The Life Worth Living

One of the things that I wish I had time for (and more money to do!) is to watch films. I love a good story, especially one that can be taken to heart and used to inspire people. This morning, a scene from one of my favorite films came to mind:

There is so much going on in this scene from “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:” Aragorn, the Ranger, has lived a life running from who he really is. (Spoiler Alert: he is the rightful king of Gondor). Instead, he has allowed someone else to rule over his kingdom for him while he lives a life of relative anonymity, wandering Middle Earth. Through the first two films, though, we get to see that Aragorn is passionate about justice, and the forces of good overcoming the darkness that is spreading over the land. So, he joins the Fellowship of the Ring in order to destroy it.

Fast-forward to this scene: Aragorn and his friends have fought bravely to this point, but all hope seems lost. After amassing an army to confront the forces of evil that will soon lay siege to his own home and end the Age of Man, Aragorn is faced with failure; they simply have not been able to gather enough forces to stop the destruction that is coming. Coupled with this impending doom is the imminent death of his beloved Arwyn, who has forsaken her eternal Elven life to be with Aragorn. But, as Arwyn’s father Elrond makes clear, there is still a way:

“Put aside the Ranger, and become who you were born to be.” Take up the sword that belonged to your forebear, and you will summon an army that cannot be defeated by any earthly power.

This is scary stuff. How many of us have grown comfortable in the men (and women) that our choices and circumstances have turned us into? Maybe we once tried to do, or be, something great, but then we got sidetracked…something distracted us from the path that we were on, and now we look back and we can’t even see that first path anymore. So we stay on the path that we’re on; the scenery’s not great, but we know it pretty well, and it would be so difficult to get back on the path we started on so many years ago. We grouse, and we feel let down, but it’s the life we know…the life we’ve settled for. And so we fool ourselves into believing that this is all we’ll ever be until the grave swallows us, so let’s just make it as enjoyable as we can until someone shovels dirt on our cold caskets…

Stop. Just stop. We are called to be (and do) so much more! Maybe the path you’re on is going nowhere, and it is downhill and it’s hard to stop the momentum…maybe you feel you can’t stop because you have so much excess baggage now compared to long ago…or maybe you feel that you don’t deserve any better. Stop all of that. You can turn around and set a new course. It’s not too late. It will take some work, and you may have to drop some things that you think you need along the way, but you can do it.

Recently, I’ve become convinced that the road that I’ve been on for almost three years is heading to nowhere, too. Distracted by wealth and status, I set my course to a destination that could never satisfy me; instead, I would keep pushing, keep going, never stopping…and then I was allowed a glimpse at the effect the journey was having on everyone around me. In my focus on the road ahead, I had allowed other influences to affect my own family, and just figured that “someone else” could handle these things. The wake-up call came in May, six months ago, when one of my children claimed that a parenting decision that I had made didn’t matter because “you’re never here, anyway.”

That was a sobering moment, and he was right. A few weeks later, I received an opportunity to manage a more local territory in a new industry. I was excited for this endeavor; I felt that there was tremendous upside, and I would be home almost every night. Almost three months in, and now I realize that this road is taking me even further from where I need to be than my previous road did. You see, I believe that we are all created with certain skills and passions, and in order to feel like we’re actually doing what we’re supposed to be doing, those things have to be lined up. What I’m doing right now: not so much. I am passionate about children, and justice, and giving each child a chance to “live the dream,” whatever that dream might be. I see the children entering the United States from Central America, and my heart is broken, and I feel powerless. These aren’t hardened criminals…these are kids the age of mine kids, even younger.

For a few years now, my wife and I have been involved with two organizations that serve children and families in impoverished regions of the world (including parts of the U.S.): World Vision and Unity4Orphans. We love the work that these organizations do, and we are able to make young lives better through our involvement. We are very passionate about our adopted daughter, Yesmeri, and her village in El Salvador. We know that our gifts have been used to provide clean drinking water for the village, and to pay for supplies for the school. Quite honestly, though, we struggle with the thought that we’re not doing enough, that there HAS to be a way to do more out of the time and resources that we have.

Recently, in the midst of thoughts about mission and vision and calling and passions, God has shown me again that He is passionate about justice and mercy, and offering our resources to the “least of these.” As I have dove deeper into God’s word, and the truth that is present in those sacred pages, I have become convinced that my own path has deviated far from where it needs to be heading. The time has come for me to put aside the life that I have settled for as well, and become who I was meant to be. I don’t know what that might look like yet, and it probably is not anything close to what I’m doing right now, but if God makes clear where His passions lie, and we pursue the things that He is passionate about, and we arm ourselves with the sword of his Word and His Army of Righteousness, then who can be against us?

