Posted tagged ‘Don Fackler’

Mentors For the Journey

January 4, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 4, 2019

                                      

I’ve been blessed to have a number of mentors in my life that have allowed me to try and fail, hone certain skills, and pointed out my strengths and weaknesses. 

Dr. James Payson Martin, senior pastor of Arlington Heights (IL) First Presbyterian Church was my first mentor when I joined a church staff. He was gentle but firm. Grace-filled, but demanding. I was between my second and third years of seminary, looking for a summer ministry experience that would stretch me…and it did. Loved it and learned from it! Grew as I groaned! 

Jim Martin was the catalyst for my growth. His daughter, Cyndi, remains a long distance friend of mine (She still lives in the Chicago area). I get choked up thinking about her and her dad. Jim passed away suddenly the week of Easter about 30 years ago. 

And then there is Chuck Landon, my first mentor in a church ministry after I was ordained and on a church staff full-time. I had been on the staff of another church for about 15 months after seminary graduation and it did not go well. I was defeated and discouraged, wondering if I was really called to ministry. The senior pastor was rarely around to guide me. The rumor was that he spent more time on the golf course, which had one of its fairways rolling right behind his backyard. This “Wolfe” often felt like he was being fed to the wolves!

Lansing First Baptist Church rescued me from leaving ministry, and Chuck Landon taught me more about being a pastor than anyone else I have known. His work ethic flowed out of his passion for Christ, pursuit for excellence, and love for the people he pastored and community he served in. When I was willing to settle for less he let me know it was unacceptable. When I did something well he affirmed the excellence and effectiveness of it. When I wore my softball cleats (They were rubber cleats, okay!) to a Diaconate meeting in the pristine church parlor, he read me the riot act the next day! He taught me responsibility, and he taught me that perception, no matter whether it is accurate or not, is the reality.

Those two men mentored me to become a good pastor. They prepared me to mentor others to be good pastors, and hopefully those people will mentor others.

I’ve had other mentors through the years also in other areas of life. Don Fackler mentored me to a good basketball coach. When I assisted him in coaching the Mason (Michigan) High School Girl’s JV team, he laid the foundations in my life on how to coach. Now, more than 20 years later, I still find myself using some of those same learnings, and speak some of the same terms that he spoke. 

As I write more these days there have been a few mentors to bring my writing quality up. God has blessed me to have my life path converge with Ed and Diana Stucky. They’ve pressed me to not settle for less, to reach for quality and to be a wordsmith in conveying ideas. 

Mentors are essential for our development and success. If we learn in isolation we will experience the storms of being isolated. If we realize that we are “not all that!” and allow others to speak truth into the rough edges of our lives we will be better, and we will be better prepared to be vessels that flow with purpose!

Coaching Moments and Conversations

November 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 November 11, 2018

                                

I love coaching kids and adolescents! Just love it! Yesterday I finished my 18th year as boy’s basketball coach at Timberview Middle School in Colorado Springs. With a new league this year our season got bumped forward to October and November. (Now I begin high school tryouts tomorrow where I’ll be coaching JV Boys)

I enjoy coaching moments and conversations that leave my players smiling and chuckling. They are spontaneous and sometimes non-sensical! 

Like yesterday! I kneeled in front of one of my players who was sitting in the midst of the bench personnel. We were getting beat by about 15 points by the team that had gone undefeated as 7th graders and now as 8th graders. It was our fifth game of the day, after losing to them in the winner’s bracket final, coming back and winning the loser’s bracket, and now having to play them again in the final game. 

The player I kneeled in front of is a bespectacled 4’10” 8th Grader. I said, “I need you to grow 6 inches…right now!” He stared back at me slightly smiling. “Okay! I guess that’s not going to happen, so just go on in for Josh!” He went to the scorer’s table and I moved to the next player on the bench, a boy about 5’10”. 

“I need you to grow 6 inches…right now!” His eyes darted from side to side considering the possibilities as I paused. “Okay! Guess that’s not going to happen, so go on in for Tyler.”

I moved on to the third player. Kneeling in front of him and looking him in the eye, “I need you to grow six inches right now…okay, just kidding!”

A little later. “You need to be close to him on defense! Pretend it’s your girlfriend!”

“Coach, I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“No wonder! You keep your distance from her! She thinks you don’t like her!”

Confused look!

I channel Coach Don Fackler from time to time. Don mentored me in coaching back…like 25 years ago. I loved that guy! He passed away suddenly about 15 years ago and it’s the one funeral that I flew from Colorado back to Michigan to attend. 

As Don would say I now find myself saying, “You’re all discombobulated! Get organized! I need my point guard to figure out when we’re all discombobulated and pull it back together.”

Here I come again! “There is nothing in that right corner of the court that is worth dribbling towards. You planning on going somewhere?”

