College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 3

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

Any B1G fans care to say we’re the greatest conference? Outside of basketball? Didn’t think so. Rough week for the Great Lakes contingent, but here’s hoping for more than moral victories in Week 3.

  • Good pick: Oregon was highly impressive in its blowout win over Michigan State. Spartans are still the best squad in the B1G, but that’s like saying it’s the least damaged car in the junkyard.
  • Ugly pick: Ohio looked weak against V-Tech. This is a defining moment for Ohio’s program. How in the world did they get here so fast?
  • Predictions record after Week 1: 40-4

On to the Week 3 picks!

Thursday, Sept. 11th:

  • #25 BYU over Houston. This is first time I’ve ever seen cougars against cougars outside of “reality” TV.

Friday, Sept. 12th:

  • #8 Baylor over Buffalo. Even if these were the Buffalo Bills, I’d probably still pick Baylor. More like Buffalo Jills…

Saturday, Sept. 13th:

  • #2 Oregon over Wyoming. Bad time to schedule Oregon, Craig Bohl.
  • #3 Alabama over Southern Miss. Tide by 40+.
  • #4 Oklahoma over Tennessee. The only 10 you’ll see is the rushing yards average by Boomer Sooner.
  • #6 UGA over #24 South Carolina. Upset alert here. SC has beaten UGA twice in a row in Columbia.
  • #7 aTm over Rice, the obligatory punching bag of Texas FBS schools.
  • #9 U$C over Boston College.
  • #10 L$U over La-Monroe. Upset alert here.
  • #11 Notre Dame (The Golden Misnomers) over Purdue. More like Pur-don’t.
  • #12 U-C-L-A continues the beautiful new trend of beating Texa$. Bruins by double-digits.
  • #14 Ole Miss over La-Lafayette.
  • #15 Stanford over Army.
  • #16 Arizona State over Colorado. Not even close, Puffaloes.
  • #17 V-Tech continues its impressive run with a win over East Carolina. Rule #1: don’t overlook the pirates. That’s who beat V-Tech only a few years back.
  • #20 Missouri over UCF. Close game.
  • #21 Louisville over Virginia.
  • #22 Ohio gets its annual get-well game against Kent State. Buckeyes still look sloppy, but overwhelm a very over-matched opponent.
Ray Rice - 01

Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, and Cons in the Pros

Ray Rice needs help. Serious help.

When I first heard what happened back in February, I was appalled. I paid close attention to the process and followed the details of his trial. When I listened to his press conference live and saw his apology wasn’t scripted and seemed sincere, I started rooting for him to make amends. He entered the pretrial diversion program and I hoped he had turned a corner.

Ray Rice - 01When the video released on Monday morning, I made a point of watching it. The mixture of emotions and thoughts I’ve processed over the past two days leaves me with more questions that people well above my pay grade, society status, and experience are needing to answer.

How is Ray Rice not in jail? How can something so brutal and evil happen, and yet, he gets only a two-game suspension and a pretrial exit strategy? Shame on the prosecutor’s office for not submitting, or allegedly not even obtaining a copy of the video.

If the NFL had no knowledge of what was on the elevator video tape, then why was no one from the NFL available for comment on Monday after the video tape released? If you had no knowledge of the tape, then what do you have to hide? The conspiracy buzzards are circling over whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell knew of the video and waited to have TMZ release it until an opportune time, like when he needed to save face and take a mulligan on Rice’s initial suspension.

Roger Goodell - 01The one thing that simply blows my mind is that we knew in February that Ray Rice knocked out his fianceé in the elevator. End of story. We knew he hit his girlfriend, the police report even said so. And now, seven months later, society is acting like actually seeing it on film somehow changes the brutal facts that we already knew!

Yes, video speaks volumes beyond police reports and even pictures, but don’t act like the video changes what we already knew. Is the video graphic? Absolutely, because it was a graphic, horrible act. League officials, other NFL players, media talking-heads, and other parts of society are now squawking like we’re surprised by what we saw on the video. Stop cheapening the fact we didn’t take the police and medical reports at face value and admit the fact this incident wasn’t treated with the most serious repercussions.

Domestic violence is a massive problem. Race, class, age, geography, none of those matter because domestic violence happens across the entire spectrum of humanity. Here are all the rules you need to know about domestic violence.

  1. Guys, never hit a woman. Ever. No exceptions. If a woman is threatening harm to you, do everything in your power to safely restrain her or distance yourself from the situation, but never hit a woman.
  2. If in doubt, follow Rule #1.

