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you can’t lose

June 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Bottom of the third. First game of our biggest tournament of the season. 9-1 lead. As the Dirt Dawgs take the field, the coaching braintrust decides to save our starting pitcher’s arm, so I tell the pitcher to move to second and Nathan to take the mound.

At this point, I should note that Nathan had never  pitched in a game. In fact, he’d only thrown about 20 pitches off a mound after practice as we were messing around to see if he could do it. So telling him he was going to pitch in a big game was first, shocking and second, terrifying.

After I got back to the dugout, I turned around to watch him warm up and saw him in a near panic as he was giving his name to the umpire and getting ready to throw his warm-up pitches. To head off the impending meltdown, I jogged back out to the mound to explain the situation to my 9 year old little man.

“We’re up 8, the most they can score is 7 (this tourney had a run per inning rule). No matter what you do, you can’t lose this game. You can’t fail.”

The shoulders relax. The grin comes out. Now we’re ready to play ball.

First batter – hits the first pitch hard back to the mound. Nathan fields it clean and throws him out. 1 pitch, 1 out. The grin gets bigger.
Second batter –  bunts for a hit. Then scores on the next pitch as he steals second and gets around on a error.
Third batter – strikes out on 5 pitches. The grin is now so big I’m afraid he’s going to trip over it.
Fourth better – grounds out to 3rd.

Four batters, 13 pitches, 3 outs, we win. Nathan runs off the field and jumps into my arms, convinced that this pitching thing is easy.

As I think about it (with probably an unhealthy amount of pride), I’m struck by the power that comes from understanding that there is no way to fail. Fear turns to confidence. Freedom and faith break out. Tears are swallowed by a grin that just keeps growing. Confidence gained yields a greater willingness to risk again.

What if the Church created space for dreamers to go big, but with a safety net beneath them, just in case? What if success wasn’t measured in results, but rather attempts?

What would you tackle if you knew you couldn’t lose?

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Categories: Church, family, Jesus, life, sports Tags: , ,

resolved

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy (week after) New Year!

I’m not much on resolutions. I don’t do well with the “I’m never (always) going to (insert thing here) for the rest of my life starting today.” I’ve found that I am not remotely disciplined enough to keep to those kinds of things. I wish I were in some ways because there are some things in me that could stand that kind of once and for all treatment. But alas.

All that being said, the newness of a new year feels like a good environment to think about directions I’ve taken and directions I want to pursue in the days ahead. So here’s the list. At least for now. The odds are good that I’ve forgotten something vital, but it’s a start.

1. Chase Jesus to be more like him. There’s never going to be a list like this that doesn’t have this on it because I’m pretty sure (read: “certain”) that I will have a long way to go for the rest of my life. God knows I sure do at this point.

2. Love more and better and louder. I want to love people more. Family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, students, and everybody else. But I want to do it in ways that demonstrate that love loudly and leave no room for doubt. I’m not good at it – it’s not a natural thing for me. But as #1 happens, I’m trusting that this will follow.

3. Get healthier. This isn’t a “go to the gym every day and lose 100 lbs by summer kind of thing”, I just want to undo the damage that has been done by five years of school life. Eat better, sleep more, get out on my bike. I’m never going to be “little”, but I want to feel and be better as I am.

4. Enjoy what I’m doing. I love teaching. I love being around and interacting with students. I even like the prep work that goes into making class happen. In fact, there isn’t much about academic life that I don’t like. But I sure do catch myself griping about it a lot. And I hate that. So I’m going to focus on enjoying it and making sure those around me know how I really feel about this life I’m chasing.

5. Do what I enjoy. It drives me crazy that lately I haven’t found (made) time to do the stuff I love – photography, music, reading, writing,  movies, hanging out with people, and on and on (not even sure I remember how to play golf anymore). It boils down to going for it when the mood strikes and not finding something else that needs to be done. Yet another area that requires intention. See a pattern yet?

