Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coach Summitt

I doubt many people are unaware of the sad news released last week about the legendary Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach, Pat Summitt, and her dementia diagnosis. Now, I am not a Tennessee fan by any stretch of the imagination. But I AM a woman who grew up loving sports without many women to admire. Coach Summitt was the exception. In middle and high school when I would watch her coach her teams or see her interviewed, I would somehow feel excited to work harder on my team and in my sport (volleyball--I didn't even play basketball). She is classy, hard-working, tough on her players while simultaneously loving them like a mother, and never too busy to say hello or sign an autograph for a fan.
I know this first hand. Rewind back to the winter of 2003. It was January or February, and I was starting Auburn in August of that same year. No matter, when a friend from church offered me tickets behind the Tennessee bench at the Auburn/Tennesee women's basketball game I sat behind that bench and sang Rocky Top with no regard to my future alma mater. That is the effect this woman has had on my life. As I watched her in person that day, able to listen in on every huddle and hear every piece of coaching, my admiration was cemented. After the game, we waited around, hoping she might come back out from the locker room to do her post-game radio show. When she did, I grabbed my new "Lady Vols basketball" t-shirt I'd been given and stood at Coach Summitt's shoulder. Seeing me out of the corner of her eye, she turned to me and I stammered: "Uhh, Coach Summitt? I think you're AWESOME!! Could you sign my shirt?" She looked at me like I might not have been the first young female athlete enamored with her, smiled, and said "of course, darlin." I don't know if she said anything else, but I just know that she made this former tomboy's day that winter afternoon.
As she embarks on this battle with dementia, I have no doubt that she will handle it as she has the rest of her career--with class, grace, determination, and fortitude. It's odd to say you'll be praying for someone you don't even know, and I realize this can seem like a celebrity obsession, but it's different. Without knowing me, Coach Summitt changed my life. She made it okay for a female to love sports and want to work as hard as possible at them. She made hard work and dedication look fun, and displayed the rewards with humility. Because of that, I doubt I'm the only one who would say to her today, "Thank you, Coach Summitt. We are thinking and praying for you!"

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Earlier this month I sent an email to some college friends asking them to enter into the season of Lent with me. After sending it I knew I sounded crazy in the email. Why do I enjoy Lent? Doesn't that seem like an oxymoron? Who enjoys mourning and sacrifice? Maybe it's because I'm still "new" to the Lent thing (this being my fourth year observing it). Maybe it is because I need "an excuse" to slow down, examine my life, and truly observe a time of contemplative prayer and open hands. Or maybe, it is because a season in the church calendar set aside to allow me to own my sinful nature, my flesh, and my mortality in light of the Cross is exactly what I need. As of late, I've been a bit obsessed with my sins--even struggling to believe that the Lord could accept me after I have rejected him time and time again with decisions I make. But during Lent, I view my sinfulness differently. Lent is a time where I can say "Yes Lord, I do reject you--every day. I am human and broken and sinful and frail." Lent is a time where I have to confess, as one of the author's below says, "Jesus will have to do everything." I can do nothing to heal this sickness that is my sin. Jesus will have to do everything, and I will have to trust Him to do that which He promises to do. And Lent (and then Easter) is a time when Jesus says "Yes, you are human, broken, sinful, and frail. And you reject me daily. But you are my child, and I love you. I have died and risen from the dead to bring you into my presence. I have done what you can't do. So be at peace."

With that, I'll leave you with some of my favorite thoughts I've read on Lent this year. They are a bit lengthy, but I hope they will encourage you the way they have me.

"The search for sanctification never is that far removed from neurotic burden. There always is something half-comical, half-tragic about the banalities of what we “give up” for Lent.
And the knowledge of the unimpressiveness of our efforts in this area can lead us toward either triviality or despair. We can sacrifice the unimportant, and in this way not really care about what we are doing, or we can be crushed by the paltry efforts we make as they compare to the awesome horror of Christ’s death. So the insight that our bodies can positively relate to the spiritual life quickly can become a demanding, unyielding law that deprives us of the freedom the Gospels promise. We enter into a faulty problematic that induces us to ask how much is enough, or that weighs our sacrifices against what those around us do or do not do. In other words, the real, if limited, truth of Lenten restraint finds its perversion in the labyrinthine wanderings of the human mind, an anxiety about the sufficiency of our efforts that only really proves their insufficiency. Lent, when taken up into the cycle of man’s attempts at self-justification, can fix our gaze toward our own doing, and in this way upend the point of the liturgical season: what Christ has done.

Ash Wednesday, then, should be seen as standing guard over Lent, reminding us at its start of the core truth of Christianity: we must give up. We must give up not this or that habit or food or particular sin, but the entire project of self-justification, of making God’s love contingent on our own achievements. And the liturgy of this day goes right to the ultimate reality we struggle against, which is death itself. We are reminded, both by the words we say and the burned palms imposed on our foreheads, that we will die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Give up! Give up, for you will not escape death. The entire logic of the theology of glory, of all our Pelagian impulses, of all human attempts at mastery and control, are searched out and stripped away on Ash Wednesday. We are seen for what we are – frail mortals. All power, all money, all self-control, all striving, all efforts at reform cannot permanently forestall our death. Our return to dust is the looming fact of our existence that, in our resistance to it, provides a template of sorts for all the more petty efforts we make to gain control of our lives.

