October 1, 2018 is going to be a very special day. It's the day my new book will be released. This one has been "cooking in the oven" for years, and I can't wait to share it with you. It comes from deep in my soul. Many people have asked me what it's about. Before I tell you, let me first share an analogy using one of my favorite subjects--college football...
I lived near South Bend, Indiana, for thirty years. And it didn’t take me long after moving there to learn about the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I suppose, like any college town, the community in many ways revolves around the campus. When the team is winning, everyone feels great. When they are losing, everyone is a bit sad.
Lou Holtz was the Notre Dame coach when I began following the football team. I remember the 1993 season, when the Irish knocked off Florida State later in the season to become the number-one team in the country. The air in South Bend was electric! The next week, in the last game of the regular season, Boston College was killing my team early in the fourth quarter—up by 21 points. I was listening on the radio in my car as the Irish came back with 7 points, then 14, then 20. They scored 22 consecutive points to take the lead by 1. I was fist-pumping out the window and yelling my head off as I raced home so I could watch the end of the game on TV.
I made it home just in time to watch Notre Dame lose the game when Boston College got the ball close enough for a field goal. And as the ball sailed between the uprights, hopes for a national championship were shattered. It would, in fact, be twenty years before Notre Dame would play in another national championship game.
I still have quite a bit of Notre Dame–branded clothing: shirts and hats and such. And when I travel while wearing some of the gear, someone will inevitably pass me at an airport or in a mall and say, “Go Irish!” It’s like we’re one big happy family.
It’s probably no different with Alabama or Michigan or Florida State. A team becomes known by its logo, its colors, or perhaps by a mascot or a mantra (“Roll Tide!” anyone?).
Teams are also known by their traditions. These develop over decades and grow in importance with each passing season. At Colorado, they run Ralphie the Buffalo around the field before each half. At Arkansas, they “call the hogs”; at Iowa, they take a moment to wave to the kids atop the nearby children’s hospital; and at Texas A&M, they honor the “Twelfth Man.”
Traditions are part of the glue that holds a fan base together. They are built on from year to year as a program develops. In fact, any school, organization, or even country that wants to develop and secure a following comes up with traditions, logos, hand signals, flags, or other unifying trademarks that people can rally around.
Jesus left one of the largest, most successful and enduring organizations behind. He started with twelve, but the numbers grew into the thousands and millions, and continue to multiply to this day. Notre Dame is less than 180 years old. The organization Jesus left behind is more than 2,000 years old and continues to grow.
So what tradition did Jesus leave for this movement He started? How would His disciples be known? He didn’t give us a logo. We don’t have a handshake. There aren’t any colors or brands or mantras. That isn’t to say we don’t have plenty of identifying images. Church history has given us symbols such as the cross or the ichthys (fish), as well as robes and steeples and even the papal tiara (you might know it as the pope's hat).
But if you peel away all the stuff that religion and culture have added—what did Jesus say or leave behind to pull us all together? How is it that this movement he started is still growing? What is the secret sauce?
The core of my book explores this one topic. I'll give you a hint--the answer is in the book title, Marked By Love. That's right, I don't think it's theology or denominations or religious activity or even going to church. None of those things matter without a deep understanding of the one thing that matters the most.
And you know as well as I do, it's not as easy as it sounds. Living a life marked by love in our families, at our jobs, and driving in rush-hour traffic can all be challenging at times. The book is filled with stories of my own journey toward learning about the love of Jesus in new ways and becoming a person who is marked by that love. I have a long way to go.
I'm inviting you to take this journey with me. Let's do this together.