“No, Coach!”
“Cause you keep heading for the Exit sign, son!”

Bad shot selection comment! “Hey! Have you hit a three-pointer yet?”

“No, Coach!”

“That’s right! You’re 0 for November! So let’s consider a better shot!”

“Sorry, Coach!”

Left-hand gone missing!

“What’s that thing attached to the left side of your shoulder?”

“My arm?” replies a confused looking player.

“Why not discover that it has a purpose, okay?”

“Yes, Coach!”
“I would rather you miss a left-handed layup than make a right-handed layup that announces to everyone that you don’t have a lefthand!”

And then yesterday I subbed for a player who made a couple of mistakes. I kneeled in front of him and said, “You made some mistakes, okay! But that’s not why I subbed for you! Your body language is spelling defeat. Everyone makes mistakes, but when you start moping on the court…you might as well be sitting here!” I talked to the player’s parents after the game and they thanked me for letting him know that. 

I love these kids! I love coaching them, guiding them, helping them to figure things out not just on the court, but in the situations of life. 

At the end of our tournament yesterday we gathered together with our runner-up trophy and had our team picture taken by parents and our school administrator. I noticed that the 4’10” player was holding the trophy in the midst of the front row. He was smiling from ear-to-ear, but the trophy was hiding his face.

“Paul, would you grow that six inches I asked for so we can see your face over the top of the trophy?”

Eleven players and three managers couldn’t keep from smiling on that one!

Love that kid!

Does God Care About Sports?

March 31, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 31, 2014

 

About a week ago our local newspaper ran two different columns from the sports editors in response to a letter from a young girl who was inquiring about the level of God’s interest in sports.

The writers gave some excellent examples in the affirmative to the question. God does care about sports…just not as much as we do! God does love sports…just not as much as some people who wear spikes on their shoulders, paint their faces black, and wear Raider jerseys.

Sports has an important role in our culture, but sports sometimes becomes our culture. The lines get blurred on what is healthy and what is fanaticism. When lines get blurred the weird and unthinkable starts sneaking in the back door that has been propped open. People start bulking up, but bulking up isn’t good enough! Sometimes steroids and other “Miracle-Gro” hormones get added to the equation to give the athlete an advantage for now…and consequences later.

Sports has replaced the Sunday Worship Service, ironically, as what is worshiped. People will go to a Saturday night service so they can watch the Sunday afternoon Broncos’ game…or just not go to church at all!

Once again, ironically, as a Baptist pastor I must applaud the Mormons. Last weekend the BYU women’s basketball team was playing a Sweet Sixteen game against undefeated Connecticut. The Cougars hung tough, but lost to the undefeated Huskies. But long before that game was played it had been determined that if BYU would not play a game on Sunday, March 30.

Wait a minute! This is the NCAA…March Madness…hoops hysteria!

The Mormons would not let sports shape what they firmly believe in. I find that level of commitment a bit lower in Protestantland and the Catholic culture.

God cares about sports. He cares about people realizing their potential and purpose. Shooting a long jumper with a fluid stroke that more times than not results in the “tickling of the twine” is a gift, but it often gets confused with purpose. God’s purpose for our life…I pray…is more than how well I can flick my wrist in the releasing of a basketball.

God cares about sports and the positives they can teach…the work ethic…the incredible learnings from being part of a team…the friendships…the physical development as a result of getting in shape.

He cares about the opportunities that sports can bring into a world that aches with disappointments and negative diagnoses. If it hadn’t been for sports Michigan State’s Adreian Payne would not have met an eight year old girl named Lacey who had been battling cancer. Sports, namely being a 6’10” center on the Michigan State basketball team, was the avenue that brought him into Lacey’s hospital room at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan.

But it was a little girl’s battling for her life that brought perspective into Adreian’s life.

God cares about sports, and he also cares about whether or not we can keep a healthy perspective on things that are temporal and things that are permanent.

I still love shooting the long jump shot, although my knees seem to be protesting it more and more, but more than that, I love coaching basketball and being used to have a positive impact on young people’s lives.

God cares more about my impact on the younger generation than he does about how sweet the rotation on the basketball looks as I shoot it towards the basket.

The guy who mentored me in coaching, Don Fackler, brought that perspective to me. Don had a sweet outside shot, and if I was guarding him down low he would make me pay by scoring and also sliming me with his perspiration. He sweat more than anybody I knew! But his impact on how I coach now is seen in many ways. I never used the word “discombobulated” until I met Don Fackler.

At his funeral some twelve years ago now the aisles of First United Methodist Church in Mason, Michigan were filled with his former players…young men and women who had been impacted by him. Young men and women who were now raising their own children, or pursuing their college degree, or making a positive impact wherever they now lived.

I think that’s why God cares about sports, and that’s why I also care about sports.