A Tribute to My Dad

August 29, 2015 Category :Blog 0

The following is an edited version of what I shared at my Dad’s funeral this past Thursday.

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Austin Henry “Pat” Reid, Sr, went to be with Jesus Monday morning, August 24, 2015.

If you knew our Dad, you know how he loved people. If you were known by him, you know he loved you personally. I never knew a man who loved people more than my Dad.

Our world glamorizes power, position, and possessions. We know true greatness is in none of these.

Dad wasn’t a giant physically. He never passed 5’6″ and 160 pounds, but he had a heart bigger than a lion. The Pat Reid we remember was a great man.

He wasn’t a brilliant man in terms of education. My brother, Austin Jr, and I have PhDs (only because of the great sacrifice made by Mom and Dad); he only had a high school diploma. But, we would hope one day to have his wisdom. Dad possessed great wisdom.

He bore no great titles. he was neither a president nor a CEO. But we know the most important titles He bore with distinction: Husband. Dad. Christian. Friend. Our Dad, Pat Reid, epitomizes a great man.

To know Pat Reid is to know three things that mattered most:

1. Family: No man ever loved his family more than our Dad. We could never talk enough on the phone or visit enough in a year. He never got weary of family. Over 63 years of marriage to our Mom demonstrates this uncommon love.

He loved his sons and was so proud of us. He loved his daughters-in-law like they were his own flesh and blood. And those grandkids: in all the years of fighting cancer, he was determined to be there for the grandkids. Ball games when younger–soccer, volleyball, basketball, football–both weddings three years ago, and recent visits by the grandkids and their spouses brought him great joy. His heart was bigger than his frail body, for his love extended broadly to siblings, nieces and nephews, and to adopted family.

2. Friends: Over 300  people came to celebrate his life. So many came who knew his friendship. He always put others first. He would give you the shirt off his back. “Friendship is a treasured gift,” someone said, “and every time I talk with you I am getting richer.” This is how dad touched people: he made us richer from having known him.

3. Faith: Our Dad was no theologian. Our conversations about faith–and they were many–centered on the practice of faith: How to be a better deacon. How to help his pastor. How to serve his God. I like to describe Dad as having a heart of gold, hair of silver, and a neck of red. A deacon for 50 years, Dad met Jesus at age 17. And now he is with Him forever.

Our son Josh, Monday morning at 7 am, wrote this in his journal: “Help my grandparents. Take grandpa home today. Appears he’s finished the race well.” A few short hours later this prayer was answered.

In his Bible Dad had these words written from a gospel song by Elvis. Simple, personal, and encouraging, they capture his life well:

Is the life you’re living
Filled with sorrow and despair?
Does the future push you
With its weight and its care?
Are you tired and famished
Have you almost lost your way?
Jesus will help you
Just come to Him today

He is always there hearing every prayer
Faithful and true
Walking by our side in His love we hide
All the day through

When you get discouraged
Just remember what to do
Reach out to Jesus
Come on and reach out to Jesus
I said you reach out to Jesus
He’s reaching out to you

 

Want to Think Well? Stop, for a Change

August 21, 2015 Category :Blog 0

You know Einstein gave us the theory of relativity. You may not know that about the same time Einstein posited his theory, a French mathematician named Poincare did as well, yet not from the vantage point of physics, but of mathematics.

In his fascinating book Before Happiness, Harvard Professor Shawn Achor discusses the breakthrough discovered by Poincare. The Frenchman did not come to his final conclusions by obsessing over the issues. On the contrary, it was when he walked away from thinking about it that offered him the idea he sought. He writes:

Disgusted with my failure, I went to spend a few days at the seaside, and thought of something else. One morning, walking on the bluff, the idea came to me, with just the same characteristics of brevity, suddenness and immediate certainty.*

Achor goes on to note two other occasions when Poincare solved an otherwise difficult problem by breaking away from thinking about the problem to divert his attention elsewhere.

Sometimes our best thinking comes from concentrated effort on the subject at hand. Disciplined thought matters to our intellectual and personal growth. But sometimes, and in particular when we reach an area of unresolved conflict, the best way to think about the issue is simply to stop thinking about it: take a walk in the woods, go sit by a lake, or go for a bike ride. Let your mind rest.

