Tag: life

Why we love the underdog

I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. And I’m a Tennessee Titans Fan. And I root for the UT Vols. Which means I’m always a fan of the underdog.

My team tends to be the one that Vegas says, “Bet against.”

As a Reds fan, I grew up in “The Nasty Boys” era: Norm Charlton, Randy Myers, and Rob Dibble, the three-headed closing pitching monster that did the heavy lifting in the late innings for the Reds in the late 80s/early 90s. Throw in a little offensive power like Erik Davis, Chris Sabo, and Paul O’Neill, and you’ve got a lovable losers team worth rooting for.

Even with all of that, they were the underdog in the 1990 World Series against the A’s. Which made their sweep of the A’s even that much sweeter.

I love rooting for the underdog. The guys that everybody counts on losing. The guys that are counted out before the game begins. The team that nobody gives a chance.

And don’t we all love rooting for the underdog? It’s no secret that our culture loves movies like Remember the Titans, The Bad News Bears, and Rudy. We love shows like The Biggest Loser. Because there’s a part of us that wants the “unlovable” guy to win. That wants the big bully to lose.

But why do we really love the underdog so much?

Because we are the underdog.


image credit: abcnews.com

In life, we feel like we’re the guy at the bottom.

We are the underdog

  • We were the one who was picked on at school.
  • We were the one who picked on others because we were insecure in ourselves.
  • We were the one whose marriage was doomed to fail.
  • We weren’t the one “most likely to succeed.”
  • We were the ones that nobody thought would be a good parent.
  • We were the ones that almost failed out of shop class.
  • We were the ones that never could get the girl.
  • We were the ones that were made fun of.
  • We were the nerds.
  • The goof-ups.
  • The forgetful.
  • The lazy.
  • The cheap.
  • The funny-looking.
  • The ugly one.
  • The one with the broken family.
  • The one with the addiction.
  • The one that was slow.
  • The overweight one.
  • The one with the lisp.
  • The dumb one.
  • The one who couldn’t dance.
We’re not any different spiritually, either.

Spiritual underdogs

Spiritually speaking, we’re the underdog, too. The Bible says that we are

  • dead (Romans 5:12, 19)
  • disobedient (Romans 11:32)
  • dumb sheep (Isaiah 53:6)
  • Like a thorn (Micah 7:2-4)
  • worthless (Romans 3:10)
  • Not good (Luke 18:19)
  • Evil (Ecclesiastes 9:3)
  • dumb (Jeremiah 10:14)
  • unable to save ourselves (Colossians 2:13)
The Bible paints a picture of us not of ones who are on top of the heap, righteously fighting for the good of our souls. We’re made out exactly the opposite. And if we’re honest with ourselves, doesn’t life feel like this? As much as we try, we feel further from God. As hard as we work, life still doesn’t make sense. As much as we want to do the right thing, we stumble into the wrong thing. We’ve never drifted into doing the right thing. We continuously drift into that thing that we don’t want to do. (Romans 7:19)
The Bible doesn’t paint a picture of us that we haven’t seen before. We look at it in the mirror each and every day.
We love to root for the underdog because we are the underdog.
Which makes the grace of God that much more beautiful.

I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:18-24

It’s time we embrace our weaknesses. And turn back to the God who saves the weak, the dead, the dumb, the blind, the maimed, the bleeding, the wicked, and the wanderers. And find He’s running towards us with open arms.



7 Truths about encouragement I learned from the gym

I started working out at the gym a couple of months ago. CrossFit is my deal. I find it much more enjoyable…ahem…as *enjoyable* as lifting weights can be.

It’s a combination of lifting weights, aerobic activities (running, rowing, etc.), jumping/climbing, and gymnastics-type moves. Whereas normal weight-lifting can get boring through repetitive movements, I’ve never once been bored.

I’ve also never once gone home not sore.

As I was finishing up one of my runs just the other day, rounding the last corner before the mile run was over, I was about to go into cruise control. The last 400 meters were going to be easy, I thought. I was a sizable distance behind the next runner, and…who cares? It’s just a run…I don’t have to win this.

image credit: Creative Commons, user ConvergingPhoto

Until one of the coaches barked a word of encouragement my way.

I didn’t see it coming. I had already pushed the cruise button. I had taken my foot off the gas and was ready to coast. But the coach jarred me back to the grind. When I was tempted to coast, I was reminded to work even harder.

