Saturday, June 27, 2020

Know the rules, ask good questions...

Playing sports as I grew up we lived in a culture where whatever the coach said was gospel. Sure, we asked questions from time to time, but for the most part we just did what he told us to do. In fact, when I began coaching years later, I remember having to get a hold of my coach to ask him the ins and outs of what I needed to do to help athletes be successful. It was really the first time in my life where I had good solid conversations about finding out why we do what we do.

Fast forward to today’s youth, and young people in general, it is a much different culture. There are a lot of questions and it doesn’t matter what industry that you are in, people are going to want to know why you do what you do. And a lot of people that consult with me say they get very frustrated with this “new way of doing life.” I remind them that putting focus on such thoughts will only lead to more frustration.


Young people are going to ask questions, and we need to get used to it, and find out how we can help them understand the importance of following rules, which is ultimately for their own good and life growth. I just started reading through the Bible again, as I do each year, and there was an excerpt from a little-known and not very popular book, one that has a ton of great lessons if people would only read it. Here’s what it says:

“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. . . . I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”
 ~Leviticus 26:3–4, 12

God puts it out there, plain as day… follow His commandments. But for some reason, like many of the young people I coach today, the Israelites decided to not listen. They had a nasty habit of not just asking good questions, but also downright abusing God’s grace and love to the point where they couldn’t help but gravitate back towards a life of sin. 

I think a lot of us are the same way today. I realize that back when I used to play sports, as long as I was listening to what the coach told me to do, I was doing pretty good. But it was only when I decided to ask too many questions and think that I knew a better way did I start to trip up and make mistakes. So I guess my question is: What are the rules that you have trouble following? My prayer is that in your pursuit to ask good questions, you do not forget that there are others out there that know more than you and if you grab a hold of them, and follow their advice, you might just be better off. Find those people, and never let them go.

Praying for you,

MO

Thursday, June 11, 2020

How you should be...

I was a bit of a loud mouth growing up. No matter what I did I felt like everyone needed to listen to me because, well, I was much smarter than them and everyone could use a little bit of my great ideas. I played sports and would try to command the team to listen to me, whether it was on the field or in the pool.

I remember in one of my water polo games during my junior year when I first began to realize the error of my ways. I had recently accepted Jesus into my life and was struggling to be as popular as humanly possible at school, be the best at sports, and be on the leadership team at church. As you might imagine, this did not work out so much for me. Well, this particular game was getting out of hand and I was not happy with my teammates and their play. Of course nothing was my fault and everyone else was the problem. I got more and more ticked off as the game went on, and we only fell more and more behind, until our ultimate defeat was sealed with a crushing loss.


On the bus ride home I gave a great lecture about needing to be better and that people had to be more committed… and so on. I was pretty proud of myself. So proud that the next day at church I told Kevin about my great leadership skills; he was going to be so proud of me too. Well, he only had one question for me, as was customary in our relationship, “Wow, how did your teammates respond?” Uhhh… silence.

That’s all it took for me to realize, for seriously the first time like ever, that no one ever listened to me. I mean, why would they? All I did was give away blame, puff myself up, and now worst of all (and I still blame this on Kevin for introducing me to Jesus), give Christians and my church a bad name. What an idiot I was! I stewed all night, knowing that I had absolutely zero influence over any of my guys. I was embarrassed, humiliated, and ashamed.

But here is the cool part, the lesson that I learned from all that was that I had been bloviating for so long and trying to assert my great leadership, and only made myself look stupid. Kevin, on the other hand, asked a simple question, without trying to make me look stupid; he genuinely wanted to know. My way vs. Kev's way was night and day.

You see, Kevin was leading out of who he was, and that showed through his humility even in that situation. He was leading out of his very being. And that is the mark of a great leader - one who is more focused on “being” than “doing.” Proverbs 11:30 says,

“Live right, and you will eat from the life-giving tree. And if you act wisely, others will follow.”

Kevin was living right and acting wisely, I was not. You can figure out the rest, I am sure. So my question is: Are you more interested in being or doing? When we focus on ourselves and become better people, it comes out in the way that we speak, act, and live. My encouragement is that you ask a couple of peeps you trust where you are on that being vs. doing spectrum. Love to hear your thoughts.

