It was 15 years ago today. Keri Marcel Hughes’ life was celebrated at our church. We had a time of reflection and a time of worship as we imagined her seeing her beloved savior face to face. Oh, how she loved Jesus.
No one loved Church more than Keri. If the doors were open and she was able, she was in Church. (bible in hand) From the time she was born, she had physical challenges and the medications used to attempt to control the epilepsy took portions of her mind. BUT nothing could ever take her HEART. She was the greatest lover of people I have ever witnessed. Her smile was infectious and just watching her function each day in spite of her limitations was amazing. Seldom was she able to attend my games, but I remember those special times she would greet me at the door after a win. She had listened on the radio and knew the outcome. Her approval of my play was on the same level as I sought from my coaches, teammates or parents. There’s something special about special children. Words cannot explain it, but those with special ones understand.
15 years later, I tearfully write these words just to pay tribute to the greatest winner I have ever known. Keri’s victories were greater than anything I could ever accomplish. Today, her handwriting is perfect, her voice is beautiful and on key as she sings her worship songs and her physical body is made perfect. She is probably working a mean crossword puzzle or playing some angel in checkers. (the things she loved) Whatever she is doing, she is competing to her best ability and has a huge smile on her face. She fits right in among all the other angels.
We all do it. Some do it more than others, but we all talk to ourselves. Second guessing, name calling and the occasional self encouragement are just a few of the ways we have this ongoing conversation with…….. well…… ourselves. One of my recent conversations went like this…..”Richie, you Idiot.” Now, I don’t really believe I am an Idiot, but when you hit your tee ball in the woods at the golf course, it’s either ”Idiot” or something much worse. Being that I refrain from profanity, “Idiot” seemed appropriate.
I read a powerful sentence today that “spoke” to me. (see talking to myself again) This sentence simply said, “When you talk to yourself, say nice things.” As you go through today, remember to encourage yourself. BUILD up rather than BEAT up and I am referring to yourself. You are God’s Masterpiece and HE sees you as just that. How do you see yourself? Half the battle may be won by saying NICE things to yourself.
Hi, my name is Richie and I’m an “OVERLY COMPETITIVE AHOLIC.” There, I said it and admit it. Quite frankly, I’m not ashamed. After all, doesn’t the Bible say to “run the race to win the prize?” Last Friday night, I witnessed an incredible event in our community. The BRADLEY/ CLEVELAND High School football game is one of the year’s best events and has been for many, many decades. This year was no exception as the game’s outcome was holding in the balance until the final minute as the Blue Raiders blocked a PAT after the Bears scored on a long TD pass. The final score: 21-20. (can’t get any closer) Multiplied thousands attended and were truly entertained by young men on both sides giving all they had and playing their hearts out for their respective fans and schools. To see this type of fierce rivalry take place with little or no incidents is a true testimony to the CLASS of our COMMUNITY. Please understand, in this community you must choose one or the other. (we actually have 3 great schools now, recently adding Walker Valley HS in the past 10 years) There is no love lost. For a time period during my High School career, (19– - 19– none of your business) Bradley and Cleveland stopped the annual football game due to excessive, uncontrollable violence! History tells us that many championships are determined by the winner of this game. True rivalries can only continue to be rivalries if both teams have a chance to win each year. Any type of one sided, long term dominance kills a rivalry. The Bradley/ Cleveland game is most always a pretty even match up and the “county trophy” goes back and forth, never staying at one school for any great length of time.
So at least until basketball season, where we will all do it again- probably 3-4 times counting the district, region and even state playoffs, CHS has bragging rights. Me? I attended Bradley and love the Bears. While my team lost this time, my reflections are on how the players reacted with the utmost of class the entire night. (no taunting each other or the crowd), how most of the fans supported their team with spirit, but weren’t overly obnoxious as some can be and how 7-8000 of us filed out of the same gate to our cars in the same parking lots without major incident. Kudos to our school superintendents, principals and coaches. You all COMPETED WITH CLASS. Dadgum, that blocked kick!
Those that follow me on twitter know that I normally attempt to post something encouraging. Most often my posts involve some sort of reference to my passion and love for Christ. Sunday I happened to be outside for an hour or so and it was an amazingly beautiful day thus I tweeted: “Get outside and tell me how anyone could believe in evolution. Only an Omnipotent God could create a day like this. #thankful” My intentions were to say thanks to an awesome God for blessing us with a near perfect day.
Wow! I started a firestorm of attacks. I’m not a twitter expert and have never searched for topics or key words, but evidently a lot of people do. I began to receive replies from several people with the hashtag #atheism. I will not repeat, but as you can imagine, they were not exactly a standing ovation of my tweet. While I don’t waste my time replying to negativity, it wasn’t even my intention to criticize evolutionists. So I write these next words to both groups of people – Christians and Non- Christians.
What you believe or don’t believe is certainly your business. My book “Start Here, Go Anywhere” is all about “Choices.” What I know to be true about my God is not debatable. It is not a Theory or Scientific analysis. FACT: I KNOW whom I have believed and am persuaded that HE IS ABLE. I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ALL things work together for the good of them that love the Lord. And finally, In the beginning GOD CREATED the Heavens and The Earth. – Source: The Bible
I refuse to back down or believe that my beautiful wife and daughters EVOLVED from a Monkey. No monkeys have EVER looked like they do. (I have been accused of evolving or possibly even still being a form of a Donkey). Anyway, God bless all of you.
