Second Chances

 And God everything in our lives to work together to accomplish His plans for us.  (Romans 8:28

This is not the first time that I’ve made mention of this, but I think it bears repeating.  I know that I still have to be reminded about it from time to time.  In my younger years, I had the opportunity to begin coaching various sports at my alma mater.  I started coaching girls basketball, something I had never even considered.  Then track, in which I had a limited background.  And, finally, cross-country, where I had absolutely no clue what to do.

In those early days, I think I learned more from the athletes than they ever learned from me.  But I loved doing it and eventually learned enough to begin to actually teach others.  The teams I coached became very successful.  And the more successful they became, the more I wanted to teach them to become even better.  After a few years, the time and effort I put into coaching began to define who I was.  It was consuming all my energy and I never even realized it.  Then an opportunity to become a teacher/principal at a private school came up.  Because I would be new to the job, my employers wanted me to focus all my attention on their school.  l had to give up coaching.  I was absolutely crushed.  It was then that I finally realized how much my life had become unbalanced with a huge amount of time spent coaching and limited amounts of time spent with my family, my church and my “real” job and even the hobbies I used to enjoy.

As I applied myself to my new position, I learned to balance how I spent my time in all the things  that mattered.  Somehow, God gave me the ability to manage my time and energy so that I actually had the time to do other things.  By my second year at the private school, the School Board was pleased enough with the job I was doing, that they wanted to increase my salary.  Unfortunately, their budget was too small.  So, they gave me the opportunity to go back to coaching to supplement my income.  I couldn’t believe it.  Because I realized I had messed up before, but now had my priorities straight, God provided a way for me to return to doing something I loved.  So I returned to coaching and continued for almost another 40 years.

He really is the God of second chances.

The Seasons of Our Lives

To everything, there is a season…. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

A long time ago in a what seemed to be a galaxy far, far away, I lived my life as a teacher, youth pastor and coach.  I loved what I did.  And, hopefully, I made a difference in at least some of the children who passed by me on their way to learning who they were, what they wanted out of life and who they would become.

Then, suddenly, it all changed for me.  After being incredibly healthy for all of my childhood and into early middle age, my body began to fall apart.  Three heart attacks, a knee replacement and an epileptic seizure later, I finally realized that my time for those particular activities was over.  I fought long and hard against giving up those things.  I wanted to hang onto what I had always loved and what I had always done for most of my adult life.  But I could feel my ability to do those things slowly slipping away.

No one likes change.  Especially when that change separates us from what we have always loved.  But, seasons change.  It seemed like, in the springtime of my life, God gave me certain abilities and desires that led me to work with children.  As I moved into the summer of my life, I began to recognize and develop those talents–realizing that working with children was indeed what I was meant to do.  In the fall of my  life, circumstances began to change–making what I had always done more and more difficult.  Then as I entered into the winter of my life, I found myself completely separated from the things that had always given me the greatest joy.  That part of my life had ended and I felt lost.

But after the winter came a new season with new challenges, different abilities and desires.  I’m now involved in things that I would never have imagined twenty years ago.  Never having been a father, I find myself sometimes being looked at as a father figure to those who actually are fathers.  I’ve gotten closer to my family and have been able to help out when things have gotten tough for them.  I volunteer my time to the area library and do yard work for our town’s historical society.  I’ve rekindled the love I’ve always had for art and have helped put on a local art show each year for the past seven years.  There are a myriad of things that I now have the time and the desire to do.  None of these things are more or less important than the things I used to do.  They’re only different.  And they are things that I would never have had the time or the inclination to do when I was younger.

Seasons change, but life keeps moving on.  We either keep moving and growing through each new season, or we die on the vine.

How old are you? Really?

Once I was young, now I’m old…every day my children make me proud. (Psalm 37″25-027)

Satchel Paige, a black pitcher who was already at the end of his remarkable career when baseball became integrated, once asked the question, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old your were?”  If you were to give an honest answer, what would it be?

A woman, young at heart, wrote,”I have become a little older since I saw you last, and a few changes have come into my life since then.  Frankly, I have become quite a frivolous old gal.  I am seeing five gentlemen every day.

As soon as I wake up, Will Power helps me get our of bed.  Then I go to see John.  Then Charlie Horse comes along and when he is here, he takes up a lot of my time and attention.  When he leaves, Arthur Ritis shows up and stays the rest of the day.  He doesn’t like to stay in one place very long, so he takes me from joint to joint.  After such a busy day, I’m really tired and glad to go to bed with Ben Gay.  What a life!”

She later added, “The preacher came to call the other day.  He said at my age, I should be thinking about the hereafter.  I told him,’Oh, I do all the time.  No matter where I am–in the parlor, upstairs, in the kitchen or down in the basement–I ask myself what am I here after?’

Charles Swindoll reminds us that old folks are worth a fortune–they have silver in their hair, gold in their teeth, stones in their kidneys, lead in their feet and gas in their stomachs.

Remember, you’re only as old as you think you are.  So, how old are you?  Really?!?

