Archive for the ‘Parenting’ category

Grace-Filled Winning

January 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        January 15, 2018

                                        

Recently a high school women’s basketball team in our area was beaten by 94 points. They were missing a couple of their players that day, but other defeats this season have been lop-sided as well, just not in the same zip code as 94.

In my years as a coach I’ve been on both sides of the final score…on the left side of the  hyphen with a way larger number than my waist size…and on the right side of the hyphen with a digit that looks as embarrassed as a naked child in a grocery store.

One of the first games I coached was a YMCA Church League game for middle school boys. We lost 75-5 and my only player who could dribble and chew gum at the same time broke his wrist. That team struggled to score more than six points in any game for the rest of the season. One of our last games was against Bethlehem Lutheran, and their associate pastor, Noel Niemann, was also their coach. Noel knew what our team’s skill level was and he purposely had his players play a packed in 2-3 zone defense and allowed our players to shoot from the outside. They beat us 36-12, but my team was elated that the scoreboard had to use two digits to display our team’s score. That was in 1982 and I still remember Noel’s name, the score, and the sportsmanship.

I seldom see grace filter into sports these days. It’s seen as a sign of weakness. “After all,” say too many coaches, “we’ve practiced hard. Winning in a blowout is our just rewards for practicing hard!”

That argument carries only so far! Winning by a ton of points is usually fueled by a coach’s arrogance, blood-thirsty parents in the bleachers, or players who think it says something about how impressive their skill level is.

In most states high school athletes can choice into schools that ordinarily they would not be going to. Certain high schools are accumulating more than their fair share of the better players, while other schools are encountering cupboards that are bare. Mismatches are evident before the season even begins. And it will continue to be!

So whose responsibility is to be win with grace?

The opportunity to show grace begins with the coach. I use the word “opportunity” because it should be seen as such. Not a requirement, but rather a gift wrapped in the lesson of sportsmanship. Any sporting event is a venue for how we wish people would treat each other. Too often it is a place where the participants strut like peacocks and the observers say things they would not want their mothers, some already in the grave, to hear.

Grace in winning is an opportunity for a coach to teach his/her players a different lesson that is unrelated to the score. Not enough coaches seem to understand that so now there is this thing called “The Mercy Rule.” The name should be a stop sign, but, instead, it has just become a point in the game where one team is a certain number of points ahead of the other team…and mercy has gone out for coffee!

High school sports, and maybe even more than that, middle school sports, need more coaches who teach the skills of the game, but also the character that a person can have. It needs more coaches that can model for their players that winning is more than a good-looking number figure on the left side of the hyphen.

It needs more “Noel Niemann’s”!

Life Naivety

January 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    January 14, 2018

                                       

This past week a fast food Mexican restaurant chain in Colorado Springs announced it was closing its five stores. There were no protests, no calls to reconsider. Someone or ones had made the unfortunate decision to open each of these establishments in areas where other Mexican restaurants like Taco Bell, Chipotle, and Fuzzy’s Tacos were already established. At least three of the five restaurants were either next to or across the street from Chick-Fil-A establishments. It made me wonder if part of their business plan was to get the overflow business from Chick-Fil-A, which is always crowded!

Each store was new construction. You would think that if one store wasn’t getting business it might tend to make the company think twice before building a second store, let alone four more stores!

It reminds me of a time several years ago when I was picking up my friend, Artie Powers, at the airport. As I walked with him down to baggage claim I noticed several women were giving me looks and smiling. I thought to myself, “I must be looking good today. I am a handsome dude!” My step got a little more strut to it. As we stood by the baggage claim carousel Artie suddenly leaned over and whispered to me, “Your barn door is open!”

“What?”

“Your fly’s open!”

My sense of what was reality had been trumped by my naivety! My infatuation with my mirage of an image had blinded me to the underlying truth.

Stupidity follows closely behind in the shadow of the naive.

Solomon had a lot to say about naive stupidity. He usually summarized the person’s reputation by just calling him/her  a “fool”!

“All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.” (Proverbs 13:16)

That verse gave new meaning to my walking through an airport unzipped for the world to see!

There’s a difference between wise speculation and foolish schemes! Clueless fools are nearsighted in their perspective and rarely think about what’s on the other side of the hill that they can’t clearly see.

