Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Let's Do Life Together

I was sitting at my good friend Josh's rehearsal dinner listening to friends and family give toasts to Josh and his future bride. The setting was amazing. A friend of his family had a huge, beautiful piece of farmland with a house that Southern Living would be jealous of. Outside on the lawn, we were eating a delicious southern meal, served family style, while a member of the catering crew made fresh peanut brittle in a huge copper pot. It was a great setting.

Family members and friends took turns offering up encouragement and telling funny stories. One story, in particular, stood out for me that night. Uncle (he called himself Uncle if I'm recalling correctly) stood up and offered up a traditional prayer for the couple. One of the themes he kept repeating was the idea that Josh and Vanessa were going to "do life together" and that we were all going to "do life together" with them.

I don't know if I'm late to the party, maybe it's been going on for longer than I realize, but it seems like in the last couple of years I've heard that term alot. "Do Life Together" It seems like people like to say it a lot, it certainly sounds good.

"Why don't you come down and visit, let's do life together"
"Oh, that was so much fun, I really enjoy getting together, doing life"

It seems to me like many times that I hear the term it's related to hanging out together or spending time together. Which is great, but I think there is definitely more to it.

After the rehearsal dinner, there was a plan that everyone would go over to the barn, where the wedding was to take place, and set up a few tables and chairs, to help get ready for the wedding. It's too long of a story to tell, but Josh, because he is awesome, talked someone into building a barn, from the ground up, for his wedding. There was a little concern about it being done on time during the building process, and we knew that it might not have all the finishing touches, but it seemed like, for the most part, the barn was done.

When we arrived to put up a few tables and chairs, the barn was nowhere near ready. There was red sawdust covering the floor, soaking up the mud that had been tracked in by all of the workers, who were still running electrical wires and completing odd jobs around the building.

A large group of people showed up (including Uncle) to "do life together" and help put up chairs and tables. Mostly, it seemed, people planned on unstacking some chairs, maybe dancing a little, listening to some music, laughing, tossing their hair around, posting some pictures on Instagram #doinglifewithjosh, and then heading home. Well, when everyone looked around and saw what actually needed to be done, slowly but surely the crowd thinned out.

What remained was a very small group of people. We waited for the workers to finish what they were doing, and from about 10:00 pm until 4:00 am, we swept, set up the dance floor, put the stage together for the band, moved building supplies and tools out of the way, and tried to make the barn look like a place for a wedding. We returned the next morning at about 7:30, and worked right up until the wedding started, setting up tables and chairs, hanging curtains, putting out place settings and centerpieces, and making decisions about wedding things that we had no business making decisions on. During this time, Vanessa was completely unaware of what was going on, and Josh was mostly curled up in the fetal position worried that his wedding was going to be a total disaster.

But this, in my opinion, is the definition of "do life together". It's crawling under a stage on a sawdusty floor trying to put something together that you don't know anything about. It's thinking that maybe you'll just sleep in the barn, so you can get up early and get back to work for your friend. It's working without complaining into all hours of the night because you care about someone. It's being there when someone needs you the most.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to toot my horn. And those other people showed up with the intent on helping, but it's probably best that most of them left, because we didn't really know what we were doing, and too many voices and opinions would have made it difficult to get as much done. I'm not implying that they didn't care as much as the people who stayed to help.

The point is, that while life can and does get captured by Instagram, with people smiling and dancing, dressed in their fancy clothes and having a great time, that's not all there is.

Doing Life means getting dirty with people, and staying up late to the point of hallucination to help them. It means losing your job for no apparent reason and having people around to help you through that time. It means getting no sleep because both kids have lost their minds, and you and your wife figure out a way to work through it together. It means searching for solutions to living the life that you desire, amidst all of the challenges life has to offer.

This, to me, is doing life together. It's a beautiful thing, to have people around you willing to go through this stuff with you. And it is extremely rewarding (and essential if you truly care about people) to extend yourself to go through the trials and challenges with your friends and family. Do Life Together

Much Love,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I Used to Think...But Now I Know

I Used To Believe That I Had To Change My Player’s Lives. Now I Know That I Am Just Here To Plant and Nurture Seeds.