Imagine yourself as a young leader who sees a better way to operate in your organization. When you ask the big question “Why” the answer is “that’s how we have always done it.” Most of you just said, “That’s ME!!” You have looked at a process or system and you are confident you have a better way of doing it. If you are like me, you research it, study others and their operational process and make your Pros and Cons list. Then maybe, just maybe…. you muster up the “guts” to tell your leader “we can do this more efficiently and here is how.”
Upon becoming CEO and Executive Pastor of a large Mega Church with a successful Television Ministry, I was faced with this challenge: The TV ministry was doing well (not broken) but I saw how we could make it better immediately. Our delivery time on resources to viewers was like all other TV offers: “Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.” We processed all orders by hand, in house with our church members who were paid on salary and full benefits. The process worked fine, it was just slow. After some research, I discovered that we could outsource the fulfillment of orders and have customer delivery in 4-5 days! This efficiency would encourage our partners to order more and further their support for our ministry. As I mentioned, I researched it, called everyone I could talk to about the way they did fulfillment and made my list. The pros and cons list looked like this:
*Customers receive products in 4-5 days not 4-6 weeks
*Outsourcing would save us $163,000 the first year in salaries, benefits, etc.
*Timely processing would increase further support from the partners generating a larger budget to purchase even more airtime for the ministry
*5 wonderful people lose their jobs
*Risk breaking a system that was working just fine— in my first few months on the job?
*Trusting an outside agency in another state instead of walking down the hall to check on the operation taking place live in house (easily monitored)
The other challenge that haunted me was that one of the 5 employees that would be terminated was a dear friend of our family and her Father was on the Board of Directors for the ministry. Yes, I am crazy!!! I was considering firing one of the Board member’s daughters!
Upon realizing that this was what I believed to be the RIGHT THING to do, some wise council advised me that I may be firing myself. “You don’t break things that aren’t broken and you NEVER fire a Board member’s daughter” they told me. The only problem was I knew what was RIGHT and every tithe paying member trusted us with their finances. How could we explain slower, less efficient customer service at a price of over $163,000 more annually?
We pulled the trigger and went for it. We stepped out on faith and presented this to our Board of Directors. With fear and trembling, I presented all of the details, due diligence and support information. Upon finishing, I awaited the hard questions and privately wondered if I had just committed professional suicide. While I am presenting some of my anxieties with this issue, I had earnestly sought the Lord and felt confident in my spirit that HE had my back. After a very short Q and A session, the Board voted unanimously to proceed with the plan. Yes, unanimously! That means that a Father had to vote for his daughter to be unemployed.
We learned a huge leadership lesson that day! Andy Stanley says, “Choose the HARD right over the EASY wrong.” When facing challenging issues, most often we know what the right thing to do is. Often times, we just don’t have the courage to do it. We operate in fear of losing our own status, job or being criticized for taking a risk. This example goes to show that doing the RIGHT THING will garner more support than expected from sources that are sometimes surprises.
What are you afraid to do that you know is the RIGHT THING to do? Who are you afraid to cross? What relationship do you fear you will lose by taking action? Ultimately, the question is who are you trying to please???? DO THE RIGHT THING and let God take care of the details.
As we celebrate Independence Day, this year I am especially thankful. Yes, I am aware of the unrest in Egypt, the Snowden leaks case, the political turmoil surrounding our nation’s healthcare, the Martin/Zimmerman case and other challenges the world and our country face today. I actually check out 3 different news channels each day just so I can see both sides of each issue. Here is what I have found:
1. We are a nation of strong OPINIONS, but are rarely totally divided or combative.
2. Our economy is not at a peak, but nothing like Egypt (Tourism down 40%, food and gas costs up greatly, energy costs skyrocketing)
3. Our leaders are not receiving glamorous reviews, but America does not have over 20% of the entire population in the streets protesting and attempting to overthrow the Government.
4. Our current President spent yesterday with our former President from a different political party with very different views. The 2 leaders joined together for the good of a cause for Africa. Egypt’s President is in hiding.
On the 4th, my family will grill burgers and dogs, laugh and tell jokes, reminisce about the past and look optimistically at the future. We will sweat and swim (maybe not if this Hurricane of a rain storm doesn’t pass) shoot hoops, play volleyball and eat ice cream. We will watch a quality fireworks show and remember what these words represent:
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
GOD BLESS AMERICA- LAND THAT I LOVE!!!
Memorial Day Weekend- One of my favorite times of the year. We gather with family, camp out, cook out and get outdoors. The weather forecast in my city is great. (82 degrees and sunny) But, we MUST remember who we are memorializing. With American flags decorating my home and business, I cannot seem to get enough of the “wounded warriors” ads on Fox News. The touching stories of those who, unlike myself, fought to defend this FREEDOM my family enjoys daily. We cannot take it for granted!
