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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

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Entries in soccer (3)


ordinary days

What if our days are strung together by memories hanging side by side to make a life?

This past weekend we traveled to Knoxville for a soccer tournament for Joshua. His good buddy F traveled with us. This could have been just another weekend of soccer away from home. 

Matthew lives there and attends University of Tennessee. He is finishing up his junior year. My garage is full of coffee tables and dishes he will need soon enough. This average weekend brightened considerably by his presence with us.

On Sunday after both Joshua’s and F’s teams lost, we veered off our path to show F Neyland Stadium in the heart of UT’s campus. In the south football is a religion. Neyland is the third largest stadium in the country. Now F is a die-hard Tarheels fan. We secretly committed to changing his loyalty. Who could resist this kind of devotion to football?

As we neared the stadium, we realized the gates were not locked. Quickly we ducked in. The sun shone brightly from a bluebird sky and warmed us as we sat in awe. Tennessee weather could not decide if spring or winter ruled the day. We reminisced football games of the past and how the McMurrays have already left a mark on Neyland Stadium.

At the top, we peered over the orange (what other color is there?) bars to see the ground far below. Joshua commented how easy it would be to climb those orange bars and take out on the larger steel beams. If I was Catholic, I would have crossed myself at the thought. 

“Please!” I begged, “y’all don’t ever do that.” 

They looked at me like I was crazy. I reminded them that just last summer one of them had gotten out on a roof and jumped from balcony to window. Raising boys is not for the faint of heart. 

Someone lamented that if we only had some paper we could fly paper airplanes off the top. Another spotted orange flyers from the Orange and White game of the day before. We grabbed up eight or so pages and went to folding. 

Matthew’s design - simple yet sophisticated - won the best air time. The jets dove straight down for the concrete sidewalk. One stealth design flew all the way over to the parallel roof. 

As I reflected on the weekend, this moment stood out for me. Releasing those paper flying machines off Neyland held hope and play. It was an unexpected adventure built by togetherness and creativity. 

I think it is a moment we will store in the scrapbook of our hearts. A moment strung next to the others making life.


game plan

I posted this on my front door today. Romans 13:1Joshua dribbled the soccer ball toward mid-field, but his lackadaisical gait grabbed my attention. And like any good soccer-mom, I yelled out to him from my lawn chair: “Joshua! Hustle!” 

Only problem with this scenario: the ball wasn’t live. The other team had just scored. Joshua dribbled the ball to mid-field for the kick-off (is that the correct term?). Matt swiftly brought me up to date. I dug a small hole on the sideline and spent the rest of the game in it. Well, I wish I could have. 

I know very little about soccer as demonstrated in the story above, a story that will live in the annals of McMurray history for eternity. My ignorance, unfortunately, did not stop me from commenting. I learned from that experience to keep a lid on my mouth until I could comment with a little education. I’m still learning about soccer. The lid goes on and off according to my self-control. 

On this election day, Matt and I began our day in prayer before we got out of bed. We serve a Sovereign God. He will choose our president today. In fact, He’s chosen him. I pondered what it will be like at the end of the day today. How will I behave in front of my children? Will I communicate to them that I trust God? 

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Church at the Soccer Field

Today I had church at the soccer field. Not to be glib, but as I yelled, kicked and jumped around for my son’s team; I met another side of me. The contemptuous soccer mom needs the grace of Jesus. Let me explain...

Our team started the game with a record 1:1 on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Yes. I said 8:00 a.m. How we are on a team that has a game at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday is yet another post for another day. The tournament began on Saturday with a game at 8:00 a.m. Yes. All this is to say that we were tired. Fried may be another word to describe it. 

Joshua scored the first goal with a slider that buzzed past the goalie. Later Luke booted one in. Number 15 on the other team, Mr. Happy Feet, got around John and let one fly past Jake, our goalie. Not long after that our Blake scored in a break-away. We entered the half 3-1. A mom from the other team took the field and did a few dribbling drills her short blonde hair bouncing like David Bowie’s. In a pair of black yoga pants and a bright pink sports shirt, she led the cheering section in some chants. I’m not kidding. I turned away and walked down to the other end of the field. My chair sat right next to the other team since I parked on the 50 yard line.(What is that called in soccer?) I had noticed the mom when she went down the sideline and gave each mother a high five after they had scored their ONLY goal of the first half. She stopped at my chair. Graciously

Second half: In a series of unfortunate events, the other team scored two goals on our Jake who had the sun directly in his eyes. This factor along with the conspicuous slope of the field toward the goal aided their team to tie us 3:3. We went into double over time. No score. As the parents postured and pontificated on the sidelines, the refs called an end to the game through penalty kicks aka PKs.

With every bit of drama as the World Cup, several (I am still learning the rules of soccer and don’t remember exactly how many) team members stepped up and went one to one with the goalie. One from our team, then one from the other team. It all came down to the final kick by the other team.  He kept the ball low on the ground and whizzed it into the left corner past Gannon, our brave and very able goalie. A bitter end to a bitter battle on the field. 

David Bowie-hair lead the roar from the other sideline. I watched with shock and the alchemy of adrenaline and caffeine with no food churned my stomach. The other team lined up for a high-five parade past Mrs. David Bowie. Our brave warriors deflated slowly left the field not without a few tears. 

Coach Graham came over and said our players fought hard. We all agreed it could have gone either way. Hard way to lose, we murmured the comfort of exhausted, frazzled soccer parents. We gathered up our children and chairs and exited the field with dignity.

As I waited in line for the ladies' bathroom, Mrs. Pink Shirt David Bowie bounces in and assumes the place right behind me. “I just love watching penalty kicks,” she beams. “Our team just played an overtime...” 

“We played you,” I interrupted her unable to endure more of her glee. 

“OH!” she shot back. “You have a great team... that number 1 has an amazing foot.” Thankfully by this time I entered the stall. She was safe from my dagger-eyes. I did not have to interact with her again.

As I reflected on this morning, after we had the long ride home and engaged Joshua on the “what if’s” and the “if only’s” of the game; I realized that I had met a side of myself I did not so much like. A disdainful soccer mom. No hiding it. 

I’m aware that soccer games make me question whether I even LIKE people or not. Yelling parents coaching their kids from the sidelines make me cringe. Yet I turn into some version of that as soon as we fall behind after leading 3:1 at the half. 

So what does this have to do with CHURCH?

At least one paradigm of church could be to worship God and in so doing meet the empty, orphaned parts of ourselves. 

Granted one missing element in this story, so far, is meeting God; yet on the way we beheld the sunrise. We marveled at the fire bouncing off the Batman Building in the downtown skyline. At least part of our souls had turned toward Our Creator - the One who wakes up the Sun. And so when the contemptuous part of me rose up, I knew where to take her. Worship looks like acknowledging the fallen, broken parts of me and depending on my Father to provide the grace.

Sue Monk Kidd writes, “The life of the spirit is never static. We’re born on one level, only to find some new struggle toward wholeness gestating within. That’s the sacred intent of life, of God – to move us continuously toward growth, toward recovering all that is lost and orphaned within us and restoring the divine image imprinted on our soul.”

Meanwhile, back at my REAL CHURCH, Lloyd preached on dying to live and what it looks like to be a disciple. Technology makes it easy for me to hear the message. So later I dialed it up. What does it look like to die in order that I may live, really live? Lloyd said, “In any and every circumstance recognizing: It’s not about me. I don’t have to be right. I don’t have to get my way. When we live that way, the gospel expresses itself.”

This week I am left to ponder the contempt residing in my heart. Confess it. Repent of it. Ask Jesus to blow a fresh wind through this stale heart and wait to see what He does.