6. Matter. One of the real traps of academia is spending all of your time talking about everything but not really doing anything. I kind of there. And I hate it. I have always made time to coach the boys in whatever they were doing (whether I knew anything about it or not) and I love that. But there are other Kingdom kinds of things that I want to be a part of and ideas that have been spinning for years that need action. None of it’s happening right now. But it’s coming.

That’s plenty for one lifetime. If you’re the praying sort, when you think of me it would be great if you’d remember some of this. If you make a list, I’ll do the same for you. Who knows how far any of it will go, but desire is the first step, right?

Categories: creativity, else, health, Jesus, life

two-wheeled worldview

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Last spring, I bought a bicycle and tried to get serious about riding. After a season of fits and starts, I had a “breakthrough” about a month ago that has led to me getting out and riding quite a bit. While I’m nowhere near the level of some of my hardcore friends who ride for hours at a time, I’m up to about 12 miles a trip and really starting to enjoy how it feels to cover the miles and overcome the obstacles that present themselves on the road.

As I was on my ride yesterday morning (and loving the 45 degree weather), I found myself thinking about how different the perspective is when you are traveling under your own power. I don’t know if it’s being exposed to everything around you or the work required to get somewhere, but, for me, things are different on my bike. While not earth-shattering in any form, the differences seem significant to me.

1. You see things differently: I was riding down a road that I drive almost every day, but the (much) slower pace revealed some things about the familiar setting. I found 2 or 3 spots that I want to come back to with my camera to shoot. There is a lot more time to notice and anticipate hills and potential troubles ahead. I’ve seen snakes, massive caterpillars and grasshoppers, and some great sunrises.

2. You hear things: When I was just riding a loop around the neighborhood, I wore headphones. Now that I’m out on the open road, I leave them off so I can hear traffic and rabid dogs coming after me. But I hear a lot more than that. Just a mile or so south of my house is almost rural. There’s a rooster that I hear every morning and a couple of donkeys that I’ve never seen, but hear all the time. Yesterday I was riding along a stretch of road bordered by tall grass and kept hearing small animals or birds running away as I passed.

3. You hear yourself: I don’t just mean the gasping for air and popping knees (although I hear plenty of both), but thoughts, prayers, and even random songs (Radiohead’s “Creep” was on constant rotation yesterday). My time on the bike has turned into meditation, revelation, even inspiration. I don’t live a life with a lot of quiet hours, but if I’m going to ride, I don’t have a choice.

4. You hear God: The heavens really do declare the glory of the Lord. The rocks (and birds and trees and horses) cry out. All of the sights and sounds and thoughts point back to the One who is waiting out there every morning.

When I bought the bike to start riding, the point was exercise. What I’m learning is that there is so much more out there than the burned calories and that’s what keeps me pedaling.

Categories: cycling, else, health, Jesus

this is the gospel

December 29, 2008 Leave a comment

From Rick Reilly – ESPN the Magazine

Click for original
Life of Reilly
There are some games when cheering for the other side feels better than winning.
by Rick Reilly

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team’s fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, “Go Tornadoes!” Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

“I never in my life thought I’d hear people cheering for us to hit their kids,” recalls Gainesville’s QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. “I wouldn’t expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!”

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he’d just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That’s because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith’s head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. “Here’s the message I want you to send:” Hogan wrote. “You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan’s office and asked, “Coach, why are we doing this?”

And Hogan said, “Imagine if you didn’t have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

“I thought maybe they were confused,” said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). “They started yelling ‘DEE-fense!’ when their team had the ball. I said, ‘What? Why they cheerin’ for us?'”

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. “We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games,” says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. “You can see it in their eyes. They’re lookin’ at us like we’re criminals. But these people, they were yellin’ for us! By our names!”

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game’s last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that’s when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. “We had no idea what the kid was going to say,” remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: “Lord, I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say thank You, but I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.”

And it was a good thing everybody’s heads were bowed because they might’ve seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, “You’ll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You’ll never, ever know.”

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they’d never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it’s nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.

Hope.