Posted tagged ‘entitled’

What Character Qualities Will I Teach My Players?

October 11, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              October 11, 2017

                    

Last night I met with four other men who I will be coaching alongside this coming high school basketball season. During the course of the evening we talked about offenses and defenses, practice plans, try-outs, and schedule, but we spent the most time talking about what the foundational characteristics were that we looked to teach our players. More than just teach, to model for our players!

Twenty years from now when I meet a former player for a cup of coffee what is that I hope to see his life rooted in? What will I be overjoyed about as I talk to someone who has turned 35?

There are a lot of coaches who have been entrusted with opportunities to speak into the lives of their young athletes…who are simply scoundrels! Being a high school basketball official for years I’ve seen how their teams have often taken on their personalities…bad attitudes, sour disposition, arrogant, prone to temper tantrums.

So the men I’ll be working with are committed to emphasizing the development of character in our young players. Last night we talked about four foundations:

            Integrity

            Selfless

            Reliable

            Gracious

All four go against the flow of our culture. “Integrity” seldom makes the headlines. Scandals and conspiracies draw larger audiences.

“Selfless” gets applauded, and yet we live in a time of entitlement. During a recent sports season I had a couple of players who had missed significant practice time because of injuries. When it came to preparing for the last game of the season both of them wanted to be the running backs again. In practice I positioned one of the players at Offensive Tackle. He didn’t like it. After a few plays he asked to be subbed out because he needed to do some more stretching. The other boy kept, who had missed the previous three games, kept asking me “When am I going to run the ball?” Both of them had exhibited actions and attitudes that communicated that they did not understand concept of team. The result was they caused more trouble than they were worth. As I begin this new basketball season the character quality of “selfless” will be the first foundation I emphasize.

“Reliable” is a word that we used to take for granted. An employee was expected to be at work…and working! My son, who is a chef, often talks about his frustrations with workers who just didn’t show up for work. The effect of such an absence puts more pressure and work on those who are there. There’s a lot of people who float in and out of our lives who can not be relied upon. “Dr. Phil” makes a living out of telling life stories of people who aren’t reliable, and the ripple effect of such.

“Gracious” goes to one of my favorite words…grace! I’ve encountered a lot of players who stepped out of line when grace was being handed out. They criticize and demean their teammates. Wouldn’t it be awesome to play on a team where there is a recognition of everyone trying their hardest, committed to a team effort, and recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and needs the grace of their teammates? Grace, on an athletic team, means picking someone up off the ground instead of making them want to sink into the ground.

So this basketball season we’ll seek to lead our teams to victories, but we will also seek to lead them on a path towards being young men of character.

I’ve been out of high school for…Good Lord!…45 years now, but I still remember the people I went to school with who were jerks. Perhaps they’ve changed since 1972, but since I now live five states away I don’t know. My impression was etched in my memory a long time ago. I will strive to take my players on a journey this season that will help lead them towards young men of exceptional character.

And then when we sit at table in Starbucks in 2037 sipping some medium roast together I’ll attempt to hold back tears of gratitude over who this young man has become!

Suggested Stop Signs

July 24, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 July 24, 2017

                                   

I’ve noticed it more and more…like a bad body rash that keeps spreading! It’s called “The Suggested Stop”!

A “suggested stop” happens when a driver approaches a stop sign and slows and goes! There is not a stop in the process, because…it is only a “suggested stop.”

Stop signs have not changed with the times. They are as old-fashioned as they’ve always been. No modernization, or fancy new lettering. Not even a more up-to-date word or saying like “Easy” or “Have a nice day!” Not even an image like a smiley face! Just the same old four lettered word with a flaming red background as always.

STOP!

What has gotten lost in the Master Drive instruction somewhere is that STOP usually has a reason attached to it, like some possible negative repercussions if someone decides not to stop.

I noticed it this past year at a four-way stop close to the middle school a half mile from our house. At 7:15 in the morning it is a busy intersection. The crossing guard, a sweet lady that I’ve known for years, has considered wrapping herself in bubble wrap and developing waistline bumpers as she escorts students across the street with her STOP sign raised high for people to see. And yet she has very few days where she doesn’t have to deal with drivers from the “suggested stop” school of thought!

