ coach and the young guys from the ’11 team were saying the same thing about Dabo.

When the game was over, Swinney gathered the team around in a big circle in the locker room. Somebody put on the old KC and the Sunshine Band anthem, Boogie Shoes, and Swinney started dancing like a wild man, hips gyrating, arms slinking this way and that, eyes bulging, his light brown hair plastered against his forehead. His players were hooting and hollering and joining in. What a scene.

The music stopped, and Dabo praised this player and that one, both on offense and defense. He was briefly critical of the second-teamers who played most of the fourth quarter, when North Carolina outscored them 14–0. “You backups got to be ready to play,” he said. “There should be no drop-off.” And then he quickly said, “Enough of that.”

He then spoke of the team’s record and noted that the 1981 team was once 8–0, too. “You are on the verge of greatness, but you’ve got to kick the door down,” he said.

Finally, Swinney asked his players and coaches to hold hands. “We thank the good Lord for the privilege of being on this team,” he said. “Help us be a team and love each other.” He prayed for the Tar Heels to travel home safely and for his players to make good Saturday night decisions. As he neared the end of his off-the-cuff invocation, he said, “I pray that people will know that we have Christ among us.” Most every head was bent.

Before long, the locker room emptied. The last player to leave was Allen, the 6’4″, 255-pound senior who is projected to be the one of the first tight ends taken in next year’s NFL draft. As a freshman he butted heads with Swinney again and again. “I’d call him Dabo, just to get under his skin,” Allen said. He fought with other players and told his coaches to f— off. One day he refused to practice. Swinney, then in his first year at Clemson, was often furious at Allen but refused to give up on him. He knew Allen could help him win games and he could see—in the trauma of Allen’s impoverished and hectic childhood in Fayetteville, N.C.—the trauma of his own.

And now Allen is a leader on the team, and not just because he has caught five touchdowns this season. “What I experienced under Coach Swinney,” he said, “was a total transformation.” Allen is not religious, and he doesn’t take the coach’s postgame prayers literally. He treats them as a communal message.

“What we have is the feeling of comfort where we are able to dance with each other,” Allen said, adding that Swinney, on the dance floor, “reminds me of a squid.” No matter. The dancing shows “the love we have for each other,” and that has everything to do with why the team is 8–0, Allen said. “We’re looking out for each other.”

Swinney was saying exactly the same thing at the Friday night reunion. But he wasn’t talking about his team. He was talking about the 1981 team. He said the reason those Tigers went undefeated was because they looked after one another. And, he noted, they have been looking after one another ever since. As Swinney spoke, he gave the winners from 30 years ago a careful look, slowed his delivery and said, “I understand the bond you have.” Swinney had that bond at Alabama. He’s been there. He gets it. And now he’s trying to pass it on.

sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1191563/1/index.htm

Everybody Clap

Sporting events are great people watching – right up there with malls, yard sales, and school events…

And each sport offers unique people watching moments – from NASCAR wives to football mommas to baseball dads…

But one play in one sport trumps them all – football’s three yard rush…

Unless it is 3rd down, when the three yard rush occurs, everyone claps…

I mean everyone – the home team and away. The offensive fans and defensive. Doesn’t matter – everyone is cool with the three yard rush…

I think it is the only play in any sport where both teams could be happy. Every pitch in baseball has a winner and loser. Every shot in basketball has a winner and loser. Every lap in NASCAR someone is passing and someone is getting passed (hopefully)…

But football – football is the only sport where a win-win could occur…

But we don’t watch sports for win-wins. We watch to see a winner and laugh at the loser…

A win-win is like a tie – and ties are unacceptable in sports. They’ve been removed from NCAA football, can’t occur in golf, basketball, or baseball (outside of the All-Star game – thanks Bud), and caused the implementation of shoot-outs in soccer and hockey…

Frank Howard, legendary Clemson coach, said it best when he said “A tie is like kissing your sister”…

We hate ties – yet we all clap for the only play that can end in a tie – the three yard rush…

You Do the Math

“C” equals degree…

The square root of 24? Little less than 5…

Pi is approximately 3.14…

All of these are pretty good approximations, but don’t necessarily tell the whole story…

You can graduate with straight C’s, but what if you wanted to be a doctor or go to grad school? C’s are no longer sufficient…

The square root of 24 is a little less than 5, but what if you’re calculating something and every decimal place matters…

The first two significant digits of pi are in fact .14, but what if you’re trying to determine the circumference of the earth or sun or other large object…

There are times when being pretty good or close enough is plenty. And there are times when it is not…

When it comes to my relationship with Christ, getting by is not enough…

Sure, I’m on the right side of Christ – I believe the Gospel – which is all I need for salvation…

But what I’m noticing is I’m settling into a life where pretty close is good enough. Where I’m settling for less and not stretching the bounds of my faith. Where I’m comfortable…

But that last 10-20 percent of following Christ is tough. It may take more of my time, resources, or security…

All of which I’m not fond of giving up, especially when I am unsure of the outcome – an outcome I do not control…

But what if the outcome wasn’t the destination. What if the outcome is merely a path on the journey and the destination is actually Christ himself?

Is that worth it? I wish I could say “Yes”, but I can’t. I can’t because I’ve never tried…

I’ve never given of that last 10-20 percent, which means I can’t speak to the result…

But I’ve read of those who have.

I’ve read the stories of extreme pain turned into unquenchable faith. Of losing a child and finding comfort. Of losing a marriage and finding companionship. Of losing money and finding freedom…

I’ve read the stories, heard the songs, and seen the videos and I’m ready to be one of them – regardless of the cost…

I’m tired of doing the math and getting close. I’m ready to find the right – and only – answer…

Why Write?