In recent years I’ve adopted a couple of principles to live by. I always check my zipper before walking through airports…and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!

Things I Just Don’t Get!

January 10, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 10, 2018

                                   

I recognize that I’m inching towards 64. Some mornings I feel more like 84, but other mornings I’m spry and ready to go! Some days I feel slammed and other days I feel like I can slam dunk!

It seems, however, that there are more things in this world that I just don’t get. When I say “don’t get” I don’t mean things like wearing bikini underwear or Flaming Hot Cheetos. I mean I don’t understand, I don’t comprehend the reason why…that kind of “getting!”

So here’s my list for the beginning of 2018 that I just don’t get!

I just don’t get why there seems to be a boatload of personal injury attorney commercials on TV every day. If I hear the nickname “The Strong Arm” one more time I’m going to injure myself!

I just don’t get, with all the concussion concerns, why football players bump helmets with teammates after a good play, especially when the 6’7” offensive lineman bumps helmets with the 5’7” guy who just kicked a fifty yard field goal!

I just don’t get why “Bobby Lee” has to weave in and out of traffic going 80 on a six lane heavily-traveled road where the speed limit is 55! Someone explain to me what driving academy taught those NASCAR methods!

I just don’t get parents who try to justify the wickedness of their kids! When their son sets the house on fire will they justify it by saying that Junior was just barbecuing?

I just don’t get worship services where I can’t hear myself sing because the volume of the onstage singer and the band is turned up so loud! (Does that sound like an old fart or what?)

I just don’t get the football player who makes one good play and poses for the cameras like he just solved the world poverty situation!

I just don’t get why the guy sitting two chairs away from me at the public library is making calls on his cell phone asking for admissions information at different institutions. When did the library become a personal phone booth?

I just don’t get sagging pants! Nuf’ said!

I just don’t get why we don’t appreciate teachers more; and, in like manner, I don’t get teachers who lose sight of the opportunity to impact the lives of their students.

I just don’t get why there’s a Starbucks every half-mile…but I appreciate it!

I just don’t get why poker is considered a sport by ESPN.

I just don’t get why so many good three-point shooters in basketball can’t hit free throws. It’s a closer and uncontested free shot, for Pete’s sake!

I just don’t get full sleeve tattoos, and why, when it’s twenty below outside, some guy will still wear a sleeveless shirt so you can see it? Yes, I am really, really old…and “un-inked!”

I just don’t get why some parents will willingly pay $100 for a professional sporting event ticket, but then complain that their kid needs $2.25 for lunch money!

I just don’t get “The Bachelor!” I’d be much more interested in a show entitled “The Pimple-Faced Short, Introverted, High School Junior Who Tries To Get A Date To the Prom!” Winner! Of course, that would be like watching a rerun of part of my own life story!

The Wisdom of Moderation

January 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              January 9, 2018

                                         

Two of Apple’s largest stockholders are asking the company to help curb the digital addiction of children and youth. A ripple effect of the iPhone’s popularity, as well as SnapChat, texting, Facebook, and other forms of social media, has been the increasing amount of time the younger generation is “hooked” on their digital devices.

At the middle school that I substitute teach and coach at digital devices are part of the educational tool shed. Students are told to get online on their devices and sign in at Google Classroom for the reading assignment or questions to answer as they read. Research gets done at their desk on their iPhone.

Last spring, however, I experienced the other side of the digital addiction age. Several eighth graders focused on their iPhones when they were to be reading a textbook assignment. They attempted to keep their devices hidden from sight, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I recognize that sneaky look from my days of trying to hide cheat sheets in high school Spanish class.

Social media and iPhones are just the latest of a long, long line of products and vices that grow to the point of being obsessions and addictions. The average American teenager receives his/her first iPhone at the age of 10 and spends four and a half hours a day using it, not counting texts and phone calls. Recent research is connecting the risk of teen suicide with the amount of time teens spend using their digital devices. Adolescents who spend several hours a day using their digital devices tend to feel more isolated and depressed. Teens that spend less than two hours a day on their devices tend to be happier.

We should not be surprised at the negative implications of over-consumption. It fits with the scheme of things. A healthy life- physical, spiritual, emotional, mental- has balance to it. An unhealthy life is often out of balance in some way or several ways.

