B1C5EE92-657A-4C80-B72B-2C241EA56167

A Sacred Space

(Excerpted from Between the White Lines) It is almost impossible to comprehend what it is like for a sixteen-year-old boy to run onto the Dallas Cowboys home field to play for a state championship. Kids who have played in front of a few dozen or a few hundred look at a vast sea of faces. They struggle to balance fear and exhilaration. Some teams thrive on this big stage and others wilt. The Newton Eagles always looked to one source of strength in these moments: their coach W.T. Johnston. “There is nothing like being in the battle with these young men,” W.T. says. “One of the things I love the most about coaching is the team huddle. It is a sacred place that only I get to share with my players. No one else gets to invade that sacred space between the white lines. I always ask them to take a knee and I get down to their level. I
Continue reading...

A776C4C5-1E0C-40F3-901D-EB9291F652C7

A Great Gift

(This is an excerpt from my new book Between the White Lines. I hope you read this remarkable story.) W.T. Johnston sat alone in a service tunnel inside the cavernous home of the Dallas Cowboys. From his folding chair he could hear the cacophony of sounds as two high schools—Brock and Rockdale—battled for a state title. Soon he would lead his Newton Eagles football team against undefeated Gunter for the UIL 3A Division II Championship of Texas. Johnston’s mind raced as he considered the miracle of this moment. Most Texas high school coaches only dreamed of being on this stage. He chuckled to himself. The entire population of Newton would fit forty times into AT&T Stadium with just a few seats left over. He knew that most of the town had made the 265-mile trek from Newton County to Texas football’s crown-jewel facility. Three years earlier, Johnston had his first chance as a head coach to win a title on
Continue reading...

CA2C9B31-D7FE-484E-9279-BEA2ED7DB825

How Thomas Jefferson Tried to “Fix” Christianity

Thomas Jefferson is an enigma for many. Political enemies in his day accused him of being an atheist yet he started the statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom with the phrase, “Almighty God hath created the mind free.” He certainly would not have been invited to speak at an evangelical conference to share his view that most clergymen are “soothsayers and necromancers.” You likely have a bigger brain than I do but I will confess that I had to look up necromancers. It literally means one who interrogates the dead. Okay. Not sure what church Jefferson was frequenting. Jefferson believed that authentic Christianity had been hijacked by church leaders. Jefferson decided to fix the problem. He took out his scissors and cut out the parts of the Bible that he didn’t believe. He excised the virgin birth, all of the miracles and the Resurrection. He cobbled together a book he titled “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth”. Jefferson described his
Continue reading...

4C8900F7-0E18-45D0-BF68-FF0E09477403

Unmasking My Christian “Agenda”

The title “Evangelical Christian” seems to have become a pejorative to many in the media and culture. I understand the frustration (I have written about it a lot) when very vocal or celebrity Christian leaders fail spectacularly. I share your anger when a religious person espouses hateful or judgmental comments. I grieve when an institution or leader fails to protect the innocent. Critics say that Christians have an agenda and dangerous desire to control other people’s lives. I confess that has been true for some religious types. But the followers of Jesus that I have gotten to know over many decades don’t resemble that stereotype at all. Perhaps that is why Jesus warned so plainly about the dangers of power. The selfless, giving, and caring believers get little notice in this world but I believe they are quietly and faithfully making a difference. I thought about what my answer would be if I was asked to outline my agenda. I
Continue reading...

AA535250-37FA-4E42-9301-93AAA7CF11C1

The Mystery of Grace

I think a lot about the church. When you write a book called “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People” you tend to hear from angry and wounded churchgoers. I have received hundreds of emails and blog posts from hurting believers. If a modest selling author and blogger like me gets that many responses then you can extrapolate that this is a big problem for the American church. I began the book mentioned above with this paragraph. “I am a hypocrite. I can be arrogant and selfish. I have been known to stretch, conceal, or slightly massage the truth. I am sometimes inconsiderate and insecure. I struggle with lust and impure thoughts. My ego often rages out of control, and I battle foolish pride. I can be lazy and foolhardy with my time. I get angry, petty, and ill-tempered. I am sarcastic and cynical. I am a Christian.” I can make the claim in the final sentence only because of
Continue reading...

419542D0-F4AD-4132-8D8E-34E6873C2F56

The Most Important Parable for Times Like These?

I can’t remember a more contentious cultural climate in my lifetime. Followers of Christ are wondering how to make a difference in an often unfriendly environment. I think a parable related by Jesus might be the best strategy. One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The religious “expert” should have quit right there. Instead he did what many of us try to do when Jesus tweaks our hearts. We look for the loopholes. The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is
Continue reading...

2CCE72D1-7F03-4555-A33F-EA4901222337

Redeeming the Pain of Adolescence

A country song titled “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Mark Wills brought back some memories about the pain of adolescent passage. Don’t laugh at me Don’t call me names Don’t get your pleasure from my pain In God’s eyes we’re all the same. Janis Ian sang about how hard growing up can be in her song At Seventeen. I learned the truth at seventeen That love was meant for beauty queens And high school girls with clear skinned smiles Who married young and then retired My junior high years were hard. I was bullied by one student. I never had the courage to share that with an adult and this is the first time I have written about it. I remember shame because boys are supposed to fight back and I didn’t. I can still remember my stomach hurting as I got ready for school. Now I realize that what I once considered some of the worst moments of my
Continue reading...