A mind which is always thinking, pondering, and wondering does one thing very well – ask questions.  Questions like:

It seeks the truth, but enjoys the journey to get there…

But as this mind ponders, one question keeps appearing – possibly one of deeper meaning and more thoughtful response:

Why Write?

Why put these questions on paper?  Why try and flush them out and see what they really mean?

Why lose sleep just to get a fact straight or rework a thought or mull over something, again?

Only to have no one (or next to no one) read it?

What’s the purpose in this?

Let’s be honest – I’ll never stand up in front of people to accept an award. I’ll never cash a check…

This blog will (probably) never change someone’s mind about Christ or Clemson or careers…

So Why Write?

Doing good work and having creative thoughts means very little unless you’re able to express that work and those thoughts to others in as straightforward a way as possible. To edit yourself isn’t an admission of lack of talent; it’s sticking up for that talent by taking the time to make sure that everyone can understand what you’re trying to say.

Singer/Songwriter/Author Josh Ritter in arcticle to WSJ

I have many creative thoughts and writing helps me express them. Sometimes one of these creative thoughts makes it as a post and sometimes it is tossed aside, but in both circumstances it has been processed and can exit the mind, making room for the next one…

In the same way as keeping pent up anger is not good for the soul, keeping pent up thoughts is not good for the mind (and the psyche)…

So, to the benefit of my wife, kids, family, friends, and coworkers, writing is a release…

It keeps me sane…

So whether someone (not named MOM) reads or not, I’ll keep on writing…

There’s no good punch line this time – just a random thought that hasn’t quite been figured out. But at least I’m poised and ready for the next one…

I bet it will be better…

Welcome to the Lowcountry

The lowcountry of South Carolina is a different animal – very different when you grow up in the upstate and your bride is from the midlands…

Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for us to realize we weren’t in Kansas (Clemson) anymore…

Our first experience came in college when we were visiting Middleton Plantation, just outside of Charleston. The Plantation is gorgeous – and hot – and we decided to take a stroll through the wooded area of the grounds, hoping to catch a break from the heat and humidity. The wooded area contained many different species of vegetation, most of which were labeled. One such label caught our attention – LIVE OAK. It certainly wasn’t dead. We figured it must have some historical significance – maybe even surviving the earthquake of 1886 and Hugo. We applied the LIVE moniker to future trees and vegetation as well. We were amused…

Our first trip to Beaufort and Bluffton was also full of adventure. We came just prior to getting married to scout for jobs. Janet had a few interviews with the school district and I was still finagling my way into Ward Edwards. After reading the Beaufort Gazette before heading out for our day, we were a little concerned. The main story was about groin problems on and around Hunting Island and Hilton Head and the sports section was nothing but wrestling and golf.  We were confused, worried, and slightly creeped out…

The day only got worse as we were pulled for speeding while in Bluffton. We were on Buckwalter Parkway, which at the time was only two lanes, but was cleared at least an additional 100′ on both sides, but completely undeveloped. We were the only ones on the road but never saw the speed limit sign. We figured it must be at least 55, if not 60. We were pulled by for going 57 in a 45. No worries though. We’ll explain our situation and plead ignorance. We were asked if we wanted it to be 57 as clocked or reduced to 54. We took 54 and went on our merry way…

Finally, just after getting settled, I was at a Town of Bluffton Council meeting – trying to get the flavor – when the Mayor went into a tirade about protecting the river. What I remember most was the red face, the slamming of the fist on the podium, and these words – “PROTECT THE MAY RIVER! PROTECT THE MAY RIVER! PROTECT THE MAY RIVER!”

It’s been ten years since those first encounters with the lowcountry and we’ve learned a few things along the way:

  • Live Oak is actually a species of tree and has an important place in the fabric and history of the lowcountry
  • Groins are not what I pictured, which I wish I never pictured to begin with
  • Buckwalter Parkway is now the center of Bluffton
  • The May River still needs protecting

Additionally, we’ve grown to love this area.  Our girls love shrimping, crabbing, and swimming in the rivers. Janet has a thriving photography business. And Ward Edwards is still rockin’.

When others come to visit and comment, we smile because it’s part of the charm…

The charm of living in the lowcountry…

I Can’t Handle the Truth

I’ve been burned before. Many times, in fact.

I can count on at least one instance of pain of every year.

Why? Because the past is a pretty good predictor of the future.

So how do I handle this current season of life? A season of smiles and fellowship and good news?

I’m not handling it well. While the world around me swirls in child-like giddyness, I am stuck in waiting.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the dream to end. For reality to set in.

But no more!

I declare today the day I will stop living in fear and enjoy the world around me. Today is the day I will stop worrying about what I have yet to accomplish and celebrate that which already has. Today is the day I will stop shying away from talking about this season and shout loud from the 2nd story balcony (we don’t have mountains and all the roofs are steeply pitched).

Today – I can and will handle the truth!

Today – I will revel in Clemson being undefeated. I will no longer wait in anticipation for the inexplicable loss – like Duke in BC last year or MD in ’09 (and the ACC Championship game to GT), or MD & Wake in ’08, or BC again in ’07, or VT in ’06, or (shall I keep on going, or do you get the picture).

So who will stand with me?

Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Also, even though Clemson plays a game at Maryland this weekend, I will not fear. They may win or they may lose. That is to be determined.

Until then, I will bring the 23rd Psalm with me as well: Even though I (the Tigers) walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Byrd Stadium), I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

GO TIGERS! (there – I said it)