What a Life…Happy Birthday Dean Smith!

Dean Smith.

Does this name mean anything to you? To thousands of people it means the world. Sadly, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, he passed away 3 weeks ago. He would have been 84 years old today.

Dean Smith (Coach Smith to those who knew him) was the head basketball coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels for 36 seasons. His coaching accomplishments on the court are widely known and respected. His teams won 879 games, 2 National Championships,13 ACC Tournament titles and appeared in 11 Final Fours.

While those numbers are remarkable, his greatest legacy is who he was off the court.

I’ve often heard it said that “success is when those closest to you say the best things about you.” If that’s true, Dean Smith is one of the most successful people ever to live.

Through reading numerous articles, blogs, tweets and quotes from journalists, players, coaches, staff and others associated with the “Carolina Family” I’ve realized it will be difficult to find another Dean Smith. It will be difficult to find another person who was loved by so many for who he was. Those closest to him truly said the best things about him.

He was extremely humble.

He modeled and expected excellence.

He was a man of integrity.

He fought racial discrimination and helped to integrate Chapel Hill.

He was deeply shaped by his Christian faith and it propeled him to speak out against social injustices.

He had a remarkable memory which helped him to remember people’s names and details about their lives.

He genuinely cared for people. Not just cared about people. Not just cared what he could get out of people. Not just cared when people were useful to him. Not just cared for people when they were around. He truly cared for people. And not just some people. He cared for all the people he came in contact with.

I had the privilege of playing for a high school basketball coach, Ed Wills, who was a manager on the 1993 North Carolina National Championship team. Coach Wills was the one who taught me how to shoot the correct way. He brought to our team years of basketball knowledge. Looking back now, I realize many of the lessons he worked to instill in us were undoubtedly learned while at Carolina. And for that, among other things, we were fortunate and I am thankful. I’ll never forget a few conversations with Coach Wills as he recounted his relationship with Dean Smith. Coach Wills wasn’t a star player on Carolina and to Dean Smith that didn’t matter. Dean Smith knew his name. Knew his family. Knew about his coaching career. Kept in contact with him after he left Carolina. Dean Smith was only a “phone call away.” And Coach Wills was one of thousands who could recount a similar relationship. Remarkable.

In a world where most everyone cares about “being known,” or “knowing the famous,” Dean Smith was a breath of fresh air. He knew thousands of people, and yet the mailman or grocery store bagger felt valued by him.

And what’s remarkable is that he didn’t just show the intention to care about people. He tangibly showed it. He wrote letters. Made phone calls. Remembered names. Gave gifts. Gave of his time.

He wasn’t hurried, distracted or too busy.

He was consistent.

He was a person of power that could have made himself more powerful. Instead, he leveraged his power to help others.

He was present.

Were he alive now, I doubt he’d ever trip over a crack in the sidewalk from staring at the latest status updates on his iPhone. He wouldn’t have been concerned over what was going to happen tomorrow. He would have focused on today. He would have focused on what was right in from of him. Who was right in front of him.

I could obviously go on and on. What a life.

Happy Birthday, Dean Smith!

May more people live with integrity. May more people live out their faith. May more people genuinely care for others. May more people live in the present. And might “I” be a part of those “more people.”

A collection of articles about Dean Smith can be found here.

Going for a Run

Tomorrow I’ll be doing something I never thought I’d do. I’ll be running in the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15k in Tampa.

I know. It’s not a marathon or even a half. But it is 9.3 miles.

And that’s about 9.3 more than I ever thought I’d sign up to run.

I’m not sure how well I’ll do.

I’ve only been training since the New Year.

Eating healthy is still a work in progress.

I’ve battled blisters and bleeding.

And a conversation with a college student a few weeks ago makes me a bit nervous. It went like this:

Her: “Hey, I saw you running yesterday.”

Me: “Yeah? Awesome. I’m running in the Gasparilla. How did I look?”

Her: “You looked like you were about to die.”

Me: “Ha. Thanks! What about the guy I was with?”

Her: “Oh, he looked great!”

HA! I love her honesty. We have laughed about that conversation since. And I probably did look like I was about to die. 🙂

Regardless of how I look tomorrow, training for this race has reminded me of three things:

1) There is nothing like setting a goal and going for it. My time may be terrible tomorrow. I may pull a muscle and have to walk a couple of miles. But it’s the “going for it,” the journey, that matters. It’s being able to look back on where you started and see how far you’ve come. The journey propels you to carry on in this and in other areas of your life. It shows you how much you really can accomplish when you decide to discipline yourself.

2) Life is better when you do it with others. We weren’t created to do life alone. And that includes training for a race. That guy that “looked great” when I looked like death has encouraged me tremendously. He’s given me tips on running. Texted me to check and see how I’m doing. And we’ve become closer through this process. Thanks, Joe!

3) Your spiritual life is like a race. Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” You and I are on a journey with our faith in God. We haven’t arrived. We may have doubts. Setbacks. Lows. Highs. Some days we are closer to Him than others. That’s okay. Just don’t give up. Keep pursuing Jesus. Keep Jesus as your focus. Look to Him to know how it is you are to run this race called life. And one day you will arrive at the finish line. You will see face to face who it was you were trusting in all along. Jesus.

What is Love?

Today is Valentine’s Day.

It’s the annual day where loved ones profess their love for one another verbally, tangibly and with the rise of social media, publicly. The common gifts are flowers, chocolate and love letters. Some go out for a nice dinner. Others buy jewelry, a stuffed animal or a special custom gift. It’s a “sweet” time of year.

The most profound thing about this day is that the motivation behind it all is this idea of “love.” “I love you” is thrown around more on this day than maybe any other day of the year. There is a feeling of love in the air. And yet, we live in a culture where true love is distorted and misunderstood.

Love cannot be bought.

Love is not cheap.

Love is not easy.

Love is not exemplified by 50 Shades of Grey.

Love cannot be relegated to one day a year.

Love is not a feeling.  

So what is it?

Dr. Tony Evans, defines it like this: “Love is the decision to compassionately seek the well-being of another even when the emotion of liking them is not present.”

I believe he is spot on. But how opposite is this definition of love from the love we see all around us?

In our world today, if someone doesn’t feel like loving, they won’t. If loving gets hard, they stop. If loving takes work, they quit.

So how do we cure this false, pitiful attempt at love we’ve been buying in to? How do we embrace true love? Receive it.

We will always be unable to perfectly show love. However, we can receive perfect love. And by receiving it, we will be transformed in the process and begin loving others the way we were created to.

True, perfect love has a name. Jesus. 

We see what true love is in 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Jesus embodied true love through dying for you, me and every soul who ever has and ever will live. Even though he may not have felt like loving (Matthew 26:36-39) he followed through.

Through Jesus’ life we see that love is a choice.

Love is unwavering commitment.

Love is sacrificial.

Love is unconditional.

Love is selfless.

So when you say “I Love You” today, is it the kind of love that would lead you to lay down your life for that person? It is unconditional? Is it selfless? Or is it some weak, twisted, “feeling-founded” love that has no basis?

If you’re single, you aren’t a loser. Get to know Jesus so that when you are in a relationship you will know what true love is.

If you’re dating, be careful not to say “I Love You” if you don’t mean it, aren’t willing to follow through on it or have no idea what true love is. Instead, get to know Jesus.

If you’re married, engaged or heading in that direction, get to know Jesus. Learn how to love the way he modeled and commit to it. Your valentine is worth it. Just don’t let today be the only day you show and tell how much you love them.

Beyond romantic relationships, we all are called to love one another (John 13:34). But that’s another conversation for another day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!