When I first started coaching, I had plans to be the next John Wooden. I read a bunch of John Wooden books, learned a bunch of John Wooden quotes, and tried to memorize the pyramid of success, but realized there was too much on there for me to remember, so I just stuck with things like, “be quick, but don’t hurry” and waited for everyone to think I was a coaching genius. But more than the basketball side of things, I decided that I wanted to be like John Wooden in the sense that my players would return, 40 years later, and sit around me at halftime of a nationally televised game on CBS, and tell stories about how I had changed their lives.

There were just a few minor details that I overlooked at the time that conflicted with this future I had created in my mind. First of all, I was working at a small independent school in middle Georgia. Most of our players weren’t going to go on in play in the NBA or college. Many of our players were not even going to go on and finish their high school careers. Also, it had been a few years since CBS had covered our school, so that was going to be a difficult thing to overcome. On top of that, I was the second assistant, which meant that my opinion mattered just slightly above that of our 8th grade waterboy.

But all of those minor details would work themselves out. I didn’t need to waste my time on foolish concerns. I had bigger things to worry about. Like showing my players how much I cared about them no matter what it took. And convincing them that they had never played for a coach like me, and that I was going to form a bond with them that would last forever. And later in life, they would write to me, and let me know that they had named their first son after me, or tell me how much I had changed their life, or ask me to walk them down the aisle on their wedding day.

This mindset continued for a number of years as I found my way as a coach. I continued to work on improving in the areas of player development, in game strategy, and offensive and defensive tactics, but the mindset of being a life changing coach continued to stay with me. It was off and on. It wasn’t like I was constantly going around and scaring all of our players with my intense desire to make them think I was great, but that was certainly bubbling beneath the surface. It was something I had to learn to temper, and to some extent, it is something that I have to still be cognizant of today, though I’m getting better.

In his book, Scary Close, Donald Miller talks about this idea of wanting to be a hero, to save the day, to win people over. To some degree, this is where I found myself (upon reflection) when I first started coaching. I was going to be a BIG DEAL in the lives of our players, and I was going to see to it that it happened. I was going to be the hero.

Needless to say, I’m a bit embarrassed to reflect back on my mindset as a coach during my early years. It wasn’t all the time, but it affected the way I approached the profession, and it affected my ability to fully enjoy what I was doing, which affected my attitude when I came home to my family each day, which was a net negative for everyone. The point is that while this opportunity and responsibility that we have as coaches is a big deal, we have to be careful not to become so engrossed in trying to “make a difference” that we can’t get out of our own way and actually make a difference.

After I realized that I wasn’t going to “fix” anyone, I became much better with my interactions with my players. Now I know that nobody is going to end a workout with me, tell me that it was the greatest experience they have ever had in their basketball lives, and then promise to name their first born after me. I’m more of a seed planter, and plant pruner. As the players that we coach go about their careers, playing for different coaches, listening to their teachers, their pastors, their parents, and other mentors, they are all going to receive that information at different rates. Some of them will understand and value the lessons the minute that they are taught, and others may not grasp the point until years down the road. So along the way, these students and players are having seeds planted, and also having bad habits and negativity pruned, not just by you, but by all of their teachers and coaches.

As coaches, we like to champion the value of role players in our program. Well, I’ve come to believe, that most of the time, we are role players in the lives of our players. We are just another vehicle there to nurture a lesson that has been previously taught, state a nugget of wisdom in a different way that may resonate with a player, or introduce a new concept, that another coach, teacher, or parent may help see to fruition on down the line. Certainly, there may be times that we are able to really change the tides for an individual, but let’s not forget how many people have also invested in that young man or young women along the way as well, that may have contributed to that tipping point. I think it’s important that we are careful not to begin to believe that we are the sole contributors to life changing lessons for our players.

