Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Chickens — October 14, 2021

Chickens

Every week in this space, at some point there is a reference to the differences that make us so cool and fascinating. It’s the worst part of this quarantine isolation: we’ve forgotten how much we like each other and instead, believed the silly lie that there exist divisions too wide to cross.

I mentioned last night in a truly exceptional book group that it’s people who provide me with the greatest evidence for God. It’s people who consistently give reasons to remain hopeful. (Of course, it’s also people who give the reasons to lose hope, too. But if we’re honest, that’s much less often and a far less interesting way to spend much time.)

I just finished an article in Smithsonian magazine about a man named Val in Philadelphia, PA who has a record store with millions of records. He’s surly, elitist, Christian, and characterizes his collection as a disease. As you are well aware, I am a record, song, & artist man, have absolutely no desire to go to this store, but I love that we live in a world where it exists, where he exists. Why would someone do this? Why would he give his life, as he did/does, to doo-wop music? Who knows, baby, who knows???

The last documentary I watched was called Chicken People. If you are searching for something to watch, I have no idea how you continue to scroll past Chicken People. This 80 minute gem is about human beings who show chickens. (If you’ve ever seen Best In Show, it’s like that, but with chickens. And it’s not a Christopher Guest vehicle, it’s real.) Who knew you showed chickens? Chickens are ugly and disgusting, right? Wrong. I really only knew about the mass-produced food chickens, but there are an unbelievable variety of chickens that are beautiful and anything but gross. The owners bathe, hold and pet them (and love them) like puppies. Who decides to show chickens? A talented entertainer in Branson, MO who sings show tunes, and a lovely southern recovering alcoholic who has a 2nd husband and 5 kids, 5 dogs, 3 cats, a llama, 400 rabbits and a thousand chickens, that’s who.

I wouldn’t show a chicken, but that’s not really the point, is it? (I would totally go to a chicken show, though.) The point is you are very different from me and Val is very different from both of us and that show tune guy is different from almost everybody. My neighbor can sing opera like an angel and my son is a Dungeon Master (in D&D, not a real life dungeon thankfully). My best friend in high school built and raced fast cars, I knew every lineup and the batting averages of every major league team. Hello Kitty is wildly popular. So is big-time professional wrestling.

These are the things that are important. Sure, so is who we voted for or if we’re pro-fax mandates, but we’re made up of lots and lots of facets and to think just one is enough to tear the world apart is pure fallacy. We’re all different, strange, and awesome. And we’d know this if/when we get to see each other in person, see that we’re not monsters at all – just weirdos who may or may not show chickens with families and kids and jobs and fears and loves and passions just like ours. And that’s wonderful.

What It Sounds Like — October 4, 2021

What It Sounds Like

I am now 46, safely passing Wednesday without much disruption. I’ve been waiting for a mid-life crisis that never seems to come. Maybe next year.

This morning, as I walked on the treadmill, I half-watched the news on one of the overhead screens. (Is there really nowhere I can be free from media??) The first story was a guy in the highest position of leadership in this country passionately detailing coming vaccination mandates and the importance of such a mandate. And the second story I saw was that same guy, with exactly the same passion, commenting on last weekend’s gatherings in support of a woman’s right to her own body. He was quite indignant that, yes, of course we should have the right to do what we want with our bodies without any government involvement. After all, why would those people have the power to dictate what happens in each citizen’s own body? Why, indeed.

I recognize that there are probably many many reasons why these 2 topics are wildly different and to push a mandate on my body while arguing against a mandate on my body is totally consistent. But there are two things about that.

First, it’d be supercool if there was some sort of admission that, on the surface, it does at least sound like the positions might be in conflict with the other. Instead of ignoring the superficial similarities, pretending that we haven’t simply changed the words like political musical chairs. It’s interesting that one party can say my body, my choice AND forced vaccines for everybody while the other can fight just as strongly to keep your needles away from my body AND the ability to control what goes on with another’s pregnancy. Both borrow the main argument of protecting the vulnerable when it suits.

Second, and faaaar more important, is the very clear illustration that these issues are deeper and more complex than can accurately be conveyed in sound bites, sandwich boards, and shouted cliches. The fact that both sides of the aisle can argue the very same point about where & when the rights to our own bodies begin & end should give us a level of understanding & compassion that would allow authentic human discussion. You would think that “protecting the vulnerable” could/would translate into common ground, giving the impression that we might not be as far apart as we previously believed.