Several years ago I discovered Chinese buffets. I’d go there for lunch and gorge myself. The afternoon was spent feeling lousy, and I added several pounds to my body weight. I finally wised up and swore them off. I now have not been to a Chinese buffet in about ten years and, I don’t want to say it is the only reason but, my cholesterol has dropped.

There’s a great proverbs of Solomon’s that says this, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28)

When we become obsessed we become vulnerable. We see in our culture today that obsessions come in different forms and in various venues. There’s greed, drunkenness, gluttony, sexual addiction, workaholic-ism, laziness, and on and on. Any obsession leads to a “broken wall’ where some kind of enemy or evil can enter in.

Pretty much anything in our life is to be practiced, consumed, or done in moderation. There is wisdom in moderation, and there is usually trouble in excessiveness.

It will be interesting to see how Apple and social media companies respond to the request about digital addiction. Apple may simply see it as a way to develop a new product designed for adolescents. In essence, it could be a new way to make money for them. The real question is what will the social media companies do that rely on consumption, exposure, and screen time to make their profits?

Companies, also, more often than not, have no self-control!

Speaking Hope In the Christmas Shadow

December 26, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               December 26, 2017

                                  

Yesterday our three grandkids ran around our house like sugar-hyped squirrels, excited about the wrapped presents that they would soon tear into. It was a great day of brisket chili, chilled shrimp, homemade Chex mix, and pie. The bounty of food items on the kitchen island was simply dressing for the family time, laughter, and the playing out of various family traditions.

Yesterday was a feast in the midst of a time when Carol and I have encountered several families in the midst of emotional famine. This Advent Season seems to have been more about speaking hope to various folks in the shadow of Christmas.

On Friday I had attended the funeral of Ray Lutz, a fifty year football and basketball official who was one of my officiating mentors. At 77 he had passed away suddenly. Funerals close to Christmas have a sadness to them regardless of how old the departed is.

On Saturday the wife of my friend, Mark Miller, went into the hospital…and is still there…with some serious health complications. Crystal, the mother of four, spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day laying in a hospital bed, a time that had always been spent gathered around the family Christmas tree and dinner table. There is something deeply discouraging for a mom having to be monitored by ward nurses on Christmas Day instead of being the monitor of the family festivities at home.

And then on Sunday afternoon Carol and I went across the street to our neighbor’s house to express our condolences. Their eighteen year old grandson, a young man I had watched grow up, played basketball in our driveway with, and had coached in middle school football, was murdered a few weeks ago. We hadn’t heard about it until a former neighbor told us. We sat and talked to the grieving grandparents whose hearts were broken. To go through Christmas with the absence of one of the young ones is a journey walked with heavy emotional boots. We could not understand the depth of their grief, but we could sit at their kitchen table and listen to their hearts.

And finally to talk to my dad later on that same day and offer him encouragement. Just a few days released from his latest hospital stay, he has slowed down a good bit and now has to make choices about what he has the energy to do and not to do. Each day he is a gift to us, but each day is also a struggle  for him layered with uncertainty. I’m so thankful for my sister who watches over him since I live four states away.

Ray Lutz’s funeral was a community sharing of hope. The hundreds of folks to attended brought hope and encouragement to the family. The laughter caused by the staring of stories was like a soothing ointment to the wounds of loss.

With Mark and Crystal Miller I was simply a presence that symbolized hope in the midst of confused despair. With our neighbors Carol and I assured them of our prayers and support. It was an assurance to them that we will walk alongside them as they take each day ahead.

With my dad I simply spoke hope to him about his grandkids and great grandkids. That things are good with them. It provided some laughter in his soul as he pondered the stories of their lives.

Christmas sometimes is all glitter and lights; and sometimes it’s simply a word of hope that we suddenly realize is the greatest gift we could ever give!

Eric the Christ Child

December 19, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 19, 2017

                                    

(This is based on a true story that occurred on Sunday, December 17, 2017)

Three year old Eric arrived at the Methodist Church excited about his role in the Children’s Christmas Play as the baby Jesus. Even though he was a bit old to play the newborn babe he was the youngest available to fill the position. His mom was as excited as he was. She had her son scrubbed and spotless. A clean child seemed to be a prerequisite for Eric to act like Jesus.

