No "I" in "Team"

I just came across a fantastic example of putting the team before yourself. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a blog entry about leadership and how an integral quality of a leader is putting her/his own desires and ambitions second to the needs of the team as a whole. In a sense, it is having the attitude that they would rather win as a team and fail (or not look good) as an individual than have individual success yet see their team fail.

Last night (11-25-08) Loyola (Md.) was crushed in basketball by Davidson. Now, this was actually the anticipated result considering Davidson has the top scorer in the country (averaging 35 ppg. and has only ever not reached double figures twice in his career) and has a significant size advantage over Loyola. According to the article, the story isn't the win but how it happened.

A common defense utilized by teams when playing a team with a player that is heads and tails above the rest is a box-and-one where four players are in a zone defense and the "one" is playing a denial man defense against the star player. Loyola took this concept even further and decided to double-team Curry. Now, typically a double-team would consist of one person permanently guarding Curry and the other defenders covering him as well when he enters into their specific zone. It takes a lot of work for the defenders but it is designed to leave the farthest area of court unguarded... the area least likely to have a scoring opportunity at that particular moment. But Loyola's coach simply put two men on Curry and told them to stay with him. Early in the game, Curry was frustrated since he had trouble getting the ball through two defenders, but quickly he realized that this wasn't a match-up zone or a box-and-one but that he was simply being double-teamed.

So, what did the top college player in the nation, most likely the number one draft choice, do? He stood in the corner... literally. He would play hard defense and then, when he team would take possession, he would jog down the court and camp out in the corner, taking his two defenders with him and leaving a 4 on 3 advantage for his other teammates.

For the first time in his career, Curry was held scoreless for an entire game. His team won by 30 points. That is selfless. That is teamwork. That is leadership.


Finishing Strong

Two more weeks of classes this semester! This has been the hardest one I've had since going back to school. Six classes, only two of which I was truly interested in (although one of them has become very interesting), plus the part-time jobs, plus finding time to spend with Kristy, plus getting stuff together to apply to seminary has really been tough. But, it has been good. It has shown me that I can work extremely hard at something, succeed, and go all the way to the end with it. This is a marathon, not a sprint. The little victories along the way help to keep the motivation high, but the race does not end with the little victories, it end with the tape being broken.

Whether or not I am the one who breaks the tape is irrelevant (although it always increases the desire to think about winning), the fact that I will finish is what matters. As long as I can honestly say I didn't hold anything back and I virtually collapse on the other side of the finish line, I will be more than satisfied.

I was on the Track and Field team all four years in high school. I was more there for the field events (specifically high jump... personal best was 6'3" in case you were wondering), but because Madeira (Home of the Mustangs!) was a small school we had to pitch in where we were needed. My senior year I was tapped to be a part of the 3200 meter relay. This is where four people run two laps (800 meters) each, passing a baton after each leg. An 800 is one of the hardest races in track since it is right at the break between a distance race and a sprint. Basically, you are sprinting a long distance... it sucks. But, I have always been sort of competitive so I tried to take it seriously. I was given the third leg to run.

The first meet was a tri-meet where one of the schools was our rival. Turns out, I knew the guy running the third leg for them. We competed against each other in football, basketball, and even (**NERD ALERT**) Latin competitions ("Certamen" if you will). So, I wanted to beat him. Unfortunately, when I was handed the baton, we were in last place by at least a quarter lap. So, I took off. I ran as hard as I could. At the halfway point I had caught the other two runners. By the end of my leg, I had gotten us a quarter of a lap lead. My time was 2:04. I threw up on the infield as soon as I stepped off the track.

Sadly, our anchor was not as "into it" as I was. He showed up wearing high tops for crying out loud! He lost the lead I had gotten and we lost the race. I was pissed, but I also knew I had left everything on that track... and so did my coach.

That is how I want to finish school. That is how I want to finish life. That is when the Father will say, "Well done good and faithful servant."

Finish Strong.



This is why this place even exists in the first place!

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is supposedly built on the spot of the tomb that Joseph of Arimethea owned and gave for Jesus' burial, from which Jesus rose a few days later. During a meditation service, a fight broke out amongst the different Christian monks (Orthodox and Armenian mostly).

"And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one." John 17:11


Complaining, Anger, and Bitterness

I just read a short story by Richard Matheson (author of I am Legend) called "Mad House". He typically does sort of horror / suspense type stories which is why Stephen King credits him with influencing his own writing the most of any other author. The story basically goes:

A man has become increasingly angry over the years to the point that anger and rage are the only emotions he experiences anymore. These emotions have been manifesting over the years through him yelling at his students (he is a professor), berating his wife, and throwing or kicking or hitting objects in his home that don't respond the way he wants. For example, a rug in his home slips under his foot so he kicks it across the room. The pencil tip breaks so he throws it against the wall. You get the idea. Well, his wife has finally decided to leave him.

Meanwhile, a science professor friend of his tries to share a theory that he has come up with. He suggests that the emotions of anger and rage, when constantly expressed, are absorbed by the objects (be they human, animal, or even inanimate) around them. He worries about his friend. He seems to think that his friend is in danger from his own home retaliating against him. He theorizes that the objects in the house will sort of come alive and end up treating Chris (the main character) the way he has been treating them. Well, SPOILER, they do and the house ends up killing him in the end.