Again, I know I’m not the brightest man on earth and you might have a thousand ways to condescend to my elementary analogy here. (But you don’t have to.) I don’t want us to argue anymore, to shout our certainly valid points (whichever ones we are tightly holding) at each other anymore, but I do want to start talking. I do want us to sit down at tables and listen instead of continuing this silly propensity of ours to feed our insatiable need to win at all costs. I do want to find some consistency in a shared humanity. I do want to acknowledge that the divisions we’ve been sold might not be quite so wide.

After all, we can all agree on Tiger King and that’s something.

This Book I Just Read — September 13, 2021

This Book I Just Read

I just finished I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson. I’m not going to tell you much about it. After all, this isn’t a review. What I will tell you is that I spent much of the last chapter on my knees, reading through red watery eyes. That is, of course, if I could read at all. The rest I spent totally flat face down on my living room carpet leaving discolored circles behind.

I know, I know. But as you are well aware, I am a man who gets down on his knees and weeps from time to time. I cry far more often when things are beautiful than when things are not, and this was no different. It was gorgeous and heartbreaking, joyful and crushing. It was absolutely devastating.

The cover has a quote from the inside, “We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” Yes, that’s what kind of book it is. It’s a family who has webs and webs of lies and secrets that have kept them sick for years (like lies and secrets do) and come out in an avalanche of meaning all at once (like they do in books). What will each of them do with these? With overwhelming betrayal? With love and longing and loss and everything else? Well, I’m not telling you, but great art pierces because as these characters answer those questions, we are invited to ask the same ones and to answer, what will we?

What will we do?

You’ve been broken by another you trusted, just as I have. We’ve been in love and had our hearts utterly smashed to pieces, we’ve lost (one of the characters says, “No one tells you how gone gone really is, or how long it lasts,” and you feel that in your bones), we’ve missed, we’ve screamed. And now what? What will we do with those?

So then I also just finished another book I was reading at the same time, a very different book, and it has this: “What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?” And at first that doesn’t make sense (we all really want it fixed), until we think about guilt and shame and the weight of pretending and in that instant, it does.

I don’t think we need tidy, happy endings. We don’t need overproduced songs and engineered foods crafted in a lab. What we do need is flesh, authenticity, tears, blood, laughter, dirt, skin, sweat. We don’t need more lies or secrets or fake plastic images, we need real, pulsing, dynamic, beautiful life. We need grace and love. And we need them right now.

The Immeasurable Beauty of Shang-Chi — September 8, 2021

The Immeasurable Beauty of Shang-Chi

Monday we all went to the movies to see the latest offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It’s a very long title, it brings back terrible memories of Fiona Apple’s second album title, shortened to “When The Pawn…” It’s super long, nobody can remember it and feels 50% too pretentious (which could also be an apt description of Fiona Apple and her terrific music, “50% too pretentious.”) She said this about the title, a poem she wrote after poor reactions to an unflattering article written about her, “It came from being made fun of,” she said, “and then, of course, it becomes a thing I’m being made fun of for.” Ha! 50% too pretentious or not, she’s awesome, and if you don’t believe me, listen to the “Extraordinary Machine” album and you will.

Anyway. Shang-Chi is amazing. It’s slow and patient, and feels quite intimate (until the last act, which has all of the explosions, dragons, punching, kicking and supernatural derringer-do you could ever want.)

What I loved about it is what I loved about Black Panther and what I love about being alive. Shang-Chi was a celebration of Chinese culture in the same way Black Panther was of Black culture. The ethic, music, dress, color, feel, pace were all differently gorgeous from each other and from me. It seems pretty strange to hold a superhero movie up as an example of depth and care, but these MCU movies aren’t what we think they are. I’ve said before, they are our mythology, complex explorations of the human condition in it’s glory and it’s brokenness.

The problem with racism is that it strives to eliminate this kind of difference, to whitewash everything and everyone until it is all the same monochromatic shade, no matter what the shade is. It’s gross and grounded in fear. And the reaction is strikingly similar, looking to achieve a colorblind world that either pretends to not see the beautiful differences or annihilate them. Of course, this is also rooted in fear.

Why would we want to do any of that? Why would I want to pretend to not see different colors, different cultures? Why would I want to avoid cool interesting defining textures? Why would I want all food to taste like chain restaurants and all shops to look like Walmart? Why would we ever want to sand the edges from our world?

Captain America isn’t the only superhero. The MCU has room for Shang-Chi, Black Panther, Gamora, and Groot, all heroes, all given room to exist exactly as they are. Why can’t we?