They entered the sanctuary where there was already buzz and laughter. Two young girls in glimmering white dresses pranced around the front of the sanctuary. They were playing the role of angels to the disbelief of their brother.  Another girl who was about five was a third angel but she didn’t have a white dress. Instead she wore a red one. The devil, however, she wasn’t! It was a wardrobe decision based on financial resources, not theological assumptions.

Two handfuls of adults were scattered around the small sanctuary waiting with expectation. If the children’s program ran long the pastor had already forewarned them that she might not give the sermon for the morning.

They were hoping for slow-speaking children!

The pastor would need to exit following the service and drive the twenty miles or so to the other congregation she served. Worship in the Methodist Church was on a time limit!

The children were assembling themselves…three angels, two shepherds, and Jesus. Eric started heading up the center aisle, but Mrs. Book, the director, stopped him halfway to the altar. He was still wearing his red Santa hat. Red Santa hats were not a part of Jesus’ wardrobe. She eased it off the young boy’s head and handed it back to his mom. Eric’s long flowing hair was now fully visible.

The angels let him get settled in the chancel area in front of the communion table. There were probably a lot of theological ramifications to the going-ons but no one wanted to stop and have a discussion. Any veteran of children’s programs at Christmas time knows that pure theology is secondary in importance to cuteness and costume design.

The angels wrapped a white blanket around a sitting Jesus. Eric was ready to be the messiah!

The play started. The angels, standing on the left side of the platform, started talking to the shepherds, who were standing on the right side of the platform. Jesus was visible between them, taking in the dialogue. A few lines into the conversation he spread his arms to his sides and took on a messiah-like look. Since he had no dialogue lines to say it was his contribution to the action. After all, the angels were talking about him. He couldn’t just sit there and look uninvolved.

The play ended. It went long enough and the pastor couldn’t preach. The message had already been heard anyway!

And the messiah came dancing back down the aisle to where his mom was keeping his Santa hat safe!

Playing Through The Wrong Keys To Find A Note Of Harmony

December 18, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 December 18, 2017

                  

Yesterday I drove out to the hamlet of Simla, Colorado for the children’s Christmas program at the Methodist Church, followed by speaking at First Baptist of Simla. I had been invited to attend the children’s program and told the invitee that I would try to make it. It was delightful as only a small town small church can be.

For the offertory two young girls, both around ten years of age, played a piano duet. Both were dressed in beautiful shiny attire, beaming with excitement and a bit of nervousness. They positioned the sheet music in front of them and then carefully took their seats on the bench. They each took a calming breath, placed their fingers on the keys, and one of the girls whispered “One, two, three, play.”

The first notes were uncertain and wavering. Five notes in to the song they glanced quickly at one another, offering mutual encouragement for the adventure.

And then there were the uneven notes, one earlier and one later in its sound…another wrong note beginning to be played but as quickly as it started the playing finger slipping to the right note next to it. The small congregation of twenty of so “hoped” them on, longing for the next played sounds to be the right notes.  It was two girls risking failure but hoping for discovery.

And then in the midst of the effort and searches suddenly a few notes of perfect harmony sounded! One of the girls looked at the other with an expression of surprised delight, as if she was saying “Did we just do that?”

A few moments later they synchronized the playing of their last keys and breathed a sigh of relief. The gathered faithful clapped in appreciation of the experience. Even though their offering of talents was a bit short of perfect it was sweet music to the souls of the saints. The young ladies looked out at the church and displayed smiles of satisfaction and finished business.

It reminded me of the church, sometimes struggling to find the harmony as the struggles of ministry surface. Wrong decisions made with the right intentions, right choices made with the wrong intentions…like two young girls seeking to work together to play beautiful music and often missing the notes.

And then, all of a sudden, moments of harmony surface in a ministry that is mostly uncoordinated. The moments bring smiles to the faces of the weary, peace to the spirit of the Body. Just when it seemed that a bond with Christ would never be discovered again it suddenly appeared.

Ministry is more often like a pair of ten year olds playing a piano duet than the rhythm  of a symphony. If it was always such sweet music it may not be appreciated nearly as much. Paul made note of it when he wrote in Romans 12 these words: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those to mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with those of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:15-16)

There was no conceit sitting on the piano bench yesterday, just two young girls freed by the church to risk imperfect talents in the ministering to the saints. It was my closest connection with the Holy the whole day!