Praying for you,

MO

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Choose wisely

Growing up I made pretty good decisions regarding my friend choices. None of my friends ever really got into major trouble, nor were they on the verge of doing anything illegal. However, it was not until I started hanging out at church that I realized that some of the kids my age were making better decisions than I was.

One night Kevin gave a sermon about choosing the right friendships. He mentioned that people come into our lives to be one of the following: friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime. After that message I did not really know what kind of friends I had. All I knew was that those were the guys that I hung out with on a day-to-day basis; I had no purpose behind those choices. Kevin’s challenge to me and the kids in our youth group was to be more intentional about the people that we associated with. The verse that I was left with stuck in my head that night was:

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” ~Proverbs 13:20 (NKJV)

Over the next several months I realized even further that I spent time with a lot of different people, but nobody I really ever wanted to be like. They were all really good people, but none of them were really what I aspired to be. I wanted to be more like Kevin. And the best way to do that was to spend more time at church, because all of the group leaders were trying to do the same. If I wanted to be more like Kevin, I needed to be more like my group leaders.


Fast forward a couple of years, I ended up dedicating my life to Jesus Christ and started walking intentionally. Every person who came into my life automatically had the potential to be one of the three categories above. It was so interesting, and fun, to see the relationships in my life as something more than just happenstance. Little did I know that I was becoming more intentional.

So my question is: What kind of people are you choosing to hang out with, and are they the kind of people that you aspire to be like? My challenge is that you make the conscious decision to invest your time into people that can make an impact on your life, and vice versa. Time on earth is short, and the choices that we make, especially with relationships, are probably among the most important. Choose wisely.

Praying for you,

MO

Friday, June 5, 2020

Giving selflessly...

I started attending Kevin’s youth group towards the end of my freshman year in high school.  I started going because a couple of my friends were there, and of course there were pretty girls.  But the ministry was so incredible that I soon found myself enthralled with the entire group, and especially the leaders.  The young men and women who hung out with all of us high school kids were so committed, it was crazy.  But of course, I did not know that back then...  I just thought that was normal.  Fortunately for me, I was in a great ministry system that did not really exist in too many places.  This youth group, and its staff especially, were unique.



As I began to spend more time at the youth group during both the midweek program, and eventually the weekend service, the leaders always seemed to be there.  They ranged from college kids all the way to adults with kids themselves.  But this leadership team was committed to all of us high school students even though they themselves were super busy with life.  They gave up night after night, weekend after weekend, and even time beyond that... it is no wonder the youth group flourished and grew, both in size and in faith.  They were very unselfish with their time, and were always ready to give more to others. There selflessness reminded me of what Paul wrote to the the church in Philippi:


“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” ~Phil 2:3-4


Because of the time invested in me by these men and women, it spurred my love for youth ministry and wanting to give back.  My question is: who are the people who have given selflessly to you in your journey?  My encouragement is that you reach out to them and let them know that you appreciate the time that they have put into you.  If it weren’t for them, you would not be the person you are today.


Praying for you,


MO


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

When to hang in there...

I have read several good books over the years that talk about talent. What I love about the journey of becoming better... talent is important, but working hard actually means more. There is a series on Netflix right now about the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ last season championship run. Throughout that series, it continues to flash back to the beginning of the dynasty. And even before that, the early years of Michael Jordan.

Growing up, Michael Jordan was never really the best basketball player on the court. In fact, he wasn’t even the best basketball player in his family. But, playing with his older brothers, he never gave up. He always worked harder and honed his craft and became more skillful. Accumulating hours and hours of practice for years and years, he became the greatest player ever, and that is why most everyone, at least those of us over the age of 40, remember as kids wanting to “be like Mike.”


I’ve been coaching for several years now, and I always let my student-athletes know that like Angela Duckworth says in her famous book Grit, “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.” Wow! What a great lesson in just a few words. Those who have seen the most success on my teams over the years have been those who did have talent, but had what it took to stick it out, hang in, and put in work when others would not. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way...