The alarming trend among professional athletes is a rampant dissonance between reality and entitlement. Sadly, drugs, crime, and domestic violence are not strangers to professional athlete’s private lives. The growth of social media, me-first image advancement, and a bloated fiscal entitlement system like American sports has created a very skewed attitude of entitlement.

Playing in a league like the NFL is a privilege, not a right. Any time you join an organization, step into leadership, gain popularity, or achieve certain status, you also proportionately negotiate away your freedom of being inconsequential. Translation: the higher up you go, the more what you do and who you are matters.

This is a dark time in the NFL for more than just Rice’s actions. The lack of leadership and accountability from the league’s front office, including the commissioner, and the spineless waffling of the league on its grievous mishandling of domestic violence-related suspension protocol is beyond unacceptable.

The only way this is fixed is by admitting the problem starts within before it ever manifests outside. Court systems, legal prosecution, and pretrial diversion programs should be the backup plan for professional teams and management who choose to do what’s right the first time instead of wishing more evidence will surface so they can simply save face.

For all of us, the reality is we are all capable of the same type of evil and brutality that Rice demonstrated. And you may be objecting right now, saying “I’d never assault a woman like that.” Maybe not, but whenever we object to the potential of sin’s corruption in our life is when we put our own morality on a crystal pedestal.

The only difference is choosing to let the Gospel transform our corrupted sinful nature. At the end of the day, Ray Rice is still human, broken and jacked-up because of his sin. So is Roger Goodell. And you. And me. And the rest of humanity.

Choosing good over evil is a one-at-a-time opportunity. The league, Roger Goodell, and Ray Rice all have an opportunity to choose what’s right, even after all that’s been done wrong. Thank God for grace. Thank God for the opportunity to repent. Thank God for second chances after repentance.

College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 2

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

Week 1 was a whirlwind of surprisingly good games.

  • Good pick: No real winners of great picks, but I did put the right teams on upset alert.
  • Ugly pick: aTm embarrassed South Carolina (and my pick) with a huge win. The moral of story is ife after Johnny Football is so much better.
  • Predictions record after Week 1: 21-1 (darn you, South Carolina!)

On to the Week 2 picks!

Saturday, Sept. 6th:

  • #1 Florida State runs up the score against Citadel. Seminoles by 50+.
  • #2 Alabama continues FAU’s 2014 nightmare with a 50+ point victory.
  • #3 Oregon outmatches a good Michigan State squad. Ducks win because of Autzen… and because they’re actually fast, not just B1G fast.
  • #4 Ooooooklahoma over Tulsa. Big brother wins again.
  • #5 Auburn over San Jose State.
  • #8 Ohio over V-Tech because these ain’t your older brother’s Hokies.
  • #9 aTm over Lamar by 60+. What’s Lamar’s last name?
  • #10 Baylor destroys Northwestern St. Even if this was Northwestern U., Baylor would still win big.
  • #11 U-C-L-A (fight, fight, fight!) over Memphis in a game which should be on the hardwood.
  • #12 L$U over Sam Houston.
  • #13 Stanford (Harvard of the West) over #14 U$C. Too many distractions for U$C lately and Hogan is looking phenomenal. Cardinal by a TD.
  • #15 Ole Miss over Vandy. Gonna be a long year for the Commodores. Anchors way down.
  • Michigan over #16 Notre Dame. Last year for this rivalry (at least, for the foreseeable future) and the Wolverines win by a field goal.
  • #17 Arizona State over New Mexico.
  • #18 Wiscoffsin has a nice get-well win over Western Illinois.
  • #19 Nebraska (GBR!) over McNeese State. Confession time: I have no clue where McNeese State is.
  • #20 K-State over Iowa State. I’d say good job, Bill Snyder, for scheduling an early conference matchup, but this is the same Cyclones team that just lost to North Dakota State. No disrespect to the Bison, but c’mon, man!
  • #21a South Carolina over East Carolina. Gamecocks by two TDs.
  • #21b UNC over San Diego State. Should be a basketball game.
  • #23 Clemson over South Carolina State. This is the most mismatched in-state game of the weekend.
  • #24 Mizzou squeaks by Toledo on a last-minute field goal. Upset alert here!
  • #25 Louisville over Murray State. Another great basketball game.

What the ALS Challenge Reminded Me About Narcissism

Last month the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took the country (the world?) by storm. Here’s how the challenge is supposed to go: someone is challenged to donate $100 to support the ALS Association, or dump a bucket of ice water on their head and donate $10 to the ALS Association. It’s a simple challenge to accept and it went viral for a reason… which I’ll share later.