Think about this: most of your “aha!” moments came when you weren’t trying to have a profound thought, right?

The very same thing happened to Einstein as well, as Achor notes:

In 1905, after a frustrating conversation with his friend Michele Besso in which he tried to reconcile all the problems he saw with Newtonian physics, he conceded defeat and gave up.  While bouncing in a streetcar in Bern, Switzerland, the impoverished and defeated Einstein looked back over his shoulder and saw the Bern clock tower. He casually wondered what would happen if his streetcar suddenly zoomed away from the clock at the speed of light. Perhaps Einstein just wanted to get home faster. Maybe the great Einstein needed to go to the bathroom. But as he would put it, “A storm broke loose in my mind.” This was his unconscious brain offering his conscious brain a novel idea that would soon upend everything we thought we knew about the universe: that time was not the same everywhere in the universe. Einstein was not squiggling incomprehensible mathematical formulations on the board when he made his discovery. He was not in a physics lab. He was just on his way home.**

Two of the greatest minds in the modern era found crucial information related to incredible discoveries about reality when they were not thinking about them.

I’m learning this as well. Okay, I’m not Einstein, but I love reading how he sometimes walked the wrong direction heading home, because my ADHD works like that too often. But more importantly, I’m learning that taking a day once a week to step away in order not to think about my teaching, my writing, or my local church pastoral role actually helps me to think better regarding all these. There are at least a couple of forces at work: 1) my mind needs a break, and taking a day to think about nothing more than fishing or some other trivial matter helps my mind to rest, and 2) I have some of my more original thoughts on those days.

Sabbath rest means worship. But it also means, beyond worship, no agenda. No solving world crises, developing a genius book idea, or even prepping for that next talk. And by refusing to focus on such things, I in fact become a better speaker, writer, and minister.

More importantly, I become a better man.

 

 

 

 

*Achor, Shawn (2013-09-10). Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change (p. 228). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

**Achor, Shawn (2013-09-10). Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change (pp. 229-230). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Everything I Learned about Ministry I Learned Playing High School Football

August 7, 2015 Category :Blog| Leadership| Missional 0

*I post a version of this every August :-).

Football is BACK! I love this time of year. In some ways no better time exists: the cool air this morning beckoning fall to arrive (ok this year August has been HOT, but it is coming!), the excitement of a new school year, and the many new faces at our Young Pros ministry at Richland Creek Community Church, to name only a few. But something else happens to me (and to many more) this time of year. The marching bands, the pom poms, and the endless discussions have arrived concerning the great American sport: football. No sport turns my crank more than football. Around here we hope the Carolina Panthers will continue to win. I would be okay with the Crimson Tide winning another national title, and would like the Tar Heels to win another bowl game. But football in particular takes me back to my own youth and the days of playing football.

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Football has had an enduring affect on my life. Maybe it stems from the matching scars I have on both knees from surgical repairs brought about from my gridiron days. No doubt it comes in no small way from my having grown up in Alabama in the heyday of Bear Bryant-led Alabama football. My brief stint coaching Josh in football back in his freshman year in high school brought a lot of joy, although I think I will stick to teaching. One thing is certain: every fall I experience a strange phenomenon. About the time school begins, if I hear a marching band practice or see football players sweating in their two-a-days, I begin to twitch, and I feel an adrenaline rush. I find myself looking for someone to tackle, or at least find the urge to watch Remember the Titans one more time! Something about football has never left me.

I have fought the urge to tackle a colleague or try to convince the secretaries in my office to lead a pep rally. But I have discovered that nothing in my adult experience causes me to reflect on my teenage years more than my annual habit of football nostalgia.

Football stands as the ultimate team sport. It is, as one former NFL coach put it, one of the last places in America where men can be men and be praised for it. Few realms offer the opportunity to risk, sacrifice, sweat, hurt, push, think, and react. If you play the game as intended, it pushes your mind, your emotions, your body, all of you to excellence. No, playing football does not make you a man, but it provides a wonderful venue for the God-given attributes of a man to be developed.

Football gave me a lot. I was far from the all-star player on my team. Like most guys, in my mind the older I get, the better player I was! But I have observed that being on a football team over four years taught me practical lessons about life that have helped me ever since. And, many of these same lessons have been especially helpful to me in ministry. Ministry is to team sports (like football) as painted lines are to a highway — not the same, but a pretty good parallel. Just look at the times Paul used athletics in the New Testament to teach spiritual truth (I Cor. 9:24-27, Phil. 3:14, I Tim, etc).

I look back all the time on the lessons I learned from football. Here are a few:

1. The TEAM comes First. The more you focus on helping others the better it becomes for you. Be a servant leader. If you are a pastor or staff member, helping the whole staff honor God should supersede any personal goals. When the team wins, everyone gets the credit, but when the team loses, individual achievements really don’t matter. I learned this from watching Bear Bryant: a great leader takes more blame than he deserves and gives more credit to others than they deserve.

2. Value SACRIFICE. If all being on a football team involved was showing up and playing a game every week, half the guys in school would want to play. No, to play the game, you have to pay the price. Hours of sweating during two-a-days in the August sun, off-season conditioning, grueling drills, wind sprints, on and on the sacrifice goes. Afternoons in the fall are surrendered to practice. Ministry is not about finding your niche so much as it is pursuing godliness. This involves great sacrifice over time.

3. STAY FOCUSED on the Goal. Our team’s goal, make no mistake, was to WIN. Our coach never began a season saying, “Our goal this year is to be 0 and 10.” We never started a week of practice with the goal of losing. Excuses were never allowed. In ministry we have to be careful about how we define “winning” by overly focusing on some things to the neglect of others. But let’s be clear — the goal of a team is never mediocrity, and neither should being average satisfy a minister. Winning people to Christ and building disciples should remain our priority.

4. EVALUATION Helps. Every Monday we watched film as a team. Our coach loved to say, “the big eye won’t lie.” If an assignment was blown, all could see. If a great play was made, all observed. Effective ministry requires ongoing evaluation. But the evaluation should always be focused on making people better rather than tearing them down. We need people in our lives to coach us, to evaluate us, to push us daily.

5. Be a GOOD SPORT (i.e. have character). Learn what is important and what isn’t. Don’t confuse personal preference with things that really matter. In football things like hustle, preparation, and teamwork rule – personal feelings do not. I honestly learned some virtues in a locker room (okay, there were plenty of vices there too!) I did not learn at church, such as treating each other with respect regardless of the color of their skin. The coach has the right to ride a player’s back if he loafs. In ministry, we tend to take ourselves too seriously, but fail to take the gospel seriously enough. We need to reverse those two and lighten up! We should rejoice in the success of others and be grateful for any measure of grace God gives us.

6. Leave NOTHING on the Field. A good football player never quits. Great teams play until the final whistle. Too many ministers spend more time preparing for retirement than reaching the lost, too much time magnifying themselves than the Jesus they should be preaching. Ministry properly done is exhausting work, and we should give it our best effort, particularly when we teach the Word. I still apply this mentally when I preach or teach. When I am finished, I am exhausted, but it is a good feeling to know I have given my best to communicate the Word of God.

7. A GOOD COACH Helps. Great football programs on any level are marked by great coaches. The “coach” of a local church is the pastor. Everything rises or falls on leadership.

8. RISK and Be Rewarded. The players that make the greatest impact are typically those who risk the most. Football games are often won or lost by playmakers–those who at a critical moment step up and deliver. As a minister of the gospel, your willingness to trust God and take risks of faith will mark much of your life’s trajectory. You can’t get injured watching a game from the couch. You can definitely get hurt playing the game, but the thrill is worth the risk.

9. Keep a LONG TERM Look. Losing one game does not have to destroy a season. Falling behind in one quarter does not mean you will lose the game. A setback in ministry does not mean the whole future is bleak. Keeping a long term perspective helps to deal with short term setbacks. Let’s face it, drama queens (those who constantly go from “today is the best day of my life!” to “today is the most awful day ever”) never seem to do well at football. Or ministry.

10. Be AGILE, MOBILE, and HOSTILE. OK, I am getting carried away a bit, but that’s how my coach described a linebacker. At my age I am fragile, docile and senile! In ministry we should never be hostile, but we must be agile and mobile, or flexible. We should be aware of our times and our people and be able to apply a timeless gospel in a timely manner. And we should be hostile toward the devil.

I will add an 11th that I have only learned in recent days: Value rest at the appropriate time. After the Friday night lights went out, before we went home, coach would tell us on Saturday to get some rest, drink lots of fluids, to be prepared to go back after it on Monday. We need to work hard, but we also need to Sabbath well, to stop at times. Jesus did (Luke 5:16). Burnout doesn’t come from working too hard but from resting too little.

Football and ministry obviously are not exactly the same. Ministry matters a lot more. Ministry is not a game: it’s life and death. But, just as Paul used a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer to describe a minister, football can teach us a lot.

Now, go out there and give it all for the — no, not the Gipper — for the Savior!

* With apologies to Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things.

Want to be a better student this year? Exercise

August 6, 2015 Category :Blog 0

For all our students at Southeastern as you gear up for school:

In his book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, author Thomas Friedman decries how American students have fallen behind other nations in such fields as math and engineering. At the same time students in the U.S. have excelled at becoming couch potatoes: 65% of Americans are overweight; this has become an epidemic among young people. Seems our advancing technology has produced more processed and fast food than ever, which has advanced the growth of our waistlines more than anything else in our civilization.

“We are literally killing ourselves,” John Ratey says in his book Spark, adding, “What’s even more disturbing, and virtually no one recognizes, is that inactivity is killing our brains too—physically shriveling them.” There actually is a relationship between our physical fitness and our ability to learn.

Enter the Naperville School District near Chicago. In this single district, of the 19K sophomores, only 3% were overweight (compared to 30% nationally). But the students in this district are not only more fit. In 1999 their 8th graders took the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study test, an international standards test taken by 230K students globally. Ratey observes that in a time students in China, Japan, and Singapore rank consistently above American students, the Naperville class ranked 6th in math and FIRST in science globally.

What happened in this school district? Several factors, as one reason hardly ever explains such a remarkable performance. But one issue stands out: the beginning of school each day in Naperville called Zero Hour in which students begin not with study hall but with a fitness class. Ratey observes:

“The essence of physical education in Naperville 203 is teaching fitness instead of sports. The underlying philosophy is that if physical education class can be used to instruct kids how to monitor and maintain their own health and fitness, then the lessons they learn will serve them for life.” Imagine that, expecting young people to be responsible for developing their own fitness goals for a lifelong trajectory.

He continues: “What’s being taught, really, is a lifestyle. The students are developing healthy habits, skills, and a sense of fun, along with a knowledge of how their bodies work.” You mean you can teach young people that fun is not separate from learning responsibility? Yes.

The Naperville school district ranks consistently in the top ten in Illinois even though the amount of money it spends per pupil is considerably lower than other top Illinois schools. Could it be that fitness is the most inexpensive means to raise test scores?

What has happened in Naperville did not begin with a brilliant educator with a mensa-level IQ. It started with a PE teacher who read about the growing unhealthiness of American students. You can read Ratey’s book to get the details, and I encourage you to do so.

For the Naperville students they no longer take gym classes with inane topics like learning the dimensions of a volleyball court. They start with first period and heart rate monitors with students running a mile. What they discovered: learning is significantly enhanced when preceded by exercise.

If you are a student struggling with academics, and sometimes discouraged or even depressed by your setbacks, try exercising. Get up, get active, start your day by getting your body going. Just do this for a while and see what happens. More studies than can be counted have noted the positive, ripple effect of exercise on dealing with depression, on eating better, on developing discipline, and on one’s general disposition.

Now we know that it also can directly affect academic performance.

So, students, if you are serious about becoming better in your studies, don’t start in the library at a desk with a stack of books–although that matters!–start at your home with some running shoes or a set of weights.

You may discover you are smarter than you think.