In a time where America is moving further away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is incumbent on us to defend the faith more than ever. In doing this, we MUST do so in a way that reflects the LOVE of Jesus, rather than the HATE of other groups who kill in the name of their God. Jesus loves us all and is “no respecter of person.” The Bible does not say Jesus only loves those who love Him, those who follow Him. Jesus loves all people……ALL Americans.
In an America where we seem to be declining in every moral category, let’s be reminded of the wonderful freedoms we still possess. Celebrate the opportunity to worship freely in the Church of our choice. Rather than complaining about the battles we as Christians seem to be losing on moral issues, let’s continue to equip our families and churches with the way of the WORD. The “wounded warriors” remind us this weekend of the price that was paid. Let’s focus on their sacrifices and enjoy the wonderful benefits that so many have provided us in the 2013 version of the USA, USA, USA!!! God bless America!! USA, USA, USA………
Over the past week, once again I have been reminded how hard trusting can be for us when life and loss just don’t make sense. How can a God fearing, church going husband and wife drop off an infant and go to work (both teaching our children) and never see their 4 month old take another breath? How can a young lady from a great family die on the table while receiving what was thought to be a life giving kidney transplant? How can a Grandfather fall asleep at the wheel and never make it to his earthly destination? Yes, this is the week we are having in real life and most of you can say, “I’ve been there.”
The answer? We will never know. My readers know by now that I get pretty real with God, even have had my times when I admittedly was mad at the Almighty and Sovereign giver of Grace. Most of you know that I lost a younger brother and sister over a short 4 year span. AIDS… REALLY GOD? We all have MAJOR questions, don’t we! While I may appear to be writing in question or frustration today, I assure you that at this stage of life I am not. I only pose these questions and exhibit this frustration because I know where so many of you are today…… right now.
The truth is… you will never know the answers. As I have said before, it is not our job to UNDERSTAND, but instead it is our job to TRUST. Understanding will never come, but “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on your own UNDERSTANDING.”- Prov. 3:5 When we view life through Job’s lenses, don’t forget that Job received double from everything he lost. My prayer for all of you, regardless of your situation is that the Sovereign ONE God would bless you with double. Until that day, may he give you Peace, Strength and Encouragement.
**Excerpts taken from my book: Start Here, Go Anywhere (Chapter 12)
I was feeling pretty good about myself – Then I hit my 40′s. I didn’t have too many wrinkles or sun spots- Then I hit my 40′s. I could run and play basketball at a high level vs. much younger, talented players- Then I hit my 40′s. I could play ball, workout or go for long runs and NEVER get sore- Then I hit my 40′s. I never really wanted a convertible- Then I hit my 40′s. I never really watched what I ate because it didn’t matter- Then I hit my 40′s. My kids thought I was cool, smart and wanted to be around me all the time- Then I hit my 40′s. My 9 hole golf scores were most always in the 30′s- Then I hit my 40′s.
I was driven by career advancement and earnings- Then I hit my 40′s. I would not have taken less money, turned down engagements, etc. to be home with my family- Then I hit my 40′s. I would never prefer to pass up a round of golf or competitive game of basketball to be with family- Then I hit my 40′s. I rarely thought about what legacy I would leave for my wife and kids- Then I hit my 40′s.
Ok, so I am mid 40′s but this life change has evolved over the past few years. I am thankful that so many changes have been for the good of my family and myse
In looking back over the past year, I have learned a most critical lesson. This will seem simple to most, but look deep into this thought:
DO WHAT IS RIGHT!
Ok, why is this hard for me? My background in Athletics has always been about WINNING. Do What it takes to Win!! While that drive has brought me tremendous success as an athlete and a coach, I am finding more and more in ministry, business and especially with my children that the RIGHT THING is not always the easy thing. To clarify, in basketball if you scored on me, I felt compelled to score immediately on you- I had to get you back and don’t think for a minute you would get to the basket without a hard foul from me.
In sports, I loved to press, blitz or do whatever I could to CRUSH the spirit of my opponent. So how do we handle situations where people do WRONG in business or to my wife or children. (Has anyone ever said, “Don’t mess with my kids!”) You see it is extremely difficult to not desire to GET THEM BACK when we are done WRONG. The past few years have brought incredible examples of our family attempting to DO WHAT IS RIGHT rather thatn WHAT WE WANTED TO DO or even WHAT WE FELT OTHERS DESERVED. My frustrations at people who do business dishonestly, take advantage of us or are simply MEAN SPIRITED or Ill Intentioned to my children weigh heavy on me especially at night. (anybody ever been there???) While I am a long way from an A student in this subject, we as a family are trying very hard and getting better.
Reflecting back on those CHOICES to DO WHAT IS RIGHT, we have seen God do the most amazing things for us. Agree or Disagree, but I believe God is a rewarder of faithfulness and kindness. So much of the success we as a family are experiencing now came as a result of NOT GETTING SOMEONE BACK. I believe the RIGHT THING prevails and remember FAVOR ISN’T FAIR! I’ll take the favor and rewards of the Creator over the approval of those who Create messes here on Earth.
This year make a note to CHOOSE kindness over REVENGE and watch my God do the AMAZING in your life!