It feels so disrespectful to ignore our differences, exactly the opposite of open-minded progress or social evolution. I want to know who you are, where you came from, how you see politics and religion, and I want to let you know who I am. I want us to love each other authentically, as we are, all the amazing things that make us, us, and not from behind some ridiculously fake inanely crafted image of Blah.

So, I think we should do that. Instead of the politically correct masquerade, let’s take those dumb masks off, hammer them into sand, and breathe deeply in nothing else but love.

Both Hands — August 24, 2021

Both Hands

There’s a GREAT song by Ani DiFranco called “Both Hands,” and it’s about a relationship that’s over and one last “swan song.” It’s sexy and heartbreaking. (If you’ve never heard it, why don’t you listen to it now? I’ll be here when you get back.) But this is not about that song.

Last week, 2 of my very good friends lost their mothers. The funerals are this week. One was yesterday, one is tomorrow. Another very good friend is loving her own mother without condition as Alzheimer’s ravages her mind, leaving little trace of who she has been. A seemingly endless parade of hurricanes is hammering the east coast of America, floodwaters drowning homes, memories and lives. An earthquake in Haiti killed thousands of people like you & me. COVID numbers continue to rise again, like a villain in a bad movie. We still viciously hate each other online for our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Yet another very good friend’s dad is in the hospital with a scary affliction I’ve never heard of.

Also last week, good friends married in the mountains of Utah in a ceremony in front of almost no one, just their immediate families, stripping all of the distractions of weddings and receptions leaving only the sacred union of 2 gorgeous souls. Saturday in a small town on the other side of the country, I officiated a wedding between two young sweethearts who reclaimed the institution, reminding us all what this was all intended to be, in front of all of their family and friends. After the Sunday service in church, set squarely in a world that has stolen 18 months of physical contact, we held hands and each other to remember that (in the words of the punk band Rise Against), “let’s take this one day at a time, I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine.”

A life of faith is not, and has never been, ignoring (or pretending to ignore) the complex nature of this human experience. We don’t focus solely on the pain and we don’t turn our eyes from the suffering, either. We show up in honesty and presence and hold it all with both hands. We have funerals and weddings. Birth and death. Joy and pain. Mourning and celebration. We have the passion of sexuality amid the heartache of the breakup.

Our wounds, broken hearts and tears aren’t a sign that things are out of order. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. Everything, all together, is a sign of authenticity and engagement. A sign of life. And we do it all with hands in our own, and then we do it all again. This is exactly what love looks like IRL, in flesh and blood, with both hands, and it’s awesome.

Now. — August 11, 2021

Now.

I write in 2 different places, here and for a faith community called the Bridge. I created this site to talk about music and movies and though it’s usually about spirituality (as some bad country song says, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy), I try to not be so obvious about it. This post I wrote for the Bridge site and it is about a Bible passage or 2, but it’s also about today and Facebook and a woman I saw in the hospital and being fully present each moment of our lives – and that transcends religion or politics or websites. I hope you like it and, more importantly, I hope it matters.

Acts 5 tells a pretty terrifying story. There is a married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold a piece of property.

Well, first, we probably need some context. In Acts 4:32-37: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

We could talk about “one in heart and mind” forever, (doesn’t it sound amazing???), but not today. So, they shared everything and no one needed anything. Joseph the Levite from Cyprus sold a field and brought the money to the apostles to be distributed, this example (probably one of many) stands in stark contrast to what comes next from Ananias and Sapphira.

In Acts 5:2-5a “With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.”

Of course this punishment sounds a bit excessive, but there are some other things here that can be overlooked because of what we might call an overreaction.

He didn’t have to share it at all. It sounds like there was no mandate, no collectors, no stranger-armed enforcers scouring the property transaction section of the newspaper for transgressions. Usually when we lie or hide our behavior, it’s because we feel some sort of way about it. We bring the guilt and shame, it’s an internal consequence of our own conscience. Generosity was something these early believers got to do, a privilege, an honor, an answer to an invitation into a new way of being. It wasn’t a have-to, which is probably why so many did. Giving was the natural outpouring of a grateful heart, instead of an obligation to be fulfilled.

Ananias’ heart wasn’t as much grateful as it was transactional. He “had” to give, the others would see, so he would, but only after he skimmed a little (or a lot) off the top for himself, just in case. That’s all we’ll say about that today. It’s a big ocean to swim in, but a new thing stood out to me this morning.

