Category Archives: Leader

Miles and Miles of Heart

We’re getting close to the end of The Replacements.  The season has gone on and this team of losers, rejects and has-beens learned to play well together.  We get to the last game of the season, with the playoffs on the line, and the star quarterback decides to return to the team.  He is an arrogant, condescending jerk and the team falls apart in the first half.  At halftime, the coach is asked what it will take to get back in the game.  He responds, “You’ve got to have heart.  Miles and miles of heart.”  Keanu appears in the locker room, the team rallies around him and they win the game in dramatic fashion.  They run off the field as the closing song plays.  “We can be heroes, just for one day.” 

Proving that all you need to win the game, get the girl and be the hero is to have “miles and miles of heart.”

But what does that mean?  We’ve got lots of phrases about the heart.  You see a guy and say “He’s got no heart,” or “My heart’s not in it.”  What does it look like to “have heart” or “lose heart?”

Plenty of men have lost their heart.  They might show up, but they aren’t present.  At dinner, they eat with their family but spend the whole time on the phone or watching TV.  They go to work, go home, go to bed.  Rinse and repeat the next day.  Over and over.  These men are checked out, empty shells of who they once wanted to be.

Sometimes, they try to fill the void in their chest with anything they can—alcohol, drugs, work, women, even fantasy football and video games.  While it doesn’t give them what they are looking for, at least it covers it up so no one else can see they have lost heart.  Like hanging a picture over the hole you punched in the wall, it doesn’t fix the problem, just covers it up.

So many of us have lost heart in some area.  We had great dreams and desires as young men, and life happened.  Being married wasn’t as easy as we thought, especially once kids came along.  Doing the same job, day after day, without meaning, without purpose takes its toll.  As duty bound men, we put our heads down and do what has to be done.  Usually, that involves killing our dreams and desires, and over time we lose our hearts.

We were meant to be much more than breadwinners, bacon bringers, and bill payers.  We see men who have miles and miles of heart, and we want that.  But when we look around us at all the “stuff”—expectations, demands, and duties—we are overwhelmed.  How can we get our hearts back?

The first step, as they say, is admitting we have a problem.  Realizing our hearts are dead.  Or at least sick.  We aren’t where we would like to be, and we want to do something about it.  But what?

Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  Sometime over this next week, I would encourage you to sit down and write out what it is you want to see in different areas of your life.  Start with yourself and what sort of man you want to be.  Then expand your vision to your marriage, your children, your friends, work, calling and dreams.  Be as clear as you can and dream as big as you want.  If you don’t know what it looks like to have heart, you won’t know how to get there.  This week, start making your map.

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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Quicksand

Last week, I introduced you to my guilty pleasure, The Replacements.  The Sentinels, the team Gene Hackman’s character Jimmy coaches, came up just short of a win in their first game.  His quarterback, Shane Falco (played by Keanu Reeves) called a run instead of trying to pass it.  He was scared to have the ball in a critical situation.  Leadership is lacking.

At the next team meeting, Jimmy addresses the problem. “A real man admits his fears.”  He asks the group to share what they are afraid of.  After delving into the fear of different insects, Shane offers up his fear—quicksand.  This gets some confused looks and raised eyebrows.  Shane explains,

“You’re playing, and you think everything is going fine.  Then one thing goes wrong.  And then another.  And another.  You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink.  Until you can’t move…you can’t breathe…because you’re in over your head.  Like quicksand.”

Shane was talking about a football game, but I experience the quicksand all the time.  My wife and I have been out on a date, and I said something she took the wrong way.  She responded to the hurt and went into attack mode.  I retaliated and suddenly a beautiful date night became a war zone.  How did we get here?

It might happen at work.  I was a manager as we went through a fairly unpopular change.  Things were said, actions misunderstood.  The harder I tried to make it work, the worse the situation became.  A few months later, I was asked to find another position.  What just happened?

As Ron Burgundy would say, “Boy, that escalated quickly!”

No one has avoided the quicksand.  Maybe you were lucky enough to see what was happening and escaped before it pulled you under.  Or maybe not.  Your marriage ended in divorce.  Your kids won’t talk to you anymore.  Your car broke down; kids got sick, you couldn’t pay for it all, and you ended up in the street.  Maybe the quicksand looks like work and success, and you find yourself overwhelmed with things to do and unable to tend to the things that matter.  Like Shane, once you experience enough quicksand, what you want and what you truly desire becomes unimportant, and your dreams die.  Your heart dies.

And that’s really what the movie is about—how Shane got his heart back.  I believe every man can relate to Shane.  We have grown to accept what the quicksand has given us.  We’ve learned it’s better to do it this way.  It’s safer.  You can’t suffocate if you’re already dead inside.

And like Shane, we can get our hearts back.  We can awaken our dreams and challenge the quicksand we will encounter.  We can find meaning and purpose in our lives, and awaken our hearts once again.  So that when we stumble into the quicksand, our hearts won’t die in the struggle. 

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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Winners

I have a confession to make.  It’s pretty embarrassing.  I love the movie, The Replacements.  Gene Hackman.  Keanu Reeves.  The football scenes aren’t close to accurate, and you can anticipate where the story is headed.  But I enjoy how they get there, and whenever it comes on, I find myself sucked into the movie.

The film tells the story of a football team filled with replacement players.  Gene Hackman plays Jimmy McGinty, an old coach with a unique way of looking at a football team.  The full-time professional players went on strike, and so he is tasked with putting together a team of replacement players so the games will continue.  Jimmy looks up men who had great potential but were sidetracked or lost their desire to play.  Jimmy is a master at finding talent in overlooked people.  His challenge is to take all of these unique individuals and create a team out of them.

