My Coach K Memory

I spent three glorious years on the campus of Duke while attending Duke Divinity School.  Growing up with no real ACC allegiance, I only really need the acceptance letter to become a Duke fan.  For the next three years I attended as many Duke basketball games I was allowed.  One of my fondest memories was watching them win their third National Championship from the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2001.  Then the crowd walking, chanting, and smashing together into the quad to burn benches to celebrate.

My roommate and I would play racquetball in the gym next to Cameron on occasion and there on the court next to us would be Coach K.  We would watch him play and you could tell he was a competitive person.  One day he was walking out as we were and for the first time I put two and two together on exactly how tall he is.  He looks short when he is coaching his 6 foot umpteen inch players.  In reality he is 5’10”, my height.

It was in 2001 that I was able to go to my only Duke/Carolina game.  Me and some fellow soon-to-be ministers had seasons passes to the games that year (students in graduate schools camp out of a weekend for the chance to buy season tickets to the games).  But if we wanted good seats we would have to join the ranks of the undergrad students and camp out a few days before the game.  For two nights we slept in a tent just outside Cameron and I was able to score a seat in the middle of Graduate Student section, second bench up from the court.

The night before the big game Coach K would always gather the students waiting to get into the game and thank them for their dedication.  He would tell us to represent Duke with all the passion and energy we could but also with all the respect and pride.  It was there that I first his illustration of the fist.

In basketball there are five players, like there are five fingers on a hand.  If you attempt to attack with only one of those fingers you won’t make too much of an impact and probably break the finger.  Yet if all five fingers work together, bury their pride as individuals, they turn into a fist.  A fist can make a huge impact.  If the five individuals work together on the court then a great impact can be made in the game.  He told us we needed to hold his players up to that standard and he counted on us, the Cameron Crazies, to be a part of that fist.

The next day, at the joyous occasion that is the Duke/Carolina game in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  As the teams came out, we the students, stood silent and simply holding out a fist.

Coach K can capture the imagination of anyone and fill that person with confidence and pride.  This season has been one of milestones for him.  He added to his status and the winningest coach in the NCAA and also, as of last night, the ACC (passing Coach His class and how he holds his players, coaches and people around him, including the Cameron Crazies, to the highest standards possible only deepens my respect and admiration for him.

This video sums it up beautifully…Congrats Coach K!

Reflection on UNC by a Duke Fan

As a Duke fan I look at the news that is coming out about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and their student athletes with remorse and sorrow.  I don’t read articles about them taking teacherless classes with silent cheers or a constant smile on my face.  I don’t watch news reports about the findings of 18 years of academic fraud while dancing like Carton.  As a Duke fan, I look at this situation at UNC with sadness.

Here is why.  For me the Duke/UNC rivalry always represented the best of North Carolina Universities.  The two top schools going head to head in every way possible; academics, sports, and pride.  They are only separated by a few messily miles and yet hold some world renowned programs within their walls and stadiums.  I want both schools to live up to that expectation.  Actually I wish this for Wake Forest and NC State as well.  I want the Tobacco Road rivals to represent the best schools and the best sports in the entire nation.

My heart breaks to hear of this scandal at UNC because now their reputation is tarnished.  It will take a long time to get them back to where they use to be.  I want UNC at the top of their game in the classroom, and on the field/court.

I want that because it is that much sweeter when Duke wins and I know we have beaten the best of the best.  I hope UNC can get their act together and recover from this.  I have a feeling they will.

Rob Bell Video, The Divine Dance

Here is a great video Rob Bell did for the Leadership Education at Duke University, enjoy. And here I thought it was monsters under my bed…the whole time it was God!

Here is a link to the interview and you can download all the talks from this year’s Duke Convocation and Pastor’s School on iTunesU, click here for them. THEY ARE AWESOME! As I stated on previous posts, Bell’s lecture was great but expected, same with NT Wright. Andy Crouch caught me by surprise and blew me away. Listen and digest.

A Seminar with Rob Bell: DCPS

At Duke’s Convocation and Pastors School (DCPS) I was able to take a seminar with Rob Bell. I have a theological and preaching man crush on Bell. Confession is suppose to be good for the heart. What I envy of him is the way he sees the world and then translates that into his teachings. His Nooma series hooked me from the moment I saw the first one, Rain. I have been intrigued by his understanding of Judaism and when I questioned his sacramental theology he surprised me once again with some wonderful sermons on baptism and the Eucharist.

I was excited about this session and there were special security check points one had to get through to get into the session. Blue dot on your name tag. Named checked off list at the door. Ohh, this feels so important. I looked past that and had a seat right in the middle about 15 rows up.