“When Ananias heard this,” immediately “he fell down and died.” Again, of course it seems pretty shocking that he, and later Sapphira after repeating the same lie, would have their lives taken for what could be seen as a relatively minor offense. But it’s the “immediate” part that is devastating to me, here and now.

You see, sometimes we don’t get tomorrow. Sometimes we don’t get this evening. And in the case of Ananias, sometimes we don’t get one more moment. How much do we put off until another time? How many nights have we gone to bed angry? How many times have we slammed the door to effectively end a screaming match?

I was in a hospital 2 days ago praying with a woman who was/is fighting for her life. She is currently sedated and totally unresponsive. Maybe she won’t wake up. I don’t know her entire story, my friend, her daughter, appears to have a beautiful relationship without too many unresolved issues. That’s a gift that maybe every one in her life shares. And maybe her marriage was terrific, but I do know that the last interaction she and her husband had was less than awesome, marked with sharp comments and harsh tones. They went to bed and maybe she’ll wake up in the hospital. And the truth is that maybe she won’t – it’s the truth for all of us.

I spend a lot of time talking about this moment, today, here, now, fully present, not missing a second of this wonderful gift of our lives that we have been given. And lately I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the many, many ways we are awful to each other, creating thick divisions where none exist and turning each other into monsters in our own minds. How many relationships have been fractured during the last year? How many violent words have been spoken or typed into a keyboard that have wounded loved ones? How much forgiveness and reconciliation has been delayed because of our bitterness and resentment, because of our pride?

Ananias didn’t get a second chance to apologize, repent, or make this right. Maybe we won’t, either.

But we do have right now and maybe right now is a really great time to make a different choice.

Black Widow — July 14, 2021

Black Widow

Last weekend I saw Black Widow…in the theater!! I wonder how many times I’ll have to go before that loses it’s excitement and new-ness. I know the answer is more than 2 (I saw Godzilla vs Kong in March), because I had butterflies like the Angel & I were on an early date night. It wasn’t a first date, because those butterflies were large birds with talons and teeth, and lots and lots of energy. More like a date in the 3rd or 4th month, when the nerves were invigorating and pleasant.

When I was a kid, a trip to the movie theater used to be an adventure we looked forward to for days. That novelty wore off (except for BIG releases like Fight Club or Endgame) and it was just another option in an ocean of choices. I’m thrilled that feeling has returned.

I’ll tell you if the answer is 3 in September when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes out.

You know, I used to go to quite a lot of live music shows. Once I got to a certain age they lost most of their draw – too many people, too loud, too expensive…well, I guess it was simply too many “too’s” for me. I wonder if I’d like to go back now.

COVID took so much from us for the past year and a half, I wonder if we’ll be surprised to find there are gifts to be enjoyed as well. Sometimes things are so familiar, so common they lose the wonder they hold, like kissing your wife, hugging your boy, driving your boys to basketball practice, sitting in air conditioning on a scorching hot day, pushups, deadlifts, spaghetti, fast dancing to music in the house with your sister, singing along to a song on the radio, those shoes, and on and on and on. When the scales fall, giving us the ability to see them again with new eyes, it’s overwhelming. Of all the people in the world, do you mean I’m the one who gets to actually kiss her??? Has the world really become a place where I can sit and watch these boys play baseball??

I recognize that lives have been lost, anxiety has ravaged our psyches, relationships have been damaged beyond the point of rescue, some of us still have trouble breathing, much less sleeping, the fear of What Could Never Happen (But Did) is oppressive, and going to a movie theater is way too trivial a thing on which to focus, even embarrassingly so. But sometimes it’s the trivial and seemingly insignificant that give us hope. That give us the strength to take one more step. That give us the beautiful notion that the world will continue and we might be ok, sometime down the road in the future, however long it takes.

We had a flood once that drowned our house and everything we owned. Our spirits were crushed under the weight of starting over from scratch, not to mention the looming fight we were inexplicably destined to lose with the insurance company, and the enduring emotional fallout. And in the middle of all of this, my wife’s best friend Laura gave me a book – one of my favorites: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – that I had gifted to her years before. It was her way of saying “I know it’s the kind of dark and awful that feels like it might never not be dark and awful, but this is something lovely.” It was just a book, but it was so much more than a book. It was the promise of life wrapped in her sweet heart. That horrible flood ended up having a million gifts like that, where human beings were exposed as kind, caring, and generous. Most people don’t get to experience that sort of avalanche of love, and I wish they could. It was a book about a record store, and it changed me forever.