Along those same lines, it’s easy to get frustrated when we feel like we aren’t making the impact we would like to be making with our players. Maybe they aren’t receiving or adopting our lessons like we hope they would. Just remember, it really is a process, and we really are role players in their development. If you really believe in the values you are teaching, I encourage you to keep teaching them. Don’t teach them for affirmation or acceptance from your players. Teach them because they are right, and because you believe that your players need to hear them. You never know when the lessons will hit home. Keep filling your role.

Much Love,

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Me, Jesus, and the CIA

This is not the beginning of a good joke, I'm not the clever...

I have a few friends who work in the FBI and Secret Service, and while I certainly don't know exactly what they do, I've been told enough to know that there are so many things going on behind the scenes that American citizens are unaware of.

There are so many secret plans and hidden agendas, many of them mapped out and designed to serve and protect us, even though we have no idea when they are occurring, why they are being done the way they are, and how they are being executed.

The dots that they are connecting, dealing with international terrorism, homeland security, and protecting our country are not even on our radar. They have information, based on surveillance and intelligence, that we can't even begin to understand. On top of that, they often deal with misinformation, as the same groups from other countries try to feed us false information, in an effort to divert our focus on the things that are most important.

Part of that makes me a little nervous, to know that there are many things happening that I am not aware of, some of them very serious. And part of that makes me comforted, knowing that there are people out there with the tools and information at their disposal that can help guide and direct our country, and keep us safe.

I'm thankful for these people, and the risks they take to keep us safe, and at the same time, recognize that there is some inherent danger related to the fact that human beings have that much power and information at their disposal. Hopefully, there enough people working together on these things, that no one person has too much responsibility in these areas because it is too much for one person to bear.

This, to me, is how Jesus works. He's like a much better, more powerful CIA. He has all this information at his disposal. He has spies, and counter-intelligence agents, and wiretaps, and undercover agents working all throughout our lives. We don't know they are there, and we don't know why they are there, but he does. He is connecting dots for us that we cannot possibly comprehend. He is closing doors and opening them, all for the purpose of moving us along in our purpose. Sometimes the methods may be confusing, nerve racking, or frustrating. We can't understand the what, why, and how of everything, because everything can't be revealed to us, because we can't handle it. it's too much for us.

In the same way that the government is designed so that one person doesn't have too much power or too much information because they can't handle it, I think we ae not meant to go this thing alone. Because of the nature of the stops and starts, and the non-linear path of our journeys, because of the fact that we can lose track if we try and connect the dots on our own, I think Jesus intended us to do this life WITH someone.

We need other people with us to help us dig through all of the information and to help us filter through the misinformation that we are fed as well. We need people to help carry us (or tote us) through the challenging times, when we can't see how the dots are connecting, or the really dark times, when we can't see any dots at all.

I'm not sure that I believe that Jesus has mapped out a specifc plan for my life and that no matter what happens, he will get me to that exact spot. I'm not sue I don't believe it either, I'm just not sure.

But I am certain that he is sovereign and I am certain that he is on my side. I know that he is working for me and not against me. And while I may be confused and uncertain at times about his methods, I have no need to question the posture of his heart. I would not be capable of seeing the whole plan in front of me, all at once, and I am thankful that he knows that, and reveals it to me when I am ready.

So, me, Jesus, and a CIA agent walk into a bar....

Much Love,

Friday, November 18, 2016

Don't Do That Thing

I coached a player a number of years ago who always had some new injury or sickness that she was battling. It felt like once a week that she would come into practice and explain to us her latest challenge. It was rarely something normal, like the flu. Most of the time, it involved three or four steps for her to arrive at her pain. Here is an example, only slightly exaggerated:

Me: Alex, what's going on?

I don't know Coach, whenever I sniff really hard and look to the right with my left eye, I get this throbbing pain in my throat.

Me: Gee Alex, I'm not sure what that could be.

Yeah, it really hurts.

Me: So, it only happens when you sniff really hard?