This morning as I headed towards my first cup of coffee at Starbucks I came to another four-way stop. As I slowed a BMW on the right approached the STOP sign, reduced his speed from 30 to 25, and then turned left in front of me while holding a cigarette out the window and sporting NASCAR sunglasses.

I’ve thought a lot about suggested stoppers and have decided that the whole idea fits with our culture of entitlement. People feel entitled to drive the way they want, to not take road signs literally. Kind of like those stone tablets that Moses carried down! You know the ones I’m talking about…The Ten Suggestions!

We simply live in a world where it is to your advantage…more than that, for your well-being and health…to follow the instructions and obey the signs. We seem to do that only when it’s convenient, like when the gas gauge has a red “E” on it. Very few of us see that and say to ourselves, “Oh, that’s just a suggestion to stop at a gas station and get some fuel!” Those who believe such logic are called “walkers” and “hitchhikers”!

With all the sophisticated new car technology perhaps the auto industry could put in some kind of automatic stopping device that reacts when the vehicle approaches a STOP sign. If a car can now be parked without the driver having his hands on the steering wheel surely an automatic stop technology can be invented for new cars!

Of course, if that happens the 1982 Chevette will blow right past you!

The End of Grace (Tree)

July 5, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 5, 2017

                                    

On January 9th of this year a wind storm whipped through our area, registering speeds of 103 miles per hour. Power lines were downed, semis were overturned, shingles were blown off roofs, fences collapsed, and trees were uprooted.

At our house the “Grace Tree” lay on its side like the family pet hit by a car. Hospice didn’t need to be called. It had been put out of its misery already!

The “Grace Tree” was situated in the front yard of our house to the side of the driveway. It had been about five feet tall when we moved in eighteen years ago. At the Day of Reckoning it was about fifteen feet in height, but…ugly in appearance. Our former neighbor, David Volitis, labeled it “the ugliest tree ever.” Think teenager with a bad case of acne…and warts…and missing half of his front teeth!

Across the street at McGillivray’s another pine tree has the look of one of those special trees that gets chopped down and re-situated in front of the White House at Christmas time. It looks like it could be the inspiration for a few Thomas Kincaid paintings.

And the thing is…that tree and our Grace Tree were planted at the same time. Now they looked like the Homecoming Queen and her ugly sister!

What our tree reminded me about…every time I pulled into our driveway…was the grace of God. It got harder to look at every year. Instead of growing wider each year, like me, it just kept growing taller with no increase in width! Each time I arrived home to see it standing there I would say to myself, “If not for the grace of God…” Every year I thought about borrowing our neighbor’s axe and going “Paul Bunyan” on it, but I held off. Every time I saw the homely pine I thought about how undeserving I was of God’s blessings.

“If not for the grace of God…”

And then January 9th arrived and grace ended with a thud around 6 A.M. I suppose you can say that even grace has its limits! We expect it to always be the operating system of our life but at some point we tend to stop seeing it as a gift and view it, instead, as an expectation. Grace gets mis-defined as something we’re entitled to, and will always be there…regardless!

The lesson I take from our “Grace Tree” is not that God’s wrath is surely to come if I don’t get my act together. On the contrary, what I take from it is that God’s love for me goes far beyond the tipping point. In a world where things and people are tossed to the side when they lose their beauty grace is difficult for people to understand. It is rooted in love and shaded by kindness.

Loving kindness, that’s what it is!

Coaching a School Sports Team In a Club-Infatuated Culture

April 5, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            April 5, 2017

            

I love coaching basketball, especially middle-school basketball, but coaching a school team, no matter whether it is a middle school or a high school team, has changed in the past few years. Club teams have skewed the picture and the experience!

It started a few years ago when a mom was irate about the fact that her son did not make the school interscholastic team. She shouted, “He’s playing on the Gold Crown team!” (Gold Crown is the state-wide league for club teams in Colorado.) She thought that there was something wrong with the fact that he was a player on that club team, but didn’t make the school roster.

It brings in the first problem with club sports teams: the financial resources of some versus the lack of resources of others. Money opens doors…and the lack of money keeps doors closed. I remember growing up in a family where “discretionary funds” was a foreign term. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I discovered that “eating out” meant more than getting a few lawn chairs set up around the grill in the backyard.