It might have been the best movie I ever saw or it might be ok. I can’t give it a proper review because it’s impossible to detach the art from the context, and I don’t want to try. To me it was perfect.

It’s The End Of Youth Sports As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) — July 6, 2021

It’s The End Of Youth Sports As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

The baseball season is over. When anything ends, there is always that familiar maelstrom of (often conflicting) emotions. I’m happy to get my evenings back, family dinners, and rejoin the groups where I have been absent. It’s awesome to not have to call to report scores, or line the field before games. It’s not as awesome, on the other hand, to be inside on this hot, sunny day and not on a ball field. I already miss the crack of the bat or the sound of a nice fastball hitting the glove. And I’m heartbroken that I don’t get to see the players and coaches every day anymore.

After the last game (a loss), I gave a game ball to one of the players I had coached for several years and would never again. He was 1 of 3 of in that category. They are 3 of the finest young men you’ve ever had the pleasure to know. So that’s hard. It was also the last game where I would be my oldest son’s coach. That’s way too much to sit with for too long, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? If we don’t spend that time, it stays kind of hidden in the corner of our hearts until…right? Who knows what it takes or when, but it simply has to be addressed. That’s what I did. I sat with that box of memories and I cried and cried, and then I laughed and thanked God that I had the opportunity for so long and that it may be the last for us together, but it is not the last for him. And it’s not the last for me.

Here’s another thing: The umpires quit before the season was over! They resigned because of the behavior they were forced to endure night after night. I wouldn’t consider myself one of their biggest fans as officials, but I am generally a fan of human beings and am always a fan of interacting with respect and love. This puts me and the team I coach squarely in the minority. Apparently, the online culture of aggression and arrogance has left the screens and stormed the fields.

Now, I am not pretending that bad behavior didn’t exist, but like everything else in 2020 (and now -21), the pandemic and it’s partner isolation turned up the volume on the loneliness, anxiety and fear that breeds this selfish nastiness and lack of self-control. Nearly every night, there were new stories. I probably would’ve quit, too.

I know the root of the aggression and arrogance is inadequacy and insecurity. We find our identity in wins and losses, as if youth sports were the Great Arbiter of Truth. Youth sports is a lot of things, but distributor of worth isn’t one. Yet we keep asking it to do what it can’t. Of course, the kids sometimes act like monsters (because they sometimes are monsters), but they’re teenagers. They’re looking to the coaches to expect more from them. I’m not sure we’re not desperately looking for someone to tell us we’re so much better than these embarrassingly low standards we’ve accepted. And the coaches are acting like monsters (because they’re looking, too) and it’s a snowball that is rolling down a steep hill into the garbage dump of history.

I happen to be one of those lucky few that is very rarely tied to “how it used to be,” and especially in this case, if this is how it used to be, I say let it die and let’s start fresh. We can and should forget where it has mutated. Instead, let’s keep the amazing parts and trash the rest, and make something new and awesome in it’s place.

We can still call it youth sports, if you want to.

WW84 & Luca21 — June 23, 2021

WW84 & Luca21

Last weekend, as a little bit of an act of aggression towards my son who had gone with a friend (who was NOT ME!!!!) to the beach for 4 days (4 DAYS!!!!), I watched Wonder Woman 1984. We had not yet seen it and this is usually the type of movie we watch for the first time together. But he was away and it was available on a free trial of HBO, so… In case you haven’t seen it, if you Google it, the first result is the question “Is Wonder Woman 1984 the worst movie ever?” Ha! It wasn’t great, but it started me on a path that leads me here, with you.

But first, let me tell you we also watched Luca, a Pixar film on Disney+. This one was tremendous and my favorite part in a movie of favorite parts was Luca’s wide eyes.

Before we tie WW84 and Luca’s eyes into a tidy bow, there’s a song called ‘Roses’ by the Band Camino and here are some of the lyrics:

“Why you wanna be a sad boy, waste your time?/Lookin’ for something that was right here all along/I think we’re gettin’ it wrongIt’s too bad/When did it get cool to be so sad?/We’re spinnin’ backwards, did we all go mad?/Yeah, we’re only human but wе’ve got hands and hearts and noses/So stop and smеll the — roses.”

There’s a young man I coach who is so similar to me, he drives me crazy. He hated the Wonder Woman sequel, but he happens to be that certain wonderful age and disposition where every single thing is just horrible. I know the age well, hyper-critical, painted with elitism, sarcasm and a deep grouchiness.