Yeah, while looking to the right with my left eye.

Me: Okay, I think I would try really hard not to sniff, while looking to the right with your left eye.

Okay, It's going to be tough, but I'll try.

And this happened often with her, or at least it seemed that way.

I get the same thing as I teach elementary students.

Um, Mr. Hendley, I'm not sure what's going on, but when I bend my finger back like this (kid takes his finger and stretches it into unhealthy angles and positions) it really hurts

Me: Gosh I'm really sorry. I think maybe you should try not to bend your finger back like that.

Student: Okay, I'll try.

You may think I'm joking with these examples, but I can assure you, I'm not. And as foolish and obvious as these examples may sound, I think we have some of these same challenges in our lives as well. I read this the other day in Mark Batterson's Book, Wild Goose Chase.

"Our problem is not so much that we don't know what we should do. We know perfectly well, but we just don't want to do it"

I think there are many times in our lives that we know the answer as to what we should do, and maybe even more times when we know the answer to what we should NOT do, and yet, we choose not to listen to what we know.

Like Dwight Schrute said, "Before I do anything, I ask myself, would an idiot do that? And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing."

It's certainly not ALWAYS that easy to decipher, but many times, I believe that it is as simple as not doing that thing.

If your finger hurts when you do that, don't do that.
Regardless of what society says, or you think the Bible says, if spanking incessantly is not working for you and your child, don't do that.
If a particular decision that you are making is consistently leading to a negative outcome...I'm not sure, but maybe you should not do that thing.

I think I sit and ponder sometimes, just long enough to rationalize a bad decision or to connect enough dots to make something sound better than it really is. When in reality, if I would just quickly consider past outcomes, I would have a pretty good idea of whether I should continue or not.

Maybe this is giving power to another individual, who doesn't deserve it.
Maybe for you it is how you are interacting with your spouse, and what that generally leads to.
Maybe it's how you approach your coach, or your players, and what you usually get back in return.

If there is something you are dealing with where you are consistently getting a negative or unpleasant outcome, I would encourage you to think about what role you are playing in that scenario. And if there is something that you are consistently doing, that is leading to your consistently frustrating results...maybe you should consider approaching that thing differently.

Much Love,

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Few Who Choose

 Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu went into the ministry at a young age, and as she finished her training, she decided that her heart was set on building an orphanage. So she approached her superiors and told them that she had three pennies and a dream to build an orphanage.
Her superiors told her that she couldn't build an orphanage with just three pennies. In fact, they said, you can't do anything with three pennies. Agnes smiled, and said, "You are right, but with God and three pennies I can do anything". Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu went on to be one of the greatest beacons of love and service that the world has ever known. We know her today as Mother Theresa.

Whenever I hear stories about people who have come from nothing to achieve greatness, I often explain it away, or justify their success.

"Yeah, but she was blessed by God" , "Yeah, but she was Mother Teresa", "Yeah, but she had THREE pennies" (just kidding)

But that's how it feels sometimes. I will pick apart everything and downplay their story because I think they have some supernatural gift that has led them to their greatness, as if they have been chosen to be successful.

I have this mentor that says:

"Greatness is not for the chosen few, it is for the few who choose"

I think that's pretty neat, and I've also come to believe that it's pretty true.

The people who are great, or who are doing great things, are not there because they have been selected. They are there because they have been willing to make simple decisions (thought not always easy) over and over again that many people aren't willing to make.

(Just to be clear, there isn't really a "there" to get to. It's all a moving target)

Mother Teresa wasn't just great, because she was Mother Teresa. She didn't start as Mother Teresa. In fact, she started with just three pennies and a passion to serve. And she made decisions, daily, that aligned with her pursuit and helped grow the gifts inside of her. One decision built on another, which led to another, which built on another, which led Agnes from "God and three pennies" to becoming Mother Teresa.

Many times, it seems like we take a look at our three pennies, and decide that it's not enough. That we can't do anything significant with what we have. Or, we listen to other people pick apart our blessings, and tell us what we can and can't do with what we have.