“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” ~Proverbs 22:29

The question is, are you willing to put in the work when you don’t feel like working anymore, when you are tired, or frustrated? Many people give up too easily. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, whether large or small. If you continue to work hard to get better, you will. My prayer is that you decide what is important in life, focus in that direction, and become great. The world needs more people like that.

Praying for you,

MO

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Getting all emotional…

I had a pretty bad temper growing up. But it was really only when I played sports. I am naturally inclined to be very competitive, and so youth athletic programs were always a source of frustration for me. Brad Pitt played famed baseball player-turned-GM in the movie Moneyball, and made the following statement, “I hate to lose! I hate to lose more than I like to win… and there is a difference.” I guess that would have to sum up the way that I felt about any kind of competition growing up. So much for having fun, huh?

The problem with this is that I always became very emotional. As soon as something did not go my way, my negative emotions and horrible attitude would start to affect both my play, and eventually the outcome of any particular competition. It was almost to the point where it would have been better off not to play at all. In fact, for my 16th birthday, one of my teammates bought me a big spongy lightweight Nerf ball that I could throw next time I got upset, instead of throwing and destroying his Walkman again after I got kicked out of one of my more recent games. Yes, it was a funny gift and gesture, but that small incident actually caused me to rethink a lot of what I did, and how I should proceed for the future.


I remember following that birthday party talking to Kevin a little bit more than I had up to that point. He had known me for a couple of years now, and was well aware of my lack of discipline on the field. For the most part he was encouraging, knowing that I had a deep-rooted problem that needed to be fixed only by my willingness to do so. I remember one of the verses that he shared with me though…

"Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end."
~ Proverbs 29:11

This above author uses words in the old language here that have to do with the calming of a storm, which of course makes me think of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41. I wanted to have that kind of control over my emotions. Also, I realized that right around that time in my life, I was also trying to be a good Christian, since I had just recently given my life over to Christ. And, looking back, it began a long and arduous process to change my person to the very core. I knew that if I did not begin to control my temper, I would not be the witness that God called me to be.

I started working on my emotions and temper, and have been doing so for the past 25 years or so. And although I am not exactly where I want to be, I am much better off than I was. My question is this: regarding your own attitude, do people view you as someone who can control their emotions? We cannot add value to people when we cannot even control ourselves. My prayer is that you find out what causes you to lose your cool, and get a little bit better at calming the emotional storms of your life.

Praying for you,

MO

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Attitude matters...

I was never the biggest or fastest athlete. In fact, I was always one of the guys on the other side of the spectrum. Which means, I had to work twice as hard just to be as good as the rest of some of the competitors. I remember my swim coach telling me one time, “By the time you enter the water and surface for your first stroke, you are already losing the race.” Ouch! But hey, a good coach will help an athlete live in a world of realism rather than to be stuck in the fantasy world of idealism. It was a great lesson for me to have learned, and early. I decided that I would work harder.


I have been coaching young people for several years now. And I have some of the same conversations with my student athletes. Some of them are not the most talented, or the biggest or fastest even. But what each of them has is the opportunity to give her very best. One of my favorite quotes from John Wooden is, “It is not the will to win that matters, but the will to prepare to win that matters most.” Holy cow!

There is a lot of stuff in life to complain about, and most people do. But what I have made a point to do in my coaching is to help my student-athletes enter each training day with the best attitude possible. With so much else going on in life for each of them, it is a small miracle just to get them to focus on the practice sets of the day. I’m not saying that they always have to act fake and pretend that they are loving life, but consciously making an effort to enter each day with the proper attitude can make or break them for both for today, and eventually over the course of a season, or even multiple seasons.

Right now my church is going over a multiple week series on the following verses:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” ~Philippians 4:8-9

There is so much to unpack in just these couple of verses that if anybody chose just one of the words above that Apostle Paul is talking about, it would seriously be a game changer in that person’s life. So I guess my question is, do you think about any of the above qualities? And if so, what would this mean for your life, and the way you choose to live? My prayer is that you think about qualities and traits that would make you better, and strive for one or two of them.

Praying for you,

MO