Dining Room Memories: Part 1

The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing…(Proverbs 10:7)

When I was growing up, our home had an old-fashioned dining room where we ate our Sunday suppers and where any family gathering was held.  It was relatively small, with an expandable, four-chair table, a hutch and a desk where my parents worked on the family budget and made phone calls on our black, bakelite, rotary phone.  There were two windows, one facing west and one facing north.  Three doors led to the kitchen, living room and laundry-cum-bedroom (mine).  My mom’s coat/dress closet also opened into the room.

One of my earliest memories was of that coat closet.  I couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old at the time–just old enough to realize that Santa was not going to come down our closed up chimney sometime between Christmas Eve and when I woke up Christmas morning.  So, a few days before the big day, I began to secretly search the house.  The last place I looked was Mom’s closet.  Bingo!  There were the gifts all wrapped and stacked for Christmas morning.  I was so proud of myself for my detecting skills and prouder that I never let on to anyone that I had found the present stash.  Now I wish I would have told her.  She would have gotten quite a kick out of it.

An even earlier memory was not such a pleasant one–at least at that time.  My mom was preparing to bake something in the kitchen by greasing the cake pan with butter.  I was so impressed with the idea of spreading butter like it was a crayon that I decided to use it like one to draw on the dining room wallpaper.  I had pretty much finished a creative 3×4 foot “canvas” when Mom walked into check on me.  Considering how much work and how long it took to get the grease out of wallpaper and the plaster behind it,  I’m amazed that I didn’t get more than a stern talking to.  In fact, with time, it became one of her favorite stories–right after the one about me taking my baths in the kitchen sink.  At least I was able to confiscate all of the photos of those.

It may not have been very fancy or sophisticated, but that little dining room held a lot of great memories.  It was what family was all about.

This Is Going To Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You (Not!)

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an  imperishable (I Corinthians 9:25).  Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (I Timothy 4:7-8).

I was reminded this morning that I would never be able to coach today’s young athletes the way I did 40, 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.  My teams believed that football players were kids that couldn’t cut it for distance running.  On days of races, we would run the entire course and then race the other team.  Up until the end of the season (When championship races were held), we would hold extra-long distance practices the day before our races, so that we would be extra sharp when we would later race with rest.  That was part of the intimidation routine that those teams wanted to generate.

My job was to give them the physical background, the means to improve during the season and the ability to succeed when the pressure was on.  But that was my cross-country job.  My real job was to try to set an example and to lead them to lives that would make a difference–not just in their sport, but in their lives–both then and in the futrue.

So, while it might not be politically correct in today’s society, some of the best examples that changed some of my runners lives were, on the face of it, tortuous.  Their was a young man, who thought it would be clever to “moon” the opposing team as our bus was leaving the school we ran against that day.  Everyone went silent, as they waited to see my reaction.  I just told them all, “wait until tomorrow.”  Needless to say, the culprit was sweating it out for the next 24 hours until we met again for practice.  So, at the start of that practice, I gave the entire team the lecture of how they were representing their school, their team and, probably most important, themselves.  So, I asked him and the team to decide what sort of workout he should have to help to “remind” him to think before he acted in the future.  He and the team decided on a session of repeat hills that we had practiced before.  We didn’t decide on how many times he should run up that hill.  We let him decide.  He ended up running that hill until he literally cried.  And his teammates voluntarily ran each one with him.  It was a painful lesson, but one that stuck.  He ended up serving as a Senior combat Medic in the US Army and as a Field Agent for the Counter terrorist Unit in both LA and NY and is a proud husband and father.

In one other brief situation, one of the male members of the team purposely did something that embarrassed one of the female members of our team.  Oh, yeah,..the guys and the girls trained together everyday.  That would probably be politically incorrect today, too.  Just think of those poor guys who might not be able to keep up with the girls.  What a terrible shock to their fragile egos.  And, to expect the girls to do the same workouts as the guys was surely putting too much pressure on them to keep up.  Anyway,…one of the male co-captains decided to create a weight room workout for the offending individual.  We had a 10 station workout that we usually did.  So, we started him with 10 reps at the same weight as the girl could do for each station.  Sounds easy?  Then he had to do 9 reps on each, then 8, then 7 and so on.  Once again, we suddenly had a guy who appreciated all of his teammates and who showed respect to everyone.

I’m not implying that we should physically challenge a person for every indiscretion.  But sometimes tough love works.  And in my situation it did–more often than not.  Most are now having a positive influence on their family, their job, their community and, in many cases, their church.

And, to this day, these team members are still in communication with me.  And many have become my adult friends.  And for that I’m thankful.  And I’m thankful that I coached in an era that allowed me to influence lives in ways that lasted.

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.