So long, 2009!

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  Yeah, I know that’s not very original, but it does describe 2009 pretty well for me.  Except I might reverse the order.

This past year has held more challenges and difficulties than any year of my life up until this point.  And yet, as we get ready to turn the calendar forward into a new year and a new decade, I find myself admitting that 2009 held a lot of good things for me and my family – and I wanted to share a few of them with you.

  • We learned that home is where the family is, not where you grew up.  I said good-bye to over 30 years of living in the same town, but I didn’t say good-bye to home – it came with me.
  • We experienced the support of friends like never before in our lives.  Our small group stepped up at a time of great difficulty.  And Pete and Sharyl, Jeff and Cleary, Russ – how could we ever express adequately how much you mean to Kelly and me?  And if I mentioned everyone, I’d have quite a list.
  • We have enjoyed being part of the body of Christ and meeting new family members – Tom, Joy, Tina, Shannon, Jamie – you’ve come alongside us at just the right time.
  • We have come to realize how important discomfort is in our lives.  When everything is going the way we think it should, we tend to lose our passion for God and for others.
  • Our kids have discovered that they can survive outside the bubble in which they grew up.  And they’re also starting to get a burden for sharing Christ with new friends they’ve made.
  • We’ve come to understand church from an entirely new perspective.  After 24 years in the same church we didn’t know what it felt like to be an outsider, but now we do.  And that experience has helped us really think through what a church should look like, and what it should be about.
  • We’ve also learned about contentment, and what the most important things in life are.  Every one of our needs has been met, and some of our wants have become far less important to us.
  • My brother and sister have also faced incredible transitions as well recently.  It’s been neat to see how God has used the circumstances in each of our lives to bring us closer together – though we all live far apart from each other.  Rick and Gaylene, I love you both.
  • We’ve also enjoyed some fun times.  Lots of soccer for the kids.  A great vacation in Washington, D.C. courtesy of my niece and her husband.  Another family camping trip on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Family game nights where we have laughed and laughed.  And an absolutely great Christmas.

Yes, 2009, you threw us some punches, and we even staggered a time or two.  But we’re still standing – because through it all God has been faithful.  But to be honest, Old Year, I’m glad to see you go.  I am convinced, however, that we will look back on you someday as being one of the most important years of our lives.

The worst of times?  Maybe.  The best of times?  That, too.

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Coaching corner

One of my favorite coaches is a guy that most people have heard of  – because of one basketball play.  It happened in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 1988.  This coach had taken his Valparaiso team into the tournament on the basis of their winning their conference tournament and receiving an automatic bid.  They were seeded against heavily favored Ole Miss, and no one gave them much of a chance to win.  But they did.  And it all came down to one play.  You can catch it here.

That one shot by his son Bryce brought Homer Drew into the national spotlight.  But that was not the first time I’d heard of him.  I had met him long before then.  Prior to his coaching at Valpo, Homer Drew coached at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana, just a few miles from where I grew up.

One day I was at a Bethel game when I watched something unfold that had a profound impact on me as a coach and as a person.  During the game the Bethel point guard brought the ball up the court, and promptly threw it out of bounds.  Turnover.  But Homer Drew never said a word.  When Bethel got the ball back the same player brought the ball up the court and once again threw it away.  Two possessions; two turnovers.

I looked at the bench and expected Coach Drew to pull the player – or to at least say something to him.  But he didn’t.  Not a word – not even a scowl.

On the next Bethel possession that same player brought the ball up up the court.  This time he made a great pass that led to a basket and a foul.  Immediately Coach Drew sent in a sub.  As the player exited the floor Coach Drew made it a point to cheer his success.  It was only after the player had received public praise that Drew sat down next to him on the bench and said something about the turnovers.

That day I decided I wanted to be a coach that players would want to play for – one who was looking to make players better by cheering on their successes rather than harping on their failures.  That kid had messed up and he knew it; he didn’t need someone to tell him.  What he needed was someone who still believed in him.

All of us are coaches – parents, small group leaders, teachers, bosses,etc.  Somewhere in your life someone is looking to you for guidance.   Be the type of coach that someone would love to play for!

Getting the “W”

I grew up a Detroit Lions fan.  You can stop laughing now.

Back a few years I came to my senses and decided that since I had lived in Indiana since I was seven, cheering for the Indianapolis Colts would be acceptable.  Life has been so much better.

Tonight I watched a little bit of their game against Jacksonville.  Once again Peyton Manning did his thing and the Colts picked up their 23rd straight regular season victory.  That’s a record.  During the game the cameras seemed to focus on Jim Caldwell, the Indianapolis coach, quite a bit.  And that got me thinking.

Is Indianapolis winning because Jim Caldwell is a good coach or because Tony Dungy was a good coach?  I suppose the answer is both – but I’m sure that Dungy had a lot to do with it.  But evidently Joe Paterno did, too.  During the game one of the commentators mentioned that Caldwell has a quote from Joe Paterno hanging on his office wall:

“Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.”

It’s called character, and it is so lacking in the world of sports.  That’s why I love guys like this.  They’re not loud, they’re not arrogant, their not constantly spouting off or being investigated for indiscretions.  They are  just guys who go about their business – the right way.   They also happen to be guys who win.

My guess is that they are also guys that I would like to play for.  They’re going to treat me as an individual.  They’re going to value me.  They’re going to push me to be better than what I am – but they’re going to respect me in the process.

I’m not much of a hero worshipper when it comes to the world of sports – but there are a few guys that I look up to.  And it’s not because they win.  It’s because of the way they win.

Sweet 16

It’s your birthday, Allie.  Your 16th.  I find it hard to believe that it was 16 years ago that your mom and I welcomed you into the world and into our family.  I’m happy to say that you have made both of them better.  We have so many great memories of you.  So fun.  So full of life.  So expressive.

I look at you sometimes and see so much of your mom. Your passion and strength of spirit.  Your loyalty.  Your sense of justice. Your beautiful red hair.  Your capacity for anticipation.

I look at you sometimes and see some of me. Your enjoyment of words.  Your creativity.  Your fascination with drama.  Your dislike of morning.

Most often I look at you and see just you. Your radiant smile. Your love of music.  Your cooking and baking.  Your always wanting to give gifts to your friends.  Your ability to remember everything – and I mean everything.

And then I look at you and see Jesus. Your love for God.  Your courage.  Your determination to do what is right.  Your increasing concern for the lost.  A growing graciousness.

Happy birthday, Allie!  I love you with all of my heart!

(If I could pick anyone, I would pick you – ’cause I like you best!)

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