I learned to play baseball with the neighborhood kids in the side yard of the Bookman’s house in Williamstown, West Virginia. I learned to play basketball at the outdoor basketball courts at the community park. My friends and I played on teams in the Williamstown summer baseball league and Saturday morning basketball program at the high school in the winter time. The cost was minimal because the town underwrote most of the costs.

That was a different time, I guess! Parents are now willing to shell out thousands of dollars for their son or daughter to play club hockey, club volleyball, club baseball, club soccer, club basketball, club lacrosse, Pop Warner football, or club softball.

But others can’t! Whereas many club teams do fundraising projects, like car washes or garage sales, it does not make their teams free. Thus, club sports teams in many ways are guilty of creating this two-tiered system of athletes- the haves and the have nots!

That ties into the next ripple effect. Many parents believe that if they are paying all that money for their child to be on the team then they have expectations that need to be met. The first expectation is that he/she will play. Playing time, in their eyes, is guaranteed. The second expectation is that their child will progress to the next level. In other words, many parents believe the money they shell out for their child’s club team is like a down payment for a future college scholarship. Their child’s love, or lack of love, for the game is of minimal concern. Never mind the fact that there is a good chance their child will be injured at some point along the line that will result in college no longer being an option; or the even better chance that he/she will become totally burned out and no longer interested in playing.

That brings in a problem that I as a school sports team coach now deal with. If a club team is mostly comprised of athletes who want to be offered college scholarships then it is important that they stand out on the court or on the field. They need to be noticed! To be noticed often gets translated into meaning a player has to stand out from his/her teammates. It becomes about him! It becomes about her! Connecticut women’s basketball coach Gino Auriemma sees this happening and he shakes his head. He says that when he goes to a club tournament he watches to see how a player relates to her teammates, and he watches to see what her demeanor is when she is on the bench. Is a player is so self-absorbed with her personal stats, and disengaged from her teammates she won’t someday be wearing a Connecticut uniform.

I find this “all about me” attitude filtering down into the middle school ranks. When I watched that interview with Auriemma it made me think about how I will build future teams that I coach, because some of the players I’ve coached, who also play club basketball and are very good players, don’t mesh very well into a team concept that believes it takes a team to experience success. If you don’t believe me just take notice next school year of all the high school players who transfer from one school to another! Many of them are willing to sit out half of a sports season because they think should be playing more.

And don’t get me started on the parents!

The Entitled Church

March 23, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 March 23, 2017

                       

     A few days ago I wrote a piece on the entitled church attender. I presented the idea that there are a lot of church attenders who mirror one of our cultural themes as they relate to the church. That is, there is a heightened sense of entitlement, and focus on what the church can do for “me”, as opposed to how I can join a community of believers in service and ministry for Christ.

An old friend of mine responded to that writing with another view that got me thinking. Having lost her husband in the last year she experienced a church that seemed to place its needs above her grieving. She had held a couple of positions within the congregation, and it seemed as if the church was more concerned with her continuing on in the work of those positions than it was in her journey of grief.

She was right on! The shoe is on the other foot this time! There are a number of churches who treat their servants like the Borax Mule Team. The focus is on getting things done, as opposed to being a community of believers who lean on others and are available to be leaned on.

We talked about it quite often in my years of pastoring: burn-out! The exhaustion of the saints and the pastor. It seemed that there was seldom good balance; that it was either the pastor burning the candle at both ends, or the twenty percent of the saints who were doing too much. Sometimes it was the pastor who drove “the mules”, and sometimes it was the church leaders who barked behind the pastor like an army drill sergeant!

Rarely were there situations where the rhythm of the saints and the clergy found a healthy balance.

And so my friend finds herself, after years and years of serving, now wondering about the church. Did it consider her to be like middle-management in a corporation? Did it really care for her, or simply care when it was convenient?

Honestly, that scenario has been played out too many times. Sometimes the church even uses the excuse of the Great Commission to minimize the importance of its messengers! “We’re all about Jesus, so put your pity party on the back burner!”

