Wednesday, June 17, 2009

photo by Arieseffects 

The Bench

Overcoming Adversity

Often times we walk away from something that we love feeling dejected as if we aren’t good enough.  The coach puts someone else in instead of us; the boss promotes someone else.  We wonder,”Is it worth it?”  Frustrated, we yell in angst...”AHHHH!”  Have you experienced this feeling?  My guess is that all of us have at some point.  

The question becomes, “What do we do now?”  How are we to respond to such challenges, adversity, and maybe even unfair treatment?  How should we act when someone we love is going through this situation?  I believe that this situation calls for us to re-examine the way we do things.  

For most of us, I believe we give up far too easily.  If we don’t quit after the first few obstacles that we encounter, it is shortly after that.  We are a fast-food generation. We like drive through convenience, immediate gratification, quick fixes, and instant rewards.  If we don’t see immediate results, instant weight loss or muscle mass, we quit and say, “Eh..It didn’t work” or “It’s not for me.”  Unfortunately, I don’t think success is like this.  Success is in the details, and it takes dedication, discipline, and desire.   

Can we take an honest look at where we stand and ask, ”Did I do my best? Did I control everything I could possibly control?”  My answer is usually no.  Let’s take basketball, for instance.  

I love basketball.  I have found a way to be involved in basketball on a weekly basis either playing or coaching for the better part of the last decade.  I wasn’t always good at it.  In fact, I wasn’t good at all.  My high school career consisted of about 10 minutes on the C team.  When I was in high school, I was almost 5’ tall and about 80 lbs.  The prototypical...nerd.  I wanted to be good, but I wasn’t, I didn’t think that I could be, and I took “no” for an answer.  Looking back, it was mostly my “no.”  I talked myself out of being good.  I told myself that I couldn’t do it.  I didn’t have what it takes.  I’d rather quit than fail.   That 10th grade season was my last one on an organized team.  

Twenty years later, I see students, athletes, and individuals in that situation.  Not trying to get more time on the C team necessarily, but trying to reach a goal.  They are frustrated because they are either not as good as they would like to be, others aren’t recognizing it, or both.  

In both cases, we must look at where we stand, play to our strengths, reduce weaknesses, understand our role -the way that we can contribute the best - and then give it everything that we have to get there.   

Back to basketball...Say you want to be on the team, you’re a good spot-up shooter, but you lack quickness.  This lack of quickness from a coaching standpoint is a liability because defensively, you will have a hard time staying in front of your opponent, and offensively because you can’t push the ball up the court quickly. How can this player convince the coach to play him more? 

Focus on your strengths

Some would say, “Work on your quickness.”  Yes, that would help, but let’s say on a quickness scale of 1-10, this person is a 3.  If they did everything that they could possibly do in terms of training, exercise and drills, they might improve to a 4 or a 5.  The best that they could be in this situation is average.  However, this person’s current ability to shoot the basketball is a 7.  They could practice a quick release, shot-fakes, 1 dribble, pull-up jump shots and step-backs. If they spent the same amount of time shooting as they did working on their quickness, this person could be an 8 or 9.   Any team that has a shooter like this, becomes deadly.  This person could make a real contribution to their team.  

Increase your value

John Wooden, winner of 11 college national basketball championships at UCLA, said it best. “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Ok, so you’re not the quickest one on your team.  Ask yourself, “How can I make myself more valuable to my team?”  If a player were to think, “How can I help our team score,  and how can I help my team keep the other team from scoring?” there are countless ways to be valuable to your team.  On offense, be good at shooting, screening, passing, getting the ball to the right people at the right time in the right spot.  This player could study the game and the opponent and recognize what they are wanting to do and figure out how to take that away from them.  On defense, this player could really sharpen his skills as a vocal leader of his team, by communicating on defense, being in the passing lanes, calling out screens, giving timely reminders to box-out, and rebounding the basketball. 