Greatness doesn't mean we have to be famous, or remembered by the history books, or play in the NBA. It could mean that we are the best mom or dad we can be, or that we are exceptional in our chosen field, or that we are working to fully maximize our gifts and talents. Maybe it means that we are choosing to pursue growth, and challenges, and we are willing to work to become our best.

For all of us, there are gifts to be nurtured, growth to pursue, and lions to chase. There are reasons, from time to time, why we may not do those things, why we may not choose. But mostly, I think they are excuses. Maybe we are afraid, maybe we are doubtful, maybe we are uncertain. Regardless of those obstacles, I think the truth is emerging for me, that we do have a choice, if we are willing to make it.

Much Love,

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Don't Be A Baby, Or Should You?

The school where I teach has a really neat program called the Ocean Lab. The program allows our students to learn about and explore ocean animals, erosion, weather, and other interesting science topics. 

Last week we took them to the beach to measure wind direction, speed, tides, and temperature. While the leader of the Ocean Lab was engaging our students, I took a minute to look around and take in the scene around me. 

Just down from the boardwalk where we were standing, was a family and their baby. I don't know exactly how old the baby was, but probably somewhere around one year. The two parents were sitting and talking, and while they were giving the baby some attention, they weren't 100% focused on the baby. 

They baby was laying on his stomach on a towel, and trying over and over and over again to lift his head up and keep it up. It was interesting to watch. The parents weren't cheering him on, or helping lift him up halfway, he was just absolutely struggling with lifting his head up. He would get it up a little, and then fall back down, then get it up a little and fall back down. Sometimes, the rest of his body would move, but not his head, and you could tell he was REALLY struggling on those attempts. But he would rest a second, and then start again. 

In a short while, his strength and understanding will be built up, after many, many reps of effort and "failure" and he will be able to lift his head up on his own. 


After that he will have to learn how to crawl so he can move about in his home. There will be many times when he can't go far because he gets tired, or off balance, or because his arms and legs haven't yet figured out how to work together. So he will have to stop, and start, and take a break, and try again. 

After he can crawl, he eventually tries to stand, and then one day walk. Again, his legs will have to build up strength, he will have to learn to balance, and he will experience many falls, and bumps. It must be very frustrating for a child that young to stop and start so many times. To make progress one day and then struggle the next to stand up at all. 

And babies, they have to learn EVERYTHING. And important stuff, like lifting your head up, and walking, and eating. And they mess up a lot along the way. They fall down a lot, the spill stuff, they get hurt, but they NEVER QUIT. 

Imagine if a baby got so frustrated with not being able to walk that they just quit trying, because it was hard, and because they didn't see success right away. Imagine if they were content to just lay on their stomach, or their back, and never worked to lift their head up to see the world around them. 

I wonder when we learn to quit. Because we were all babies at some point, and we had some powerful resilience at that age. With a little bit of help, but a serious amount of determination, we went from a red faced, crying, pooping baby, to someone who could walk, talk, run, eat, and speak for themselves. It is crazy sometimes for me and my wife when we look at our kids, and marvel at how far they have come from birth until now. It is hard to imagine that they were once small enough to hold in one hand, and that they were able to go from a floating little jelly bean to where they are now. 

And then, in some instances, we stop trying to tackle  the seemingly insurmountable odds. We start quitting when things got hard. We start to be satisfied with laying on the ground and just watching everything around us, rather than being actively involved. When we failed a couple of times, we quit getting back up. We get more frustrated with the starts and stops, and began stopping on the stops. We quit celebrating our small victories with the same vigor and excitement that we celebrate our first steps. We start listening to ourselves, instead of the positive encouragement that we should be SPEAKING to ourselves.

Not always, mind you, and not everyone, but that unshakable determination lessens. Maybe there is some practical reason. Maybe there is something about responsibility, and more is at risk, and we have a greater understanding, or the stakes are higher. 