Bell came out to applause and automatically became at ease in the room. Maybe he has done this before? His seminar was called Blank Screen. It was an hour talk about advice on who to write sermons. (I’m sure much of this could be found on his new video based teachings on sermons called Poets, Prophets and Preachers.)

The class couldn’t get through all of his points due to the rabbit trails he went on but there were some gold still. He told us that our job as preachers is to move from having to say something to having something to say (Are ya with me?) Our radar should always be up for the way God can be explained to our people. If we are not awake to how God is moving we will never have material to convey to God’s people. In order to do this we need to collect as much stuff as possible. As we go through life we need to write it, shout it, save it, ask for it, get it, clip it, tear it out, store it, mark it, remember it. If you hear a person tell a powerful story get their name and email/phone number so you can go back and quote them on it later, or even better have them tell the story itself. He encouraged us to have no edit button (readers of this blog can tell I’m a fan of no edit button). You have no way of knowing how that material could be used down the road but it may. Without filing it in a drawer, in a box, or in a file on your computer you will be stuck trying to remember.

Something else he said that we preachers don’t understand, especially me, is that we don’t always need to do the talking. It is not that I am a hoarder of a conversation, actually I’m the opposite but in my hermeneutical training I was told to paint a word picture. If I cannot describe it using words than I am not a good preacher. But Bell suggests that with our technology these days instead of trying to paint a word picture of something snap a picture of it and put it up on your screen (this assumes your congregation has this capability). Sometimes we don’t have to say anything we can let the picture say it all.

He also invited us to ask questions and then ask more. What is the mystery behind the mystery? What is the history behind the history? “If you couldn’t use any biblical or religious language, how would you describe it? to a child, a martian, without words, only drawings, only pictures, only actors?”

Overall this was an interesting journey into Bell’s mind as he forms his teachings/sermons. He is always thinking about what is coming up and always awake to how God is at work in the world and then documenting it in order to come back to it to tell the story.

We also have to plan. If we know we are going to be preaching on the Beatitudes, than create a document that you can dump your thoughts/ideas/questions in there between now and then. He said, “when we have intention we turn our attention” to it more often.

Andy Crouch – Duke’s Convocation and Pastor’s School

Ken Carter has a great summary of what Andy talked about during his time at Duke last week, to know more about the points he makes check out Ken’s post. To tell the truth I almost skipped this lecture. I didn’t know who Andy Crouch was and although his biography was longer in the brochure than NT Wright and Rob Bell, I walked into Page Auditorium with limited expectations.

I was greeted with a grand piano on stage and my interest peeked. Would Crouch pull Wright and Bell on stage and do number from the Rockettes? What he did was go into the African American Spiritual, Over My Head (which I still cannot get out of my head). He then took us on a journey through our present cultural and where God is in it. He stated that we can reclaim our culture because it is all God’s creation. He discussed the importance of form and the image of the cross. (once again head over to Ken’s blog for more details)

One thing I want to talk a little more about is the echos of a sermon by Rob Bell. In that sermon Bell suggests that were we start the Bible is important. Crouch suggested we need to add the first two chapters of Genesis and the last two chapters of Revelation back into our Bibles. What both of them were saying is that God created the world, looked at it and said, “it is good.” If we start our Bibles with Gen. 3 then we humans and the culture we make is not good at all. Yet if we can see the good in our culture we can then point to God in our midst.

I had heard Bell’s sermon before this talk but Crouch pushed me to think about it again. We do look at the world as evil many of the times, or at least much of Evangelical Christendom does. When I think of those who start their Bibles at Gen. 3 and end it with the lake of fire in Rev. 20 I think of fire and brimstone preaching. I think “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But does our culture need more hate language? Do we need to tell a rotting apple it is rotten? Or would our energy as Image Bearers be better used nurturing that culture back into what God created it to be.

When God gave dominion over the world to the humans he didn’t mean control. It was meant for us to cultivate the world into its original intent. Crouch went on to say that when we try to control culture we end up doing two things, 1) condemning it and 2) chasing it. Either way we are pushing it away and not seeing the divine picture in front of us. Crouch defines culture as anything humans make. When Adam and Eve took a bite of that forbidden fruit they made culture when they made the first fashion line. We have to learn to look at our culture and see God working in it, not condemn it and chase it. We have to be image bearers who are use to failing. As Crouch said, “suffering and failure are normative in creating culture. The most influential culture creating failed before it succeeded.” In order to do this culture creating we have to be able to see that God created something good and in the end God will bring it back to its original state.

Duke’s Convocation and Pastor’s School

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Duke’s Covocation and Pastor’s School. It was a full docket of some pretty big names, NT Wright, Andy Crouch, and Rob Bell. When I saw the line up I knew I had to be there because I like Wright and love Bell. I am still trying to process my notes on the whole experience and people at my church have been asking what I learned, so I am going to try and post a summary and reflection of each speaker.

