Basketball’s First Week

In Washington State, it is the first week of the new high school basketball season. So many fresh opportunities to be had. So much promise ahead.

At the end of last season, I wrote a tribute to that team. You can find it here:  http://purplepraise.com/2014/03/08/a-tribute-to-the-2013-2014-team

For a coach’s wife, there are two points in a season which feel bittersweet: the beginning and the end. At the start of each season, I lose my husband but I gain a new team for which to cheer and watch grow. At the end of each season, I regain my husband but must also say farewell to an all-grown-up team only to watch them scatter.

This past Sunday night was full of preparation on all fronts. Practice plans written (husband), power bars purchased (me), and new shoes packed (son). My son remarked with all sincerity, “Wow, basketball bags are much lighter than football bags!” The football gear has been packed away and returned–the shoulder pads, helmet, cleats, girdle, under armor, formerly white pants-never-to-be-truly-clean-again.  That chapter closed and we have turned the page. On to a lighter bag- basketball shoes, shorts, ball, empty water bottle.

It’s now Thursday. Already, we’ve had a freshman guard break his wrist. A senior has decided he may not play after all (these are always tough decisions which I very much respect). Today is the day the team assignments are announced. Last night was the parent info meeting. And the team dinner scheduling. My husband is wiped out, and losing his voice. My sophomore son is worried because he feels rusty.

Still, there is plenty of promise ahead.

And promises to keep.
And miles to go before we sleep.
And miles to go before we sleep.
(Robert Frost paraphrase)

This group of boys is now in high school. The miles fly.
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To Those Who Make a Difference

In all those little ways, we each make a difference.  It’s beautiful to me.  It’s beautiful that the little things are really the big things.  What action or word you might deem as so tiny, even inconsequential, could very well start a firestorm inside me, or someone else.

Early this past spring, my son’s teacher, Dan Ferguson, made it a point to pull my son aside for a quiet conversation (which does not happen easily in the freshman hallway!).  Ryan was closing out his freshman year of basketball, a successful one—one that had seen the realization of some inner dreams since he was a small boy.  He was feeling pretty good about himself.

Mr. Ferguson took a few intentional moments to speak truth and encouragement into Ryan.  In short, he told Ryan that he needed to play an additional sport besides basketball because other teams needed his leadership and strength of character on the team.  Mr. Ferguson saw that even though basketball is Ryan’s first love, playing another sport would make Ryan stronger in both mind and body.

Ryan seriously considered the words, and took them to heart.  He came home that night and talked with Ray and I.  We fully agreed.  He contemplated spring baseball, but realized that it would interfere with his spring and summer AAU basketball travel team.  So instead, he decided he would commit to the football team–and the spring workouts, and the summer camp, and the weight training that precede the fall season.

Every mom knows her kid best.  And I know that Ryan is an inner perfectionist.  It’s tough for perfectionists to try something new because it means that failure is an option, a possibility.  Perfectionism is a funny thing.  He’s given hours of effort and practice to becoming better at basketball, which he is already pretty good at.  But to try something new, one that could bring failure, that is a whole other thing.  Ultimately, I believe Mr. Ferguson understood this need for Ryan to get out of his comfort zone and exert risk.  What a great life lesson, one that came through a few moments of Mr. Ferguson’s intentional time.

Last night, we celebrated the end of the football season with our team awards night.  Mr. Ferguson ended up being one of Ryan’s football coaches, one that taught him how to become a wide receiver this season.  During the awards time, when he spoke about Ryan, he briefly shared the memory of their early spring conversation.  It reminded me of how important those moments were.  I glanced down the row of the other football coaches, and I was reminded of individual conversations or words of encouragement that they have also had for Ryan this season.  Those small moments were actually really big. Those small moments have counted in Ryan’s life.

The team didn’t win very many games. It’s only the second year that our school, Northwest Christian, has even had a football team. We’re building.  We’re struggling.  But the coaches built an impressive brotherhood, one that loved each other and grew tremendously this season.  They did that, and will continue to do that, through small moments.  It’s a good picture for all of us.

Oh! And they did win an Academic State Championship for the best cumulative grades for any football team at our level. 😄

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Ryan is on the right, wearing his favorite Gonzaga basketball “short shorts” t-shirt.

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey.  I haven’t read it yet, but I am looking forward to it.

I am beginning to believe the Christian community is undergoing another reformation of sorts.  The institutional church is being shaken.  The title “Evangelical” is dirty.  The beautiful word “gospel” has been usurped by those who use it to wield power.  In so many ways, we Christians have failed miserably to be dispensers of God’s grace.  To those who have been hurt by the church or by me, I’m so sorry.

In his talk posted here, Philip Yancey says that we are undergoing a crisis of a grace gap and he wondered why. He explains, “when I don’t know something, I write a book about it” because he then can investigate.  In his questioning, he found that there are still people who are dispensers of God’s grace.  He split them into three categories: 1) activists, 2) artists, and 3) pilgrims.  I want to be one of these people.  God’s grace is good news!

Please watch!