Keanu Reeves is the washed up ex-quarterback Shane Falco.  He had so much promise coming out of college, but he’s now cleaning boats and living a pretty empty life.  Jimmy saw greatness in Shane.  The quarterback had a rough start to his career and lost his confidence and his heart.  Jimmy goes to meet him on the boat where Shane lives to talk him into joining the team.

Jimmy asks, “You know what separates winners and losers?” 

“The score,” Shane responds. 

“No, getting back on the horse after getting kicked in the teeth.”  Shane remains reluctant, happy to hide from the pain of his past failure.  Jimmy asks, “Is that how you want to be remembered?” but Shane doesn’t want to be remembered at all.  The coach believes in him, and Shane joins the team.  Through practices and into the first game, his fear of failure and the shadow of the past loom over him.

Despite all of this, the team has a chance to win on the final play.  The coach wants Shane to pass the ball, but he changes the play to a run, and they come up just short of the end zone.  Shane’s head drops as he walks off the field.  Jimmy finds him in the crowd and asks what happened.  “If I had wanted to run the ball, I would’ve called it that way! I put the game in your hands…you got scared.  Winners always want the ball when the game is on the line.”  Jimmy walks off, leaving Shane to wonder exactly what happened.

I relate to the quarterback in a lot of ways.  He had big dreams and aspirations.  He wanted to be great.  But something took him out.  Life didn’t go the way he thought it would. 

Hasn’t it been like this for many of us?  Life hits us in many ways, and we don’t get to where we want to go.  We have a grand idea of what marriage will look like.  After a few years, we find ourselves struggling to relate to our wives.  Wondering why we got married in the first place. 

Or maybe it was in the workplace.  We get stuck in the same job, every day a repeat of yesterday.  We hate it but are afraid to try anything different.  Afraid to fail or look foolish. 

I think a lot of us feel like Shane.  Discouraged.  Just trying to make it through the next day.  Not daring to dream, but just accepting what life has handed us.  When it’s time to make a play or come through, we hand off to someone else rather than risk failing or looking foolish.

In the movie, Shane experiences a change of heart.  Over the rest of October, we’ll study the film to see what he did and how he changed.  And hopefully, we can follow his example to find our hearts.

Over the next week, try to watch The Replacements.  You’ll have to suspend reality, especially if you know the rules of football.

About the Author

Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD.  He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them.  He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.

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I am My Dad

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For years in high school, I vowed that this would never be the case. If my dad turned left, I turned right. I felt like we had nothing in common. My days were spent focused on school, athletics, and girls. He spent his days working at his boring government job, and sometimes we’d see each other in the evenings. And when I did see him, he was tired and grumpy. I drew my line in the sand and said, “There’s no way I will end up like this man.” I would say to myself, “I was made for more.”

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Who You Are Becoming

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When I was a boy, my father would often repeat the saying to me: “Choose your friends wisely.  Because that’s who you will become.”   

In youth, we are often told that hanging out with the wrong crowd will get us in trouble. And on the flip side, we should seek out friends that are “on the right path.” But what about the middle-aged guys? What are we becoming? It should come as no surprise that all studies show we most often become exactly who we are around.    

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The Way Back is the Way Forward

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For as long as I can remember, I have loved historical documentaries. At times it feels like I could get lost in the stories told by Ken Burns, or the books written by David McCullough. As a little boy growing up in Virginia, I went on field trips to old Civil War battlefields and learned about the past through trips to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. When I went to college in Richmond, VA (VCU), the very house I lived in was built in 1862. History was all around me.

As a kid, I had heard others say, “don’t dwell on the past.” I couldn’t help it, though. Something was calling to me when I visited those places—Gettysburg, Bull Run, and Fredericksburg—I was somehow trying to feel what it would have been like to be in the battle, to fight for a nation in its adolescence. It’s often said that if you want to know where you are going, you have to know first of where you came from.

Over time, I have learned that the way back may be the way forward. Yes, it is an oxymoron. It doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s counterintuitive. Yet, to me, it does make sense. Those stories, with their characters and the decisions they had to make, have much to teach us. The stories can reveal to us what we are made of and the legacy that we have inherited (good or bad). The characters can show us why we make certain decisions and even help us understand why we believe what we believe.

I have come to realize that this all translates to our personal lives as well. The history of our lives matter. The history shows us parts of our marrow. The history of our lives helps to define our fears and passions. This might be where it comes full circle. Most of us look into our old stories and first see the failures, disappointments, and the dark spaces. Those things are there, but what else exists within that history? What are the things that we need to be reminded of? I’m nostalgic like that. Is it a song, or a movie, or maybe an old friend that you need to be reminded of? It doesn’t take much to feel that longing for what was a stronger time in your life. Maybe you need to be reminded of the confidence that is hard wired into your heart, yet in this present season, you can’t seem to find it.

Just the other day I was helping a friend out at his house. Something he said reminded me of a movie I hadn’t seen for twenty years, but it automatically took me back to a younger time where I was fearless, more filled with faith, and less worried about the future. We laughed at the lines in the movie and shared some good memories of watching this film with friends way back when.

Was it good to laugh? Yes. Was it good to connect with that friend and the movie that had moved both of us? Yes. But the best part for me was that in the deep parts of my heart, the memory inspired me to live more fearlessly, passionately and with less worry. That’s the true gold in our personal histories. It’s not a place to live, but it is a place to draw life from for the battles we face today. 

About the Author: Cory Smith is the Executive Director of Training Ground (TG). TG has locations in Colorado Springs, CO, and Sarasota, FL and their team provide evaluated real life experiences, mentoring, and intentional Biblical teaching in the context of work, wilderness, and worship. They train and establish young men in Christ as future leaders in families, the workplace, and ministry. Cory enjoys fly fishing, wearing flip flops and shorts, and hanging with friends in his garage.

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