Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ 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!

Editing My Life

January 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 12, 2018

                                             

Ed and Diana Stucky are great friends. Simply awesome people, humble and caring, empathetic and honest. In recent months they’ve been editing the book that I’ve written. Diana looks for better flow of sentences, corrects my punctuation, suggests ideas for how to develop characters and the plot. Ed reads the story, looking for flow and consistency. Being the adult curriculum editor at Cook Communications, he’s pretty darned good at it.

And these are two friends that I’ve been blessed with!

I’m now writing the sequel, even though I have no idea whether the first book…and those after…will ever be published. And Diana continues to check my work and help me chart the journey of the story ahead.

I’ve had a multiple of “redo’s” in this experience, taking a conversation that was written and rewriting it to make a stronger point. The redo’s are usually the result of conversations with E&D that cause me to rethink and backtrack for another go at it.

If the book ever gets published it will be because of two great editors who have made it a better read, a story that keeps the attention of the reader and even, in a couple of places, brings them to tears.

I was thinking about that this week in terms of my life. How would I like my life to be edited? Where would I like a few “redo’s” to happen?  In what conversations would I choose to change a few words?

I’m sure everyone thinks about it! We look at our screw-ups and wish we could turn the clock back for another go at it. We dream of our lives having a DVR button that we could use to replay a moment…and replay a moment…and replay a moment…until we get it perfect. Think of the movie Groundhog Day!

When one of the basketball teams I coach loses a game I replay certain situations as I lay in bed that night. I think of what should have been, a horrendous call by one of the officials, missed free throws and layups, and I edit the game in my mind to bring about a different end result.

If I could edit my life I could look a lot better in the eyes of those who know me, massively awesome!

But such a redo would diminish the thoughtlessness of our words and cruelty of our actions. In other words, when I screw up it is usually because I made a personal choice to follow my own selfish desires irregardless of the impact it has had on others. When I choose a direction that is not in line with what God hopes it is the revealer of the waywardness of my heart. To be able to edit my life would make me look better than I am.

Like Ed and Diana have been for my writing, God volunteers to be the editor of our lives. His grace and forgiveness in reality are his formula for a redo. When I cringe over a decision I have made he offers grace and forgiveness that tells me I can give it another try. Jesus’ death on the cross was the sign of God’s commitment to forget what was and love us in the redo’s. Paul wrote these words in his letter to the Romans: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8)

He edits out the errors through his Son’s atoning sacrifice. Amen!

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!

Doctrinecheck

January 7, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            January 7, 2018

                                            

Spellcheck has saved me a few times over the years. My fingers have hit the wrong letter keys so many times it’s embarrassing. There have been those few times when I spelled correctly, but inappropriately. One time I hit the ‘u’ instead of the ‘i” and changed my name from Bill Wolfe to Bull Wolfe. People thought I had a new nickname, and that’s no bull!

It was doubly embarrassing when “Bill shot” had two letters wrongly hit. I was one letter off to the left both times, so people were dumbfounded by why I had said “Bull shit” in the midst of a writing.

Most of the time, however, spellcheck has cleaned up my messes, so to speak.

I’m wondering if some Christian entrepreneur might consider developing “Doctrinecheck”, a program that would be able to correct theological error before it gets put out there, a program that rewords bad beliefs with scriptural truth.

There would be a decent market for such a product. People have become increasingly illiterate in their reading of, use of, and understanding of scripture. There’s a tendency to replace correct doctrine with what sounds good. That’s kind of like buying a piece of swampland in Florida because you’ve always wanted to live in that state. Good intentions, bad execution!

“Doctrinecheck” could straighten out all the bad theology associated with the after life. Our belief system has been influenced more by movies like Ghost , Heaven Can Wait, and It’s A Wonderful Life! than scripture.

Of course, there are those certain areas of doctrine that require some latitude. Whether someone is pre-millennial, post-millennial, or a-millennial would have to be taken into consideration. Perhaps “Doctrinecheck” would have to include links to certain categories when those “preferences” appear.

This could work! All the fluffy theology could get sorted out, the legalistic paranoia could get eased a bit, and people could understand what Jesus taught…again! And that’s no bill…er, bull!

Christian Tutorials

January 4, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 January 4, 2018

                 

Recently my son-in-law’s Audi wouldn’t start. One day it had, the next day it didn’t! My daughter lugged the battery to NAPA and got a new one. The new battery, however, didn’t fix the problem. So my son-in-law went online and watched YouTube video tutorials that explained how to fix this problem, and then that problem. Armed with this knowledge and his tools he attacked the stationary vehicle once again.

Finally, the tow truck was called and it was towed to the mechanic where a thousand dollars later hopefully it will be fixed.

Some of that story resonates with me when I think of living the Christian life. Let me explain! Yesterday I was walking amongst the book aisles of Mardel’s, the Christian book store a few miles from our house. One of the long bookshelves was occupied with the best-selling books of the Christian faith this past year. I browsed, picked up a couple for clarification on what they were about, and then went on.

What was revealing to me was the fact that most of the books were written to answer questions, like how to pray or how to be a woman of God or a man of God? They were an assortment of self-help guides as to how to live the Christian life. They were about process and executing a plan. I walked away saying how nice it is to have tutorials for living the Christian life, and yet being a bit uneasy about it as well.

The Christian life is a journey, an ongoing relationship with the Holy. Our tendency as flawed beings is to try to figure out how to successfully live out that journey. The rub, however, is that it isn’t about succeeding. It’s about being.

If I’m focused so much on how to walk with God I will barely experience the walking with God. Like an educated adult, if I’m YouTubing how to pray with power I will detour around the childlike words of a simple faith.

Like my son-in-law’s quest to be an at-home Audi mechanic, sometimes as followers of Jesus we must simply surrender to the fact that we can’t do this on our own; that we won’t be able to figure everything out, establish a fail proof plan for reaching the mountaintop with God, and trust the Maker. There is simply not a way for us, as they say, “to be all that” when we acknowledge that the grace of God is intimately mingled into our existence. It’s difficult to calculate where I am on the journey when I forget where God is on the same journey.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still, and know that I am God.” For many believers there is an immediate jump to “how do I be still?” But you see, it isn’t about us! It’s about us being still and letting God be who he is. It’s realizing that I’m in the passenger seat and the one who knows all and is all is driving the direction of my life.