Watch out for the boomerang!

Have you ever been the recipient of some sharp criticism by someone who either should have known better or someone who didn’t know what they were talking about to begin with?  Have you ever been in a crowd where you saw such criticism take place and wondered, “What in the world were they thinking?”  Worse yet, have you ever been the one to speak that stinging criticism?  I’m sure if each of us would be honest, we’ve all been a part of all three–unfortunately, including the last one.  I know I’ve been guilty of looking at certain people through “black-colored glasses,” and seeing in them only the negatives that I think I perceive.  I recently saw a situation where several people became so upset with what they thought they were seeing in someone, that they separated themselves from him and from his friends.  It turned out that what they were accusing him of had a perfectly logical and appropriate reason behind it.  Unfortunately, the accusers had made a big deal of their criticism and were unable to take a step back and offer their apologies.

While some people have a hard time with the Bible, read what Matthew had to say in chapter 7, verses 1-5: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

Sounds like a great suggestion to me–unless you like being bombarded by boomerangs.

Who are you?

I was listening to my pastor in church this past Sunday, and I was struck by something he said about human beings.  It seems like many of us are human “doings.”  We seem to want to define ourselves by our jobs, our careers, the things we do to fill up our daily lives.  He asked, though, do we do what we do because that’s our life’s desire or simply to get a paycheck to survive from day-to-day?

When I was much younger, I was simply looking for a way to have some spending money, or to pay for my driver’s license and , eventually, to pay for my college tuition.  Those jobs (jack-hammering out a new cellar hole, kitchen worker at our local hospital, mail room at the factory where my dad worked, painting houses with my future bother-in-law, working night shifts at the nearby paper mill, cooking at a local restaurant–the last three all at the same time!) were, for the most part simply to make money–although cooking has become one of my favorite hobbies.  I didn’t want to make any of these jobs my life’s work.  At this point in my life, I was a human “doing.”  Unfortunately, many of us get caught in getting a steady paycheck and find ourselves getting locked in to something we really don’t want to spend the rest of our lives doing.  Ask a mix of some of the people you know and find out how many are working to simply get money to survive and how many love what they are doing.

I was going to become a lawyer.  I loved words and I loved arguing.  Perfect match, huh?  Two years into college, I discovered that I didn’t really want to become a lawyer.  I wanted to teach kids.  So, I earned my teaching certification and as soon as we got married, my wife and I began to teach little kids at our church.  Then I began to teach a Sunday School class.  Then I started coaching.  Then came substitute teaching and full-time teaching.  Then more coaching jobs.  And then, finally becoming a youth pastor.  I was never happier than when I was teaching, coaching and pastoring–all at the same time.  Sure, I got paychecks.  And, while these various types of teaching were my jobs, I wasn’t limited or “stuck” with them because they were what I wanted to  do.  It was who I was–and still am though in many different ways.

God made us human beings to accomplish the things he gave the talents and abilities to do.  How sad it would be to simply do what gives a paycheck and never to enjoy the opportunity to become what He designed to be.

Why Do People Hate Winners?

John Wooden’s UCLA men’s basketball teams won 10 National Championships in 12 years–including 7 in a row during the mid-60’s through the mid-70’s.  At one point, they won 88 games in a row.  Detractors cried, “Foul!”–implying that they must have broken some rule or done something else unethical to get there.

The New York Yankees have won 27 World Series–including 5 in a row from 1949-1953 and 3 in a row from 1998-2000.  People wrote off their success by attributing it to the deep pockets of the owner.  Allegedly, no one else could afford to compete.

The Boston Celtics have 17 NBA Championship banners hanging from the rafters at the TD Garden and chief architect, Red Auerbach was considered an evil mastermind.

The New England Patriots have won 5 Superbowls and have been divisional champs 14 of the last 16 years.  Can you think of any other NFL team that generates as much loathing from fans from coast to coast?  Everywhere but in New England and with former New England transplants

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has won 11 National Championships and has the 2 longest win streaks in NCAA history (men’s or women’s) with 111 and 90.  They also have the 3rd longest streak for women’s teams with 70.  Their coach for the last 33 years, Geno Auriemma, will be coaching for his 1000th win against 135 losses on November 19th.  And the sports pundits claim that the Huskies’ success is bad for women’s basketball.  Since when is doing your best year after year bad for your sport.

I coached high school cross-country for over 25 years and was blessed with many hard-working athletes who earned 4 State Championships and a record over that time of 377-37–including a 55-meet win streak.  We didn’t cheat or act in an unethical way.  Coming from a small school where football was the big fall sport, we certainly didn’t outspend anyone.  And I seriously doubt that anyone ever considered me an evil mastermind.  And I certainly don’t believe that our success was detrimental to our sport.

We simply believed that “Here’s how we’re going to beat you.  We’re going to outwork you.  That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.”  I think it’s always been that way with teams and individuals who have attained some measure of success.  Too many people “hate us because they ain’t us.”  And that’s a sorry state to be in,

Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table. (Proverbs 14:23)

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)