The younger me thought it was super cool to be bored, jaded, sad and dismissive of most art, most everything actually, because I was so far above it all. It was awesome to make fun and pick apart anything. I was sooooo funny and disaffected. And I was totally miserable.

Luca left the water for land and was overwhelmed with wonder. There wasn’t anxiety or routine or a mountain of inadequacy. There wasn’t a hierarchy of people or things he ‘should’ like or not, no such thing as a “guilty pleasure” – just pleasure. Just beauty. Just roses.

Of course he would have to deal with the thorns, like we all do, but unlike many of us, he chose to not be overcome with those sharp points. There was the local bully and antagonist Ercole Visconti (there always is) but there was also the lovely Guilia. Luca had the same choice we do. Which one do we allow to color our experiences? To which do we give the keys to our heart? Which one gets to chose our perspective?

Wonder Woman probably wasn’t a great film, but so what? Not every film has to be Fight Club or Pulp Fiction.

Has there ever been a circumstance where tearing something down led to the teeniest bit of our own growth?

Another ‘Roses’ line goes, “Maybe you’re the person that you always wanted to be,” and after a lot of thought, the truth is, the person I want to be is one who likes stuff, who can see beauty wherever I look. I want to live a life of wonder and joy, so I do (mostly), and I think if we did more of that…

Well, you know how it is when you get a new car and it seems like those are the only cars on the road? Maybe it’s like that with love and wonder and Luca and positive energy. Maybe it’s like an electricity that each of us feel and absorb.

So, yes, I think if we did more of that, there would be more of that. We’ve got hands and hearts and noses, so let’s just try to stop and smell the — roses.

Our Why — June 14, 2021

Our Why

As you are probably very well aware, I care for youth sports a great deal and coach when I am qualified (which meant soccer and basketball when the kids were young and needed more of a babysitter than a coach and means only baseball now.) Every year there is a shortage of volunteers and that’s sometimes depressing even if it is predictable. The truth is, if I had an ounce of good sense, I wouldn’t do it either.

The most common guess is that nobody does it because of the time commitment, but that’s not true. Like everything else, we make time for what we value. If she says she doesn’t have time to call you back, it’s not because she doesn’t have time, it’s because she doesn’t have time to call you. Most parents who “don’t have time” are at all the games and always have time to write nasty texts about their future major leaguer’s playing time.

Having said that, parents are usually the biggest obstacle. As a parent of 2 athletes, I am comfortable saying that we are the absolute worst. We think our kids are the most talented, sweetest, hardest working people who have ever graced a field or laced up a pair of sneakers. Sure, we’re wrong, but that hardly matters. It only matters when you are the coach, like I am, and you’re honest that your son will get all of the preferential treatment possible.

Players are next in line. I find myself saying “nowadays,” “when I was young,” and “we used to ___” more than I ever thought I could. Yes, kids are different, probably because of the last paragraph, but they’re not monsters. They’re not all monsters.

You should know that I’m writing because, late last week, all of the coaches got an email detailing the myriad of ways we were misbehaving and the consequences we would face if we were to continue acting like petulant babies overflowing with insecurity and bad judgment. At that moment it became obvious that coaching wasn’t the most thankless position, it’s league president. Now why would anybody want to do that???

But I know why. And I know why I continue to choose to ignore my own good sense. It’s precisely because of all of the reasons not to engage. 

We give our time to kids who need someone to trust, to count on, who will look at them, see them and to trust them back. To the kids who need fresh words and new stories believed and spoken about them. That is a far superior use of our moments than Netflix or scrolling through social media or even more hours of overtime. By giving our most valuable resource, these kids see that time isn’t our most valuable resource after all, they are.

We serve the parents (or the coaches serve us) because more people loving our children is muuuuch better than less. 

But it’s the kids that give us our real why. I see a boy in my weight room who comes in every day. I ask everyone to do 7 sets of everything because it’s the number of completion, of wholeness. 7 because of Genesis 1. I sometimes ask him to do 8, because in John’s gospel, he gives 7 “signs” and then continues with an 8th (which is the resurrection of Jesus), signifying a new week (!!!!) and a new creation. I ask him to do 8 because he’s becoming a new person. He listens, or pretends to. And today after the 7th, he looks me in the eye and says, “I’m doing 8.” He is why we do any of it.

It’s how we love and it’s how, in whatever small or gigantic way we can, tell stories of a whole new world, one practice at a time.

I have nothing to say about the miserable behavior in the email. There’s always one or two, isn’t there? 😉