In this way, the repentance that takes place on this day also can be seen for what it is. The penitential rite is not a kind of shame inducing act of self-hatred. It simply is a recognition, and thereby acceptance, of our inability to love and do perfectly, which no amount of self-help strategies can change. It points to the utter gratuity of grace, its unearned, unmerited, even inexplicable nature. Repentence, then, is liberating. On Ash Wednesday, our confession of sin really is saying, “we give up.” By repenting, we opt out of the logic that turns the good news of Christianity into another form of bondage, of accusation and moralizing. We do not, on this day at least, pretend to be anything other than the flawed human beings we are. And it is this very lack of pretending that is such a relief to sufferers weighed down by guilt. Ash Wednesday is a day for honesty. We no longer have to fear or elide the truth about ourselves."
From this:

"Jesus will have to do everything. He will have to accomplish it all. I am ashes and I am dust and there is no good in me and I am in dire need and lent has given me clear eyes to see my sin and I am the one broken under all this skin."
From this:

"And eventually, the choosing becomes easier, the darkness lifts, and walking in Jesus’ way is not quite such a struggle…for a while. But the darkness will always return, often unexpectedly. That is why I need Lent, because it bears witness to the reality of darkness, of doubt, of fear, of pain. And it carries me through those real places, real experiences into one that is more fully and truly Real: the Reality of Resurrection, of Light, of Life."
-Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Monday, February 14, 2011

Things I love

It is embarrassing that I haven't posted in about two months. SO MANY BIG THINGS HAVE HAPPENED! And, while I want to post about several of them in the coming days and weeks, I am going to take this opportunity on Valentine's Day to talk about the things I love. I think it's healthy and that it pleases God when we take a moment to reflect on the gifts of "common grace" he gives us all. So, here we go:

1. Mom and Dad
2. Abby (and now also Holder)
3. Extended Family
4. My Communities of Friends
5. My Best Friend
6. K.C., the cat...yes, I'm serious.
7. Each of my Alma Maters (including the soon-to-be)
8. Music (Both thought-provoking and just silly)
9. Movies and Books that Tell Good Stories
10. The "WOW" moments in nature--when you almost lose your breath at the beauty before you, and the reminder that this could only be created by a loving God
11. "Aha!" Moments in studies, relationships, theology, etc.
12. That deep seed of faith and reassuring love that remains, even in moments of utter brokenness and confusion
13. That great feeling when you have the will-power to push yourself to the limit physically and you are bent over, dripping in sweat, but know you have given it all you have
14. Sports (and the stories they can tell)
15. Good beer, wine, and fancy cocktails + all of the coozies, coasters, and drinkware that accompany them. It's a small pleasure in life that I enjoy
16. Singing the "Auburn version" of "Rammer Jammer" after an Iron-Bowl win
17. Those moments in worship, both personal and corporate, when you are truly unaware of your surroundings and completely enveloped in your communion w/ the Lord
18. My Baptist, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches, and my mixed theology
19. College t-shirts
20. Baseball caps
21. American History
22. Mexican Food
23. Cuddling
24. A Real Fire (Indoor or Outdoor)
25. Charlottesville, VA; Washington, DC; Auburn, AL; Mtn. Brook, AL; and anywhere else I've called home
26. The Alabama Gulf Coast, the Florida Panhandle, Lake Martin, the Godfrey's lake house, and any other place that's served as a second home or a consistent restful vacation for me.
27. The perfect music mix for a roadtrip
28. A fan when I sleep
29. The Braves
30. Shrimp and Grits and Chesapeake Benedict
31. Mountain Views
32. Past dating relationships that have revealed to me more of who I am, who God is, and what He is doing in me
33. Higher Education
34. Random encouraging notes, emails, letters, texts, tweets, etc.
35. Guilty pleasures: The Bachelor, GLEE, Eminem, and an assortment of Christian music
36. The following candy: York Peppermint Patties, Twix, Reeses Cups, Dark Chocolate in any form
37. Singing loud in the car by myself
38. Sermon podcasts
39. Having all my old books and past journals with me, just in case I want to reference one at some point
40. Politics
41. A Great Night's Sleep
42. Conversation's that aren't forced and hold nothing back
43. Tivo'd re-runs of "How I Met Your Mother"
44. Summer: Rainbows/Chacos; Spring and Fall: Sperry Boat Shoes; Winter: Wallabies
45. My 21st birthday ring from Mom and Dad
46. Auburn's National Championship
47. Exploring New Cities
48. G-Chat, Facebook, and Twitter (Don't hate)
49. Pictures of Friend
50. A good laugh/cry

If you've made it this far, thanks. Happy Valentine's Day. I am thankful for not only the saving Grace of Christ, but also the common Grace God gives us in our daily life.