The ALS Association reports that at the time of this post over $109 million has been donated to the foundation. (Source) There’s no denying that the challenge was effective from a marketing and fundraising perspective. It’s easily one of the most memorable fundraising ideas we’ve seen in a long time. Over $100 million doesn’t just appear out of mid-air because people made donations, but that wasn’t the case with many challengers.

For the record, I’m not opposed to ALS research or the Ice Bucket Challenge. I think it’s remarkable, truly an incredibly effective marketing strategy, and I want to see a cure happen from this challenge. ALS is a horrible disease and we need to find a cure. The issue I have has little or nothing to do with the challenge, as much as it has to do with some of the challengers.

I started asking challengers to tell me what ALS is. I kept hearing the easy answer: it’s Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Here’s the truth: unless you’re extremely old, you never knew Lou Gehrig, let alone saw him in real life. In short, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting nerve cells in the brain stem and down the spinal cord. People with ALS suffer progressively worse nerve degeneration to the point of complete paralysis and eventual death within just a few years of diagnosis. It’s a terrible disease and one that affects more people than you might realize.

Awareness won’t cure a disease. Simply knowing without acting never solved a situation. For many Ice Bucket Challengers, not knowing the cause for which they were being challenged is concerning. How do you know that the principles and ethics of a foundation line up with your own and you would feel right in your conscience in supporting?

As a Christian it’s interesting seeing how many other believers I know who took the ice bucket challenge, donated to the ALS Association, and then had an oh-crap moment when they learned some ALS research methods involves stem cell research. All of a sudden, this saving-face addendum for Christians taking the challenge included something along the lines of, “And we’re writing “no stem cell research” on the memo line of this check!” Yes, because writing it in a check memo line is as effective as a boycott.

But, the thing I was reminded of the most from the Ice Bucket Challenge is how narcissistic we truly are as a society. From a marketing standpoint, the power of video is already viral (hello, YouTube!) so why wouldn’t they ask for a video to be made? That’s like asking a model if they want their picture taken. People were even doing multiple takes of the challenge, not to donate again, but because they didn’t like the way they looked in the video. Can we be more self-loving than that?

I’m just as guilty as the next person of being a narcissist. I have a natural excessive love of myself, a twisted by-product of our sin and brokenness without Christ. When we turn the camera towards ourselves and away from something or Someone greater than us, we dilute the power of our purpose. We’re not here to live for ourselves.

So, the next time you’re in a position to support causes like ALS research, Cure for Cancer, nonprofits, clean water, or child sponsorship, the real challenge is three-fold:

  • Understand what and why you’re supporting in this cause. Do your research and be able to give a clear explanation.
  • Get rid of the cynic inside. If you don’t like the way someone is supporting a cause, have a respectful dialogue about it, and then create your own approach that honors the cause in a better way.
  • Remember it’s not about you. A very effective way of making this happen is finding someone who’s been directly affected by the disease or condition, and listen to their story. Just listen. Ask questions. Be reminded about the seriousness of the cause, and how to best respond to someone dealing with the risk directly.

We have so much more potential to effect change when we place as ourselves as less important than a greater cause.

photo credit: idlphoto via photopin cc

Work is a gift

Work can be tough, especially manual labor. I’ve done everything from plumbing installations to landscaping, construction, roofing, concrete work, ditch digging, and everything in-between. Some jobs are easier than others, but physical labor is tough work.

Work is a gift - 01

photo credit: idlphoto via photopin cc

Mental work can be tough, too. None of my work with Keynote Content involves physical labor, but the mental and emotional strain of being an entrepreneur sometimes leaves me as drained as when I worked manual labor. Between communicating concepts, developing strategies, and writing content, the mental work can be exhausting at times.

We get to days like Labor Day today and think, “Thank God I don’t have to work. Work is a pain.” Here’s the truth about work…

Work is a gift.

Wind the clock all the way back to Eden and God called Adam to work the ground and take care of creation before Adam and Eve sinned. Work isn’t an effect of sin. The toil and strain of work is part of the effect of sin. Work is an opportunity to create, to build, to develop, and to refine. Work is our chance to imitate our Creator through our own mini-creations.

Too often we can fall into the trap of rejecting hard work altogether, trying to take the easy way out. I’m all about working smarter to ease the workload, if it means the job still gets done the right way. Cutting corners is lazy and cheapens the gift of work. Doing work the best way possible builds character, so yes, your dad was right when he said mowing the lawn the right way builds character. I mowed my lawn last night and it looks awesome.