Entitled churches are simply gatherings of entitled church attenders who have control of the reins!

“Hahh, hahh!” says the guy with the whip riding behind the mules.

The Entitled Church Attender

March 19, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             March 19, 2017

                              

There is a lot of talk and conversation these days about entitlement…from government programs to children of helicopter parents to job wages and benefits to kids sports. Entitlement could be a defining term for our culture. We hate it and yet we expect it!

Entitlement has entered through the front doors of the church as well! This past week I was listening to the morning host of a Christian music station as he launched into a discussion about finding a new church. One of his co-hosts had invited him to visit her church. The discussion flowed around what he might tell her afterwards if he didn’t enjoy the experience?

There was much laughter and humorous remarks related to the subject. How the host approached the subject left me a bit chilled. His opening was something like this: “Recently my family and I have been looking for a new church and been trying out some different places…”

His tone gave me the impression that changing churches was kind of like deciding on what restaurant we’re going to have lunch at today? How will the service be? Will we feel comfortable? Will we have our needs met? Does the time suit us? Will we like the music? How will we be made to feel special? Will it be easy to get into and out of?

He seemed to indicate that changing churches is no big deal, as difficult as deciding whether or not to get cheese on that burger I’m ordering!

But, of course, it goes with our culture. All those questions place “me” as the focus! After all these years we’re firmly traveling through a period of time where people don’t understand the purpose and mission of the church. The church simply reflects our culture, as opposed to being counter-cultural.

Perhaps the radio host had a good reason for leaving his old church. Maybe there was some doctrinal issue. Perhaps his church had lost its understanding of being the hands and feet of Jesus. Maybe the way it treated women and minorities was out of line with the gospel. Maybe the worship service had become an hour of entertainment.

The way he began the topic, however, made his previous place of fellowship sound like an old sock with a hole in the heel…tossed to the side!

Counter-cultural would have the host say something like this: “My family and I recently began a search for a new church to journey with. It wasn’t that the congregation we had been journeying with was bad or anything, but they didn’t expect anything of us. They didn’t expect us to be willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of the gospel, and didn’t expect us to understand and incorporate the idea of servanthood into our lives. So we’re in search of a fellowship that will challenge us to live out of faith in word and deed.”

Wouldn’t that be a twist in our thinking? It would go completely against our culture’s question of “what can I get out of it without putting anything into it?” Of course, we read that idea into some of our hymns and praise songs. “Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed me white as snow.”

We sing the song, say “Thanks Jesus!”, and then stroll out to the church parking lot saying “Where shall we go for lunch?”

Poking Along At 79 MPH

February 20, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               February 20, 2017

                                  

Carol and I were driving on I-25 Saturday morning heading to Greeley, Colorado, a small city about an hour north of the Mile High City. I was speeding at 79, but it felt like I was a covered wagon at Daytona. Cars zipped past us like we were sitting still.

I realized, that at 79 miles per hour, I was now my dad! He would have been doing 70 in a 75 speed zone, but the speed of pokey people has now been raised to anything under 80! Call it the evolution of driving! Some of the cars that lead me in the dust should have NASCAR numbers on the side panels!

A motorcyclist shoots by us on the right like a fireworks rocket launch. A pick-up truck with tires as tall as I am thunders by…obviously on his way to the monster truck show. In my rearview mirror I see a BMW bearing down on me quickly…and then threading the needle between the car in the lane on my left and my left front bumper.

Is it the white Honda Accord that gives me away? Do people now see that car and think AARP? Should interstates have one lane labeled “Safe Drivers’ Lane?” Or perhaps a toll lane for those who want to go over 80…with rubber bumper railings on each side, like a bumper bowling lane!

Our driving habits and fights at early morning Black Friday sales are two indicators of a cultural affliction. Most of us live by the theme “It’s all about me!” Who cares about the mom with three pre-schoolers trying to navigate the highway and parent crying babies at the same time? Who cares about the senior citizen whose reflexes are now a little slower who has the impatient over-caffeinated twenty-five year old riding his bumper?

Our highways reflect how we live our lives…out-of-control, living for the moment, thoughtless, risky, entitled, and ready for the excuses to sputter to the Highway Patrol officer.