Posted tagged ‘self-centered’

Self-Centered Generosity

December 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             December 30, 2017

                                     

The year 2018 will be a telling experience that will show just how generous middle-class Americans are. New tax laws will reduce the benefits “kinda”… for many of moderate-income to give to charitable organizations.

One of the changes in the new tax laws includes a doubling of the standard deduction. That means an individual filer can deduct $12,000 and a married couple $24,000 without itemizing their deductions. Estimates are that less than 10% of taxpayers will continue to itemize their deductions. Thus, the incentive to give to charity will go to how genuine a person’s generosity really is!

Except for this year! Charitable organizations are seeing an increase in giving as the year ends for givers to take advantage of itemizing deductions. In other words, some people are being charitable in 2017 who will think twice about giving next year. It smacks of self-centered generosity. “What do I get out of this?”

To be honest, churches have been scrambling for years to make ends meet. In 2016 the typical church attender gave about 2.5% of their income to their church. During the Great Depression of 1929 the percentage was estimated at 3.3%! Generosity has not exactly run roughshod through the pews as things are. Now most ministries are expecting a decrease in giving to budgets that are already looking pretty threadbare!

So 2018 will be a year of indicators! Are Americans, especially followers of Jesus, generous or only generous when it helps their tax burden?

It’s not like there won’t be people in need next year. In Colorado Springs there are not enough available beds to take care of the growing homeless situation. The various shelters are looking for options to increase capacity, but more capacity requires more money to fund the ministries to the poor…and where will these funds come from?

The optimistic faith-based view of the coming situation is that the nation will see the heart of Jesus in the incredible outpouring of financial support from his followers; that Christians will take seriously Jesus’ directive to care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. That’s a view that could indicate a spiritual renewal in our midst!

The pessimistic view is that the tax law changes will show just how greedy and self-centered we really are!

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!

Denying Self To Build Community

June 5, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     June 5, 2015

                                    

Recently I watched a DVD that brought to the surface the breakdown of a community in a major metropolitan area of our nation. The deterioration didn’t happen overnight, but rather over a period of twenty years or so. One of the fractures that rose to the surface was the breakdown in the family system. Absentee fathers…parents not investing into their kids lives, sometimes because they were working two jobs to make ends meet…gangs moving into the area to fill the void in young men’s lives that needed some kind of family.

Another fracture was caused by people becoming more concerned with themselves than those who lived in their community. A hint of self-preservation gradually grew to become the odor of selfish ambition. Suspicions grew about people’s agendas. Gang activity resulted in residents being protective of the few things they had. “My brother’s keeper” became non-existent as people felt community concern for their well-being decreased.

Survival defined the environment instead of living life.

The DVD showed how the community was gradually saved…emotionally, economically, relationally, and spiritually…but it was a long journey on a pothole-filled road. It showed one church’s commitment to the high school in that community that changed the lives of students, their families, but also volunteers from the church. A community was resurrected!

And it all came back to that denying oneself to build a safe community for others. What a concept!

Jesus once said some pretty challenging words. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, NIV)

A little while later after he had experienced death and then resurrection he told is disciples to go into all the world making disciples of all nations, baptizing, and teaching them. It seems that following Jesus is about the person stepping off the throne, risking oneself, and loving others. Building community involves some people who are willing to pick up some crosses.

This afternoon I went by the elementary school close to our church that we partner with. The principal had approached me a couple of weeks ago about getting together and strategizing about our partnership next year. Today we set up the appointment and I gave her that DVD to watch before we meet.

It takes more than a community to raise a child. It takes people who would rather share half of their sandwich at lunchtime with a hungry kid than eating the whole thing. It takes vision to see the imbalance and ears to hear the impoverished. It takes a hand to comfort and feet to go the distance.

And, quite honestly, not many people are willing to be that!

Extended Grace

July 10, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 10, 2013

 

                                           “Extended Grace”

 

I met yesterday with a group of pastors that I journey with half a day once a month. It’s a intimate group of five. We begin each session with a time of reflective reading of scripture, reading through it three times, and noticing something that speaks to us in the text each time it is read.

Yesterday the text came from James 4:1-10. The text could justifiably be summed up with the words “Get your act together!” It’s a little on the lecture side…lecture, as in standing in the midst of the principal’s office and being told the deeds just committed will not be tolerated.

Frequent words used in the scripture include “don’t”, “do not”,  and “can’t”. 

But in the midst of the reading of the holy riot act, these words appear: “But he gives us more grace. (James 4:6a, NIV)

Our group noted that our tendency, which the text hints at, is to be selfish and self-centered. The foot washing act of service by Jesus in the Upper Room is uncomfortable for most of us if it is not planned ahead of time. If we know it’s coming we’re able to rev up our piousness enough to lower ourselves to our knees. But when that opportunity for surrender and humbleness comes unannounced the reception is often cooler than Saskatchewan in early December.

It seems from the text that our God knows of our tendency to yield to no one. He knows that we can talk the walk. We can even walk the walk with others, but walking the walk at the pace of others is another thing. A couple of weeks ago I was walking in an airport terminal and I came upon an elderly woman being pushed in a wheelchair by an attendant. The terminal hallway had narrowed. My first thought was to speed by, but then I thought “I’ve got four hours until my flight leaves.” So I strolled slowly behind them…but I was taken back by how many people rushed to get by the lady who could no longer rush. Perhaps some people were rushing to get to connecting flights, but, honestly, I’m sure most were rushing because the wheeled occupant was slowing down their self-absorption.

And the amazing and even perplexing thing about God is that he knows our selfish ways…and he gives us more grace!

I would think he would set a grace limit. We would! We would be willing to ride grace for a while, but pretty soon we’d put that pony back in the barn. Like a pair of shoes that don’t fit snuggly, we’re only willing to wear grace for so long.

But grace is a garment that God never discards. It becomes a representative feature of who he is, like whenever I see or smell a pipe I think of my Uncle Bernie.

Could it be that when we think of grace we automatically think of God? Of course, whether we think of it or not, God will continue to extend it. He doesn’t need our approval. He just would like us to accept it!