N.T. (Tom) Wright:

Wright started off asking a great question. “Why did Jesus live?” Now it caught me off guard because after being ordained I thought I had answered that question in my ordination papers. But as he continued I started to realize I did exactly what he was talking against. We seem to get caught up in the birth and death/resurrection of Jesus and we explain that the points in between. It is in the creeds “born of a Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate…” It is how much of Paul refereces the Gospel, birth-death-resurrection. But what do we do with the majority of the stuff in the gospels then?

Wright went on to explain that the church tends to think of the Gospels as teaching us four things…

  1. Jesus Christ told us how to get to heaven
  2. Jesus Christ told us how to behave and act, basically that he was a great moral teacher
  3. Shows he lead a perfect life and was sinless
  4. His life points to his divinity

But in reality the Gospels teach us something different…

  1. It is where the world’s history and Israel’s history come together
  2. They launch the church
  3. They tell us the story of Jesus as Israel’s God coming into the world
  4. They tell the story of the battle between the Empire and the Kingdom of God

Later on in the second lecture he went on to explain how the Gospel’s demonstrate “How God Became King.” With this he asked a very important question that we should be asking more in our congregations. “What would it look like if God ran this?” With the power plays, personal interests, and politics that can go on in a congregation we should take time to step back and ask “What would it look like if God ran this?” He went on to say that Israel thought God would come in and whip out all government. All the issues with the economy, taxes, oppression and all the rest. The Israelites were looking for an answer to their narrative and the gospels say “here it is.”

What the Gospels remind us is that God is reclaiming his kingdom, they give signs of renewal, and Jesus explains what he is doing. Wright then went on to explain his earlier metaphor that each gospel is like a speaker in a surround sound system. They all add something to the story being told and without one of them there seems to be something missing.

What does this mean for us pastors? Wright says the Gospels tell us what we are about. They give us our identity and purpose. We are to be Kingdom entrepreneurs and that the Lord’s prayer is something we are praying for here and now.

Wright’s lectures where good. They teased the mind and left me thinking about the questions he posed. How do I look at the meat of the gospels? In my early years as a Christian I would have said that the most important thing is Christmas and Easter. But now I see the huge importance, to still with the liturgical year, of Kingdom Tide. It is in these long weeks between the holiest of seasons that the work of God is done. It is then our lives are to mirror the Gospels by going out and healing the sick, feeding the hungry and taking care of the poor.

Why did Jesus live? What would Church look like if God ran it?

Call & Response Blog

The people over at Duke Divinity School and in particular those in Faith and Leadership, have started a new blog which is linked to a new site. The blog is called Call & Response, I thought that was pretty creative. The authors are Jason Byassee, Mark Chaves, Lillian Daniel, Richard J. Mouw, and Prince Rivers.

This site has not been up for long but has some wonderful stuff already in it. Check it out and Faith and Leadership’s site.

Quiet Leadership – Shane Battier

There is a great article about one of my favorite basketball players. Shane Battier is one of my favorite not because he played two years I was at Duke and I witnessed him win a National Championship. It is his leadership. This New York Times has a great, although long, article on Shane and his leadership ability. Here are a couple of quotes.

For most of its history basketball has measured not so much what is important as what is easy to measure — points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots — and these measurements have warped perceptions of the game. (“Someone created the box score,” Morey says, “and he should be shot.”) How many points a player scores, for example, is no true indication of how much he has helped his team. Another example: if you want to know a player’s value as a ­rebounder, you need to know not whether he got a rebound but the likelihood of the team getting the rebound when a missed shot enters that player’s zone.

One well-known statistic the Rockets’ front office pays attention to is plus-minus, which simply measures what happens to the score when any given player is on the court. In its crude form, plus-minus is hardly perfect: a player who finds himself on the same team with the world’s four best basketball players, and who plays only when they do, will have a plus-minus that looks pretty good, even if it says little about his play. Morey says that he and his staff can adjust for these potential distortions — though he is coy about how they do it — and render plus-minus a useful measure of a player’s effect on a basketball game. A good player might be a plus 3 — that is, his team averages 3 points more per game than its opponent when he is on the floor. In his best season, the superstar point guard Steve Nash was a plus 14.5. At the time of the Lakers game, Battier was a plus 10, which put him in the company of Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett, both perennial All-Stars. For his career he’s a plus 6. “Plus 6 is enormous,” Morey says. “It’s the difference between 41 wins and 60 wins.” He names a few other players who were a plus 6 last season: Vince Carter, Carmelo Anthony, Tracy McGrady.

It is worth the read and demonstrates a true sense of quiet yet extremely effective leadership. HT: Call & Response Blog from Duke Divinity’s Faith and Leadership