There have been a number of times where I’ve been directly encouraged. Sometimes it’s been in a cheerleading-type, “Way to go!” way. Other times it’s been a more constructive, “If you’ll just change ____, things will be easier” way.

In the process, I’ve learned much about how encouragement works.

7 truths about encouragement

1. Encouragement speaks things into existence that are not yet.

Am I good at working out? I don’t know…ask my stick arms. But they won’t be stick arms forever. Encouragement sees things that will be, based on trajectory instead of current circumstances. It focuses on potential, not only current reality.

2. Encouragement breeds hope.

When I’m ready to quit, a word of encouragement gives me a burst of energy. It breathes a bit of life into my fatiguing body. Encouragement is the breeding ground for hope, where none currently exists.

3. Encouragement builds relationships.

I feel a closer connection with those that have given me a timely encouragement. I feel like they believe in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. And I’m convinced that relationships are an under-valued key in so many areas of life. Especially decision-making.

4. Encouragement propels you further, faster.

I felt a surge of adrenaline when I heard, “You can do it, Ben!” When you encourage someone, your words help carry someone a little further. Even when you’re trying to climb a couch.

5. Encouragement tells you what can be.

Encouragement tells me that I could be better than I am right now. That I could run a bit faster. Lift a bit more. And not give up. Encouragement helps close the gap between the deficiencies you see in yourself right now and the picture of who you could be in the future.

6. Encouragement communicates, “I believe in you.”

Everyone needs to hear this. You need to know that someone else sees the same vision you do. Someone else believes you can close that gap. Someone else believes you can produce more, and become the better version of you that God intended.

7. I don’t always want encouragement.

Strange and twisted, no? Sometimes, I just want to give up. My body’s tired and my mind is mush. I’d rather throw in the towel for the day. But when I press through, I find potential that I didn’t know existed. “When you feel like you’ve used every ounce of energy you possess, you’ve still got extra reserve you can draw on,” my friend told me. Turns out he was right. And I hated him for it. 🙂

You’re an influencer of someone. Maybe you’re a pastor. Or a banker. Or a small group leader. Or a dad. Or a coach.

Those you lead can’t continue to do what God’s called them to do without a timely word of encouragement. Daily.

You’re also influenced by someone. Maybe your pastor. Or your banker. Or your small group leader. Or your dad. Or your coach.

Those who lead you can’t continue to do what God’s called them to do without a timely word of encouragement. Daily.

Time to put this on your to-do list.

Genuine encouragement is a gift you can give.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13


Who needs your encouragement today?



The anti-narcissistic medicine of community

We’re prone to thinking we have the toughest life, the most stressful schedule. That nobody understands how much we have to deal with. That nobody is as busy as we are.

photo credit: creation swap user Sharolyn Newington

Nobody gets us.

Nobody really understands.

And we can’t really imagine how life could get busier for you.

And if you think this is just as adults, you’re wrong.

Life in College

When I was in college, I remember feeling incredibly busy. I averaged 21 hours of classes each semester. I also played on the golf team. Most days, I’d go to class from 8-2, then play golf until it was dark. Then I’d either go to my room to study, go to the local collegiate ministry house, or both. I was busy. I felt like life couldn’t get any crazier. I needed others to speak into my life and say, My life is crazier, and God is still sustaining. I’ll walk with you. The reality was that life would get much busier and more difficult. 

Life in Grad School

The same pattern happened in graduate school. I took a full load of classes and I worked at least one job throughout my time there. I was also married. I’d go to class most days from 8-12, then work from 3-midnight. After that, my wife and I would often head out to the store. Sometimes it was for grocery shopping, other times it was just to get out of the house. Because she was also in grad school and working. Different from college, now I was carrying more weight personally, and felt the burden my wife was experiencing too…that’s just how married life works. We carry each other’s burdens. I needed others to speak into my life and say, My life is crazier, and God is still sustaining. I’ll walk with you. The reality was that life would get much busier and more difficult.

Life after Grad School

The same pattern happened post-graduate school. I’m now working full time, working on side projects, opening a small business, maintaing my house, leading a small group, and raising a son. And I thought that life was busy in college! Life has never been busier. Now, more than ever, I’ve needed others to speak into my life and say, “My life is crazier, and God is still sustaining. I’ll walk with you. The reality, based on the pattern I’ve seen, is that life will get much busier and more difficult. It’s not going to slow down.