But maybe we need to be more like a baby. Maybe we need to quit focusing on all the stops and focus on the starts. Maybe we need to lift our head up, again and again and again, and when we get tired, take a rest, and then start trying again. I don't know when the quitting begins, or where it comes from. But I do think there are plenty of times in our adult lives that we need to be more like a baby, if we want to do the things that matter most to us.

Much Love,

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

People Are Not Who They Say They Are

A few years ago, while going through a frustrating situation with my boss, I sought out my dad for some advice. After speaking with him for a little while, he dropped this gem on me: "You know, usually, people are not who they say they are"

One of my biggest frustrations at the time was that coaches, including my boss, would quote John Wooden in public, and talk about how much they valued character on Twitter, and then go and do the exact opposite as they interacted with their players and led their programs. My boss at the time would talk about doing things differently on the court, thinking outside the box, and coming up with solutions, but would always revert back to the things she had always done whenever the pressure hit.

The point that I took away from my dad, was that people aren't who they say they are, people are who they are. Their words and who they HOPE to be doesn't define them, but rather, what they actually DO consistently tells the world who they really are. People may be able to fool us at the beginning, and sometimes, even for a long period of time. But ultimately, all of the quotes and misdirections (intentional or not) will be revealed by the actions of the individual on a consistent basis.

Scripture says, "...By their fruit you will recognize them..." What are they producing matters more than what they are exclaiming.

I'd also like to offer another perspective on this. I agree, that people are usually not who they say they are. In short, THEIR WORDS ARE GREATER THAN THEIR ACTIONS.

And if this is the case, then I believe this applies to us as well, but not always in the same ways as mentioned above. Many times, we have to be sure that our actions align with our words, and make certain that we are not merely talking about who we want to be, but actually being who it is we want to be.

There is another side of the coin, that can be just as damaging, maybe even more so. There are many times, where I believe we find ourselves saying things about us that are untrue, where our ACTIONS ARE GREATER THAN OUR WORDS.

I'm actually a firm believer in this in principle, meaning, I think we should DO more than we SAY, and that we don't necessarily need to talk about the good that we are doing.

However, this becomes a problem when we are living, impacting, and serving in one way, and all the while TELLING OURSELVES something entirely different. It's one thing to lie to the world and ourselves and say that we are great when in fact we are not. But it can be equally as damaging to lie to the world and ourselves and say that we are nothing, or that we are less than, or that we are not adding value, when in fact we are.

For many people, we are not who we say we are, because we are constantly telling ourselves that we aren't smart enough, or strong enough, or good enough, or a good mom, or friend, or coach, or ENOUGH. All the while, the people around us are better because of your presence. They are thankful to have you in their lives, complimenting the work that you do, and better off because of you.

For one reason or another, so often we brush that aside and continue to tell ourselves one thing, while our actions and the fruit that we are bearing say something entirely different. For some reason, some people, feel the need to put themselves down, and somehow supress their gifts and greatness, for fear of success, perceived pride, or an inability to accept that they are doing good things.

I don't believe that if you quote John Wooden and then go about your day as a lazy, uninvested, and low character coach, that you will eventually develop into John Wooden, simply because you read a book and posted something on Twitter.

However, I do believe that the things that we say repeatedly to ourselves can shape us. And despite the good fruit that you may be producing, if you continue to tell yourself that you are something less than you are, you may wake up one day and find that it is true. It is dangerously possible to talk ourselves into believing these falsehoods. Suddenly, you aren't the teacher that you are capable of being because you have told yourself that you are no good. After beating yourself up every day for not being a good enough mom, you start to feel like you aren't a good enough mom, and this reflects in your interactions with your children.

My encouragement is, don't lie to yourself. Ask some people that you know and trust to give you an honest answer on what it is that makes you uniquely you. Ask them to tell you what they think your gifts are, and what you bring to the table that is good for this world. And THEN, listen to them, believe them, and don't brush it off.

Many times we are not who we say we are, we are much, much more.

Much Love,