Posted tagged ‘teammates’

Running and Thinking

June 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              June 11, 2018

                            

This morning I’ll get my four miles of trudging done around ten o’clock. Some days, I swear, the miles have been lengthened like a taffy pull, and other days (infrequently!) they seem to go by faster. However, on the days when the miles seems to speed by and then I check my watch I’m brought back to the reality that I’m running just as slow as ever.

The key seems to be my thinking! I run, therefore, I think! I go deep inside to thoughts and ideas. With music playing from my ear buds I ponder events from the past, like races I ran back in my high school days. There was the Fourth of July race around a recreational lake area outside of Ironton, Ohio. Fellow classmate Pat Boggs and I ran neck to neck around the lake and then I out sprinted him in the last hundred yards. As I run I relive those moments, the congratulations he extended to me after the race, the sound of our breathing and footsteps, it all seems to become real again.

I think about the story narrative of my book, reconfiguring scenes, and envisioning how my characters look and how they sound. I think of ideas for blog posts and how I might present an experience or interpret a scripture. 

As the laps get clicked off I’m not just running, I’m contemplating.

I’ve started praying more as I run. The granddaughter of a good friend of mine keeps coming to my mind as I make a turn into the wind. A couple of women that we know who are in complicated battles with cancer cause me to reach down deep and keep going a bit further as I pray that God would impart strength to them. I pray for friends and family, that God would walk closely with them in the coming day. I pray for a nephew who pastors a church, and one of his sons who faces a surgical procedure. 

Prayer seems to minimize the aching in my knees and hips…for a while, that is! 

As I begin my last mile and consider the possibility of quitting, I think of a young lady named Kayla Montgomery who won several state cross country and track titles even though she battles MS. Her ESPN profile brings me to tears and it carries me through the last mile, as well. 

As my 64 year old body runs I try to focus on the struggles of the distance. In two months I’ll be coaching a bunch of middle schoolers doing similar workouts. I want to be able to identify with the groans and the doubts. If I can push through the quitting points I’ll be able to come alongside them during those tough training runs. 

And I think of some of the guys I used to run with back in high school and college…Stan Brown, Duane Young, Jim Fay, Larry Crane, and Kevin Kelly from my cross-country team at Judson College; and Cecil Morrison, G.P. Markins, Greg Byington, Jim Thomas, Greg Harding, and Randy Justice from the Ironton High School team. I think of Eugene Smith climbing trees and waiting for the rest of us to pass him on our return to the high school. 

In essence, these days my four mile runs deal with the past, the present, and prayer. It isn’t until later on in the day that my knees scream at me, “What were you thinking?”

Kobe Leading

January 16, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               January 16, 2013

 

I am a fan of Kobe Bryant for selfish reasons. He is on my Fantasy Basketball team roster. He gets me points! I cheer for him because he helps me accomplish a purpose. Other than that I have, more often than not, rooted against him. For me, the Lakers are basketball’s equivalent of the baseball Yankees. Yankee fans are passionate, and non-Yankee fans are often passionate in their dislike of pinstripes.

Back to Kobe, though!

Kobe has always seemed to enjoy success, leading the Lakers to five NBA titles , and being a member of the 2008 and 2012  Olympic gold-medal winning USA basketball teams. Success has come as naturally as his shooting stroke.

But this season is different! This season the Lakers have struggled to find team chemistry, defense, and, most importantly, wins. On January 16 they sit at 17-22, and that includes a current two game winning streak.

Many basketball analysts, however, have taken notice how Kobe has become a better leader this season in the midst of adversity. Granted this is not a unanimous opinion, but there are many people who only equate leadership with success, victories, and good numbers.

A different kind of leadership often needs to be a part of “pit experiences.” Jesus took three leader disciples to the top of a mountain one time, and it was unanimous in their desire to stay there, but Jesus took them right back down to where the people- the common folk- were (Matthew 17:1-23). Everyone wants to be on top, but more is learned, and required, of those in the valley.

There are few books written, or articles composed, dealing with leading people in the midst of a mudslide…when it seems that things are slipping away and it is hard to get a hold.

Part of leadership is knowing that you are an anchor anchored to the rock. That is, people look to you when hope seems to be disappearing, and when troubles seem to be increasing. Part of leadership is having an anchor that holds, that stays committed and focused when others have been blinded to either the truth, the problems, or the possibilities.

“Kobe leading” as January hits mid-month is about encouraging defensive intensity, getting on teammates whose rowing speed is not with the flow of the team, and staying focused. He has had situations in the past even when the Lakers were on top of the mountain where he resorted to selfish motives and teammate bashing.

As a pastor I’ve had Sundays where it seems that I am on the mountaintop and other weeks where Death Valley would be a climb to a higher spot. But one of the many things I’ve learned over the years, and usually learned it the hard way, is that the pastor-leader is who the church looks to for hope, strength, a solid foundation, and a life that is not in chaos. It is not that pastors do not have problems and crises, but a pastor whose life is in constant turmoil is the leader that the congregation can not anchor itself to.

The pastor-leader who has been a solid earns the respect and love of his people to the point that when he/she has a crises the congregation picks the pastor up and keeps him/her from harm. In essence, the congregation keeps the pastor standing up.

“Kobe leading” this season will development qualities in Kobe Bryant that he may never have needed or known about before. Leading from the bottom gives you a different perspective.

A few years ago the basketball team I was assistant coach for went 1-22. No one wants to be 1-22, but that team learned a lot about life that year. Life lessons of persevering when you just want to quit. I’ll remember the seniors on that team who hung in there, and the fact that they were, and are, great young people.