Our need for community

We need other people in our lives. We need people who remind us that this stage in life will be over. People that remind us that the next stage is full of awesomeness. People that have been where we are, and can honestly tell us that they love us and that it’s going to be okay.

My life is crazier, and God is still sustaining. I’ll walk with you.

We desperately need community.


Do you feel like you’re busy right now? 

* photo credit: creation swap user Sharolyn Newington


Shepherding Realities

image via iStock Photo user IB

Self-perceptions are more spoken into existence by others than they are self-taught.

Don’t believe me?

  • Why do you think that some kids feel awkward? It’s because they’re told that they are.
  • Why do some kids feel un-loved? Because they’re told that they never measure up.
  • Why do some leaders perceive themselves to be weak? Because everyone tells them that they are.
  • Why do some wives feel like they never measure up? Because they’re never told that their work investing in their homes is worth the effort.
  • Why do some older people feel like they have no life and wisdom to give? Because they’re devalued by those who claim to love them.

We speak perceptions into existence every day through conversations and interactions we have with coworkers, family members, and the annoying guy at the drive-thru. The words, tone, and attitude you share with others can literally change the way that others view themselves.

I am speaking my son’s reality into existence every day: I tell him that he’s courageous. And strong. And that he’s a leader. And that nothing can hold him back. And that God’s going to use him in big ways. And that my love of him is secure. He can’t do anything to lose it.

Speaking Realities in Leadership

Want to lead someone? Then change their perceptions of themselves. The Bible calls this ‘encouragement.’ Encourage even the smallest step in the right direction. As you feed the work of God in someone’s life, people see where God is working. Your encouragement acts as a new set of glasses, changing the way they see everything. As you encourage with love, people feel loved. As you encourage with grace, people feel graced. As you encourage people with hope, despair melts away. Negative perceptions are overcome with a timely word and action.

Without your encouragement, though, they’re going to continue feeling an absence of love and grace and motivation. Without your encouragement, they won’t know which direction to head.

  • Encouragement focuses not on what is, but on what could be.
  • Encouragement focuses not on past failures, but on future hopes.
  • Encouragement focuses not on current shortcomings, but on timeless Truth.
  • Encouragement focuses not on overwhelming fear, but on a big God.
  • Encouragement focuses not on weaknesses, but on gifts and strengths.

Through encouragement, you have the chance to shepherd a person’s reality of themselves.

Correction may be warranted at times, but right now, just point out the bright spots. Help them see what you see.

There’s someone in your life right now that needs encouragement. Let them hear it from you today.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

*image via iStock photo user: IB


When life falls apart

We know what it feels like, but what does it look like when life falls apart?

Here’s a beautifully well-done short video trying to capture the raw feeling and emotion that happens when our life comes unravelled.


In An Instant from Tungsten on Vimeo.

Does that seem to come close to capturing it?


Leadership Lessons from an iPhone game


I don’t play iPhone games often, but one that I’ve found incredibly addictive is Flight Control.


Never played it?  Just don’t.  It’ll suck you in, and you’ll be so concerned about landing those silly little planes that your eyes will start to twitch.

But there are a few lessons about leadership you can learn from Flight Control.

Leadership lessons from an iPhone game

1. Things gets progressively busier, and there’s nothing you can do about that.

Life never slows down, does it?  Don’t expect that, once you hit “that spot,” or “that season,” things will slow down.  Learning to manage your commitments is key, because those commitments will only increase in number and responsibility.

2. It’s okay to hit the pause button.

In fact, you need to do that.  Take a vacation.  Get away.  Put the phone down.  Disengage from social media.  I did recently. And it was incredibly refreshing.

3. You can set something in motion, but in order for it to reach its destination, you’ve got to check back in and help change things around.

In leadership, you can’t always expect that everything you start, every other leader you empower, will never need you to check in.  Managing is an important aspect of leadership.

4. It’s okay to quit and start over.

An idea you’ve been trying quit working?  Not as effective as you’d like?  Then quit trying to make it work.  Scrap it and start from scratch.  If you’re not willing to scrap your program for the health of the organization, you may be too closely connected to your idea.

5. Looking towards the future keeps you motivated to do better each time.

You’re not going to perfectly execute everything you start.  If you did, you’d be un-human.  Failure is an important component to success.

So…you ready to buy this game?

* for more ‘lessons from an iPhone game’, see my friend Jonathan Pearson’s post HERE


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