People are judged on their paychecks, not rightly judged, but judged nonetheless. Your work is not defined by your paycheck, an important lesson I learned over seven years being on church staff and almost one year as an entrepreneur. Your life is defined by the quality of your work, whether it’s lucrative or not, and by how you respond to the opportunities to work hard at creating something significant. Building a strong marriage takes hard work. Raising great adults, not grown kids, takes hard work. Being kind and compassionate and honest and generous takes hard work. Life is hard work.

So, as you relax and barbecue, take a float trip, go hiking, whatever you’re doing today, remember this is a time to celebrate the work God’s given to you. Your work is a gift from God to reflect your potential in His eyes. He wants you to do something significant with your life’s work.

Today might be a great day to rethink your approach to work. Happy Labor Day.

Dream Year Denver Pitch Night - 082114

Dream Year Denver Pitch Night

Last week I had the privilege of sitting in with 40 other entrepreneurs, creatives, dream-chasers, and difference makers for the Dream Year Denver Pitch Night. Six speakers, 20 slides each at 20 second slide timers. All of it to share their dreams.

Dream Year Denver Pitch Night - 082114The first dreamer shared with me about swimming in the most densely populated great white shark waters because that’s where she wanted to learn how to surf. I heard from an artist who followed God’s call to Africa to teach children how to paint and design. I heard two marketing entrepreneurs share about creating marketing campaigns for massive brands with the requirement that half of the budget be put towards a nonprofit social cause.

I’ve been following Ben Arment and his team for almost five years now. It’s been incredible watching his team grow into the Story conference, the Dream Year experience, and many more endeavors. It was my privilege to finally put a face to a name when I met Ben after the presentations. Without a doubt, Ben has been one of the more inspiring voices behind my decision to chase my dreams.

“I have a dream” may seem cliched, but I guarantee you the power of a dream is more alive than ever today. The most valuable buried treasure are the dreams and ideas we never share. I experienced the pictures, videos, passion, and hope of dreamers that night. Some dreams start as a whisper, barely a diamond in the rough, if one at all, but Dream Year is the launch pad so many of us need to eradicate our excuses.

If you have a dream burning inside of you (or, in other words, if you’re human), you need to check out Dream Year. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an aspiring world-changed, Dream Year has the language of opportunity and a community of others discontent with staying the same that we all need around us when chasing big, hairy dreams.

Thank you, Dream Year team and Ben, for your incredible work and inspiration. May you be blessed for inspiring me and many others.

Heaven - 02

Heaven on earth

Heaven - 02There are times when I think about heaven. I don’t think it’s a place where God is casually sitting on His throne, just watching the breeze blow away as chubby cherubs daydream on passing clouds. Nope, that sounds more like a Hallmark card… and I don’t think heaven and Hallmark are in the same zip code.

When I think of heaven, I think of life finally being restored to all that’s right and good.

Heaven is where we will be reunited completely with God, where the fracture of our mistakes and this infection of sin will be a thing of the past. Heaven is where death and sickness and disease and pain and betrayal and all the evils of men will be dead and gone. No more ISIS. No more ALS. No more suicide and depression. No more Ebola.

Heaven is where life and humanity is restored because God has taken away the brokenness and disconnect that sin has brought.

Is heaven on earth right now? Question – have you seen the news lately?! Life in our world is too broken for heaven to be fully here right now. Sin still exists. Death is still a reality. And Satan is still on the loose. Our hope for heaven is caught in the tension between what we see now and what we hope to see in the future.

I believe that God puts us each in our own circle of influence for a reason: to kickstart His kingdom coming to earth. Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven. He even taught His disciples to pray for the kingdom of heaven to come to earth.

Aslan - 01In C.S. Lewis’ classic novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Christ-figure Aslan is a lion coming back to the winter-locked land of Narnia under the spell of the White Witch. The prophecy told before his return was this…

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

Even though this is a fiction novel, it still echoes to our God-given desire to see heaven on earth. With Christ’s kingdom working in our everyday lives, we find ourselves longing for wholeness, for God to make everything right again.

We catch only glimpses of heaven on earth today. It’s in the face of a child adopted into a loving home. It’s the hope found in addiction recovery. It’s the vows renewed after years of separation and counseling. It’s the new life of someone finding forgiveness in the cross of Christ. It’s finding your passion and calling when the right opportunity knocks. It’s choosing love instead of hate, hope instead of despair, graciousness instead of responding in anger.

Heaven is possible on earth and we get to be a part of ushering it in with how we live today.