You gotta have Faith!

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Inspiring words for today from Cross Creek Church’s Daily Devotional email:

Faith is more of a journey.  It doesn’t hinge on a singular event but is intended to be woven beautifully through an entire lifetime, through everything we do.

 

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Winter Blast Champions

Winter Blast 2016 Champs

We all piled into the minivan a bit later than normal. This time around we got a bit of a reprieve. Instead of starting before the sun came up, this soccer tournament Sunday would start closer to high noon. We just had to get there.

An hour or so later, we pulled up to the high school gym where for the next 4 hours our two teams of third and fourth grade boys would play between 72 and 90 minutes of indoor soccer. It was fun and intense.

As a coach to these boys, I’ve really come to enjoy watching and being a part of their development as players, and more importantly, as people. It is not always an easy job, but it is rewarding. Such a reward came at the Winter Blast Indoor Soccer Tournament.

As is the case with any good sports story, we had to overcome challenges that tested each player and the team. We had to play each other in the semifinals and then in the final we faced the team that beat both of our teams in the round robin group stage. The final was much closer than either of the earlier games. Emotions ran high on both sides. There was pushing, shoving, and injuries. Our team took the lead. Up one goal, the time seemed to slow down. The wear and tear on their young legs was catching up to them. This tiredness and the subsequent communication breakdown it caused led to the other team scoring an equalizer.

Not much time remained in regulation. I was starting to determine the best strategy to employ in overtime. Despite the pressure of playing in a final and all of the other challenges, our team persevered and scored the go-ahead goal.

As the clock ticked down…10…9….8…7…excitement built on our sideline. Then, exultation. We were the champions. The excitement and joy on the faces of the boys is what I will remember the most. That, and all of the work they put in to creating that moment.

With malice toward none; with charity for all

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Library of Congress
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations. – President Lincoln, March 4, 1865
 
We may not think of Abraham Lincoln as “the most divisive president in U.S. history” as some have called President George W. Bush or President Obama, but the truth is Lincoln was president during the only time in our nation’s history that Americans fought against each other in a civil war.
Today, March 4, is the day in 1865 that Lincoln was inaugurated for his second term as President. The closing remarks of his address (above) were relevant then as a way to begin the healing the nation needed. Those same words have meaning today, much for the same reasons.
In the news, on social media, pretty much everywhere you turn, there are messages being shouted that pit one group of people or ideas against another. I look out and see our nation divided. I look out and see divisions, not just between Republicans and Democrats, but among those two groups. What I see is the rising tide of bigotry and racism. This tide is evil and has the potential to drown us all.

We can and must remember our history. We can and must overcome. We can and must do everything within our power to dispell the base instincts that are shouting for attention. Lincoln understood this. He spoke about it and took actions to stop the division. He took actions, just as we must today, to stand united, because should we continue to be divisive we shall fall.

Record-breaking

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Yesterday where I live we broke the record for snow on that day in our history. It was a lot of snow in a short amount of time. But, the day after made for some beautiful pictures. When the storm is the worst and it doesn’t seem like it will ever stop, be reassured that the end is near and beauty and hope will be there on the other side.

Confronting my own self-doubt

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For the last two weeks I have really been down in the dumps. I’ve been put face to face with the questions of “Who I am?” and “What kind of person do I want to be?”. I haven’t been certain how to answer these questions in a way that leads to a positive result until today.

The backstory

In my job, I was told that I just didn’t have the creativity and passion in my writing on an assignment that it was thought that I should have. I just didn’t bring it. And the person that told me that was dead on. She said she was “on my side” and telling me this as an ally. I appreciated that. I just couldn’t produce at a high level. She reminded me that how good or bad the end result is depends entirely on the work that is put in in the trenches.

I have absolutely no formal coaching training. I have a passion for the sport of soccer and I think I have some skill for coaching. Or at least I thought I did, until a parent told me that I deliberately created two tournament teams with 100 percent unfair rosters, leading to one team that was destined to lose. That wasn’t the way to coach and create a positive and encouraging environment, this parent said. Although the other volunteer coach and I did not agree with her, I took a step back to see the argument from her perspective. It gave me the opportunity to reevaluate how and why I volunteer coach.

Just as I was thankful for the advice of the person at my office, so too was I thankful for that opportunity to examine my coaching philosophy.

Fast forward to today

Today rolled around and I took stock of these things. What I realized is that God played a central role in all of this. These two weeks were a valley that He was leading me through. It was an opportunity for introspection. I am thankful to God for the opportunity. It wasn’t easy. It really made me question who I was and what I was doing.

This is the great thing that became crystal clear to me today: These struggles have strengthened my faith in Him. He is my rock and my strength. God is there no matter what and he sent these messengers into my life to challenge me because I was becoming complacent. He also showed me the people in my life that really care about me and will stand up for me in times of need. I needed that. I need Him.

Discouraged

img_2606This week has been one of the most discouraging weeks I’ve had in a long time.

From Monday on, life did everything it could to bring in to question what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, why I’m doing it, and if I should stop doing it. It was rough, to say the least.

This discouragement made me question my role as a husband, a father, a coach, etc. It made me question if it was even worth it anymore.

I was low.

Yet, all around me, God was there. He sent me encouraging messages. He made it known that the valley I was walking through would end if I followed Him. There really was light at the end of the tunnel.

Before, I don’t think I would have realized all that He was doing in my life. But now I do, and as I write this, the discouraged feeling that was squarely stuck in my mind for the entirety of the week is gone. It is replaced with a peace and understanding that God is Great. God is my strength in times of discouragement. He is positive. He is encouraging.

So, when you get down, look up. He is there. He will listen. He is love and He will shoulder your concerns. He is a good father. He is someone I want to be like. And that is certainly a most encouraging thought!

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Soul on Fire

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My car's radio set to K-Love

This morning, driving in to work, the sunrise over the trees was in the rearview mirror as I drove westward. It was a blaze as it rose and burned into the early morning winter sky. The temperature was about 6 degrees. The roads were clear. It was cold, but not bone-chillingly so. It was good ride in to the office.

The reason for this was not just the weather, though. It was how the weather made me feel. I felt GOOD. I was singing (badly, I’m sure :-)) to the positive and encouraging tunes on the radio from K-Love as I drove. I was at peace with the world. And it was because I’ve opened my heart to Jesus and given my life over to God. It is such an awesome feeling.

Now, I also know that God will take me through valleys. Yet, through His strength I will make it through. That thought, in and of itself, is the most peace-inducing thought I’ve had in a very long time. Before, I would have been ashamed to talk about my faith. I wasn’t a believer. I hadn’t opened my heart. I didn’t understand.

That was then. This is now.

I’m at peace because I know the Big Man Upstairs has it. I know I can lift my concerns up to Him and He will listen. I know I experience joys and blessings in life because of Him and I thank Him for them.

These lyrics from Third Day’s song Soul on Fire capture it best:

Lord, restore the joy I had
And I have wandered bring me back
In this darkness, lead me through
Until all I see is You

Thank you God.

Amen.