Do the little things exactly right  

Many times we get so focused on the goal and rush to achieve it that we neglect the little things.  My basketball team would get so focused on scoring or winning that they often would lose sight of the importance of the little things.  To the average fan in the stands, they would see a close loss and think, “If only they could have made that last shot.” That last shot was a missed opportunity, but if you were to rewind the game tape, there were countless opportunities that were wasted.  It could have been a careless pass, failure to obtain a rebound, a traveling call, a unnecessary foul.  Any one of these happening in the first minute contributes to the loss just as much as the missed last second shot.  We need to realize the value of the little things.  Champions do. 

Control what you can control

In life and in basketball, our ability to control everything that we can control will go a long way in determining our success.  This point can be somewhat hard to grasp.  To help, let’s look at the classroom for instance.  At our school if a student has 2 D’s or 1 F, then they may not participate in any extra-curricular activities for that week.  Students would learn of their low grades on Thursday morning and then hurry to go see that teacher to see what they could do at the last minute to get their grade up.  They would feel dejected when they would have to tell me that they were ineligible to play and ask if there was anything I could do to help.  

I usually would ask them 5 questions to determine whether they warranted any special consideration. 1. Did you attend every class and were you on time ? 2. Did you sit in the front row and actively participate? 3. Did you turn in all your homework assignments complete and on time? 4. Did you meet with your teacher during the week to go over the things that you didn’t understand?  5. Did you take your books home regardless of whether you had homework so that you could re-read or prepare for the upcoming lessons?  If they answered no to any one of those questions, I would say, “I’m sorry.  What things can you control in the upcoming week?”  When we make excellence a habit and do the little things exactly right every time, we increase our chances for success and our value to our team.  As we do this, we replace excuses with effort and feeling sorry for ourselves with substance and success.  

How can we help others?

Don’t accept less than what you know others have to offer.  The people that care about us the most and know all of the strengths and skills inside of us should be the last ones to accept an excuse.  If you know their goals and their desire to improve ask them, “What did you do today to improve?”  If they answer nothing, say, “You’re better than that. Let’s go right now.  I’ll help you.” Feeling sorry for someone just allows them to stay where they are at with your permission.  Believe in them. Push them to become the best that they can become.  Together we can.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Showers of Blessing

In a house with 4 boys, there are very few quiet, uninterrupted places.  As I seek time to pray and seek God’s face, the shower seems to be the best “quiet” place that I can find. I am known throughout my family as the 30-minute shower man.  Although they may be exaggerating just a little, it has become my quiet place, my sanctuary, where I get alone with God, think and pray.  Sometimes I like to turn off the lights and just sit in shower, lift my face and let the water rain down on me.  As I was doing that this morning, I was just thanking God for His blessings and asking His presence to rain down on me. While I was praising Him, the water was continually running into my mouth as I spoke.  I had to spit out the extra.  I believe this experience can serve as a truth for all of us.  As we speak blessings either towards God or others, the results will be the same. We ourselves will be filled up and have our mouths and our lives experience an overflow.  Just as I could not speak without water coming into my mouth, so we cannot bless others and remain empty.  Some people struggle with how to be a blessing to others and I think we make it too complicated.  It can be a card, a text message, a sticky note, or a gift of their favorite candy. All of these things say, “You are special to me and I was thinking of you.”   When we do this, the cycle begins. We bless them, they thank us, they give of themselves to us, they open up and allow us to see them for who they want to be, and give us opportunity to give to them again.  The cycle deepens and becomes more meaningful each time.  Soon we earn the right to be heard and to speak the life of Jesus into them.  Doing this, we become known as life-giving people.  People become attracted to us and begin to give us their hearts.  We will become like Job in chapter 29:21-23 where "Men listened to me expectantly, waiting in silence for my counsel.  After I had spoken, they spoke no more; my words fell gently on their ears. They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain.”  It’s time.  Turn on the Showers of Blessing.