The story got me thinking about how much I complain. When people don't meet my expectations or if I feel slighted by someone else, I want to vent or yell or tell my wife or confront them or...
Well, I think complaining, at least in my life, leads to anger, and then to bitterness. I am trying something that I've heard other people have done with some success. I am going to try to avoid complaining for a while. My attempt will be through the New Year (sort of a pre-New Year's resolution), and then I will see if my emotional state is any different.

I'll let you know how it goes... it's probably going to suck! Just kidding :-)


I remember when...

It's weird to think in the moment, "Man, I am actually watching history take place. I am experiencing something that is soon going to be in textbooks and will be study 1,000 years from now or more." There have been a few events like that in my 32 years on this planet. There have also been some minor events that people remember vividly but might not ever be included in a history book.

I remember on November 9th, 1989 when the people of East and West Germany were finally free to pass back and forth because they tore down the Berlin Wall. Heck, I remember movies based on the split within that city (anybody ever seen Anthony Edwards in Gotcha! because it's a horribly great movie).

I remember January 28th, 1986 when the space shuttle, Challenger exploded. We had to watch the news coverage in school (I was 9 years old).

Of course I will never forget the morning of September 11th, 2001. I got up and was on my way to the Young Life office. I got in my car, turned on the radio to what was normally a comedy show. It was eerily somber. They were reporting on a plane crash in New York City. I didn't really get what they were talking about until one of them yelled that another plane had just crashed at the same spot. Needless to say, I didn't do much work that day.

Minor events that I remember and that have made it into pop culture sort of history would be things like Kirk Gibson's home run in game 1 of the 1988 World Series. I remember Kerry Strug's vault at the 1996 Olympic games basically done perfectly on one leg.

Last night was an historic event that I am so glad I got to be a part of. Not that racism is dead in this country or anywhere in the world, but an amazing step was taken last night by one of history's biggest proponents of racially based slavery. We elected an African American as president. I know that this country was sharply divided in this election, and this divide was evident as John McCain tried to graciously concede as well as to remind us all that we are united and that we can and should unite (as he was going to do) behind our new president elect and his supporters began to boo incessantly when the new president and vice-president's names were mentioned.

An amazing thing happened last night, but we have so much more ground to cover and more history to see being made... or to perhaps make it ourselves.


Free Speech

Politics and religion are traditionally the two topics that should not be broached in "polite" conversation. But can they be discussed amongst a group of people who have the ability to respectfully disagree, debate, rationalize, and still treat each other with love? Now, is that type of discussion permitted in public... say a restaurant?

This morning, I had breakfast with my friends Guy and Tim. Typical of our get-togethers (we have breakfast just about every Saturday morning to discuss theology and politics and also because Tim is a professor at UNF who Guy and I are doing a Directed Independent Study in Biblical Greek with), we began to get engrossed into a discussion about the theology of the body and its impact on stewardship, the role of the church in the world, and eschatology. As an aside, I lost 50% hearing in my right ear at a concert in a small bar about 12 years ago and it makes it very difficult for me to make out specific words in a crowd of noise. Because of this, I tend to talk a bit louder in public places (like a restaurant with wood panel walls and no carpeting, thus causing the noises to bounce around rather than be absorbed and making it even more difficult for me to hear). These friends also talk a bit louder so that I can hear and because this restaurant can get a bit loud. Mind you, we do not shout, nor do we argue or toss out inappropriate words, we simply might get excited or might have to talk above the conversation taking place at the next table.

Well, apparently our topic of discussion this morning was too much for our neighboring table to bear. As someone who has some difficulty hearing in public, I can completely respect a request of trying to "keep it down a little," but our neighbor did not utilize such tact. Here was his statement (and I think I am quoting pretty accurately):

"Fellas, it's breakfast time in a public place, and when I can hear your conversation at my table and you are talking about religion and politics and sexuality, then it's time for you to go."

So, instead of saying, "Hey guys, my wife and I are trying to eat breakfast and have our own conversation, but it is tough to hear each other over you. Can you please keep it down a little bit?" To which my reply would have been, "Certainly. Sorry we got a little carried away. We will try to keep it to a dull roar," and maybe our neighbors and us could have had a little laugh about it. Instead, this man told us that our conversation wasn't welcome there and that we should leave! So much for free speech. We politely told him that we were going to continue our conversation and that he was entitled to his opinion. I did try to explain that I had a tough time hearing which is why we might be talking a bit loud, but the man simply responded by saying, "Well, you heard me!"

I wanted to call the man a number of names. I wanted to rip him to shreds by showing how tiny his mind must be to actually think he had any right to limit our topics of discussion. I fully admit that he had every right to politely ask us to talk quietly, but he has no right to tell us that if we are going to discuss certain things that we had to leave. We did try to talk softer because, even though the man a severe deficiency in communication skills, we recognized that we could be more courteous. However, I will not back away from an uncomfortable topic simply because it might ruffle someone's (or my own) feathers. Comfort is the enemy of growth.