Matthew 16:25


The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (otherwise known as Florida-Georgia Weekend)


It’s been awhile, and to tell you the truth, I’ve been a little busy for the last several weeks learning the ins and outs of a new job (that will hopefully allow me to be home a little bit more). I’m back, though, and this post is dedicated to one of my favorite yearly events: the annual Florida-Georgia football game held in Jacksonville, Florida, on the St. Johns River (trivia question: Why does the St. Johns River flow north? Because Georgia sucks!!).

I’ve been to this game ten times in the past, and there is no atmosphere like it in college football.  Throw out the records and the rankings every year; this is a true rivalry game, with two fan bases that gather every year as the temperatures start to dip in North Florida.  There is drinking, tailgating, more drinking, trash-talking, a little bit MORE drinking, a few fights, and some more drinking (the historic moniker of this event is the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”).  This is all before the game even starts!  Tens of thousands of orange- and blue-clad members of Gator Nation pack EverBank Stadium with their red-and-black-wearing counterparts from Jawja; the entire stadium is split 50/50 among the fan bases, and it is LOUD!

ga fl

The game has been played in Jacksonville almost every year since the 1930s (save for 1994-95, when it was played on both campuses), and is always touted as a neutral-site game, but let’s face it: Jacksonville is only a 90-minute drive from the University of Florida, and the game was played until 1993 in a stadium called the “Gator Bowl.” Still, the Bulldogs hold a slight advantage in the series, with the Gators winning 19 of the last 25 matchups. There has been a lot of heartache involved in this game, and some big moments from both teams:

*Heisman Trophy-winning QB Steve Spurrier’s loss to UGA in 1966, which cost the Gators their first-ever SEC title

*UF’s boneheaded “4th & Dumb” play that lost the 1976 matchup

*”Run, Lindsay, Run!” in 1980 that propelled UGA to a national title

*The 1985 game in which UF came in ranked #1 in the nation, and got flat whooped, 24-3

*The seven straight victories UF enjoyed over UGA from 1990-1996, when Steve Spurrier came home to coach the Gators, including:
-UF knocking off #4-ranked Georgia in 1992, 26-24, which helped UF claim the first SEC East title
-the infamous “Time-out Game” in 1993 when a Bulldog touchdown in the closing seconds was taken off the scoreboard thanks to a timeout called just before the snap by a smart freshman DB named Anthone Lott
-The Gators becoming the first opposing team to EVER score 50+ on UGA at Sanford Stadium in Athens in 1995
-UGA winning their 2nd straight over UF for the first time since the 1980s, and ruining the Gators’ perfect 7-0 record, in 2012; this loss kept Florida out of the SEC Championship game

Even when both teams are mediocre, with seemingly NOTHING to play for halfway through the season, they still have pride, and this game brings it out. In 2010, UF had lost 3 straight and was reeling; UGA was also in the midst of a disappointing campaign…and that game became an instant classic, with Florida prevailing in OT, 34-31.

And so we come to this year’s game. UGA came in ranked #9, with the inside track to the SEC East title and feeling pretty confident after impressive back-to-back games against Missouri and Arkansas.

Florida came in at 3-3, with the fan base demanding that head Coach Will Muschamp be replaced after yet another below-average start to a season (coincidentally, Muschamp played defensive back for Georgia from 1991-1994, never beat Florida as a player, and had lost three straight to UGA as the Gator head coach). And then this happened…

In a game that made no sense, UF was the bully, pushing ‘Dawgs all over the field to the tune of 418 yards rushing. Now, instead of Coach Boom (Muschamp’s nickname) being run out of Gainesville, the Georgia faithful are in a frenzy over Coach Mark Richt’s yearly flameout and the ineffective offensive playcalling of coordinator Mike Bobo. It’s interesting how things can change in just over three hours on a crisp November afternoon.

Obviously, this win was much-needed for Florida’s program, and should earn Will Muschamp the rest of the season, at the very least (and yes, I was one of the more vocal critics saying that he should have been fired after the dismal homecoming loss to Missouri two weeks ago). After that, who knows? I do think that yesterday’s win over the Gators’ biggest conference rival will provide the leverage needed to finish the season as UF’s head coach, and if the Gators could somehow win the next three games before heading to Tallahassee with a 7-3 record…

Before I get that far ahead, let’s get through the next few weeks first. Yesterday’s event showed once again that this game always lives up to the hype, and almost results in one-half of the stadium elated, and the other…not so much. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have three years’ worth of pent-up frustration to get out: