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When life throws you change-ups

Routine, are you friend or foe?

How I do love to know what to do and when to do it. That feeling of confidence when, like clockwork, this ticks so that tocks. The alarm goes off at 5:45. The morning coffee. The paper. The blog post. The conference call. The lunch hour. The 5:00 rush hour (okay that’s getting earlier). The dinner, the news, the emails, the…regularity. The familiar is so comfortable, so reassuring, so bland.

I like it. I thrive in bland. It works. I know what to expect, so I do it. And so, rolled back and forth on the waves of life, I am cradled in calm. I drift off; my senses dulled by the back and forth. Forth and back. Over and under. Round and round. What a friend we have in rhythm.

Is it really friend? What if it’s wrong, or ineffective, or dulling, or blinding, or unhealthy? Would we know? It’s so familiar, so calming, so regular, and feels so right. We may not even notice that it’s rolling us away from where we want to go or getting us stuck in a muddy rut we ourselves have made.

Not unless we change things up. And change is hard because disrupting motion, slowing momentum, or slamming on the breaks take a lot of force. Especially when new direction is still pretty hazy. Familiarity has built momentum, and we’ve got a track record after all. Could what we have been doing for so long really be wrong? Is changing it worth all the effort its gonna take to stop and re-start?

This is what I’m wondering when the visiting coach comes to the field and says to me, “Watch this; they’re gonna hate me.” Then he steps onto the field and says, “Now we play only with the left foot.”

Only with the left? Hmm. This is going to be interesting. These girls are strong players. They’ve played many seasons and have a lot of natural ability. But there are no natural left footers out there. What will they do now?

I watch the game change. The pace does not slow, but the players step up. Knowing they may not play it with their right foot, their body reacts differently, automatically. They turn the other way, open up the other direction, run at a new angle. The game has become new simply by changing up the rules. Not only did their body adapt to a new challenge but their mind got into the act as well. A new stimulus invited new thinking. That felt good, and they saw themselves newly capable. Instead of hating it, they liked it.

What if disruption of routine is necessary to use all our tools? What if changing it up is part of the plan?

Yes, as babes, patterns were what we needed for understanding and differentiating ourselves from the rest of the world. Perhaps as we grow older, dynamism and disruption is necessary. Jarring our patterns is what’s needed to head us aright.

Then Mrs. Reed, my piano teacher was absolutely spot-on when she tut-tutted about that passage I kept playing with improper rhythm over and over again. “Play it all wrong” she told me, “The worse, the better. ” Sure enough, the disruption was just what I needed to get it right.

Could it be that our insistence on doing it our way is exactly what we don’t need? That the minor correction requires complete disruption. Can we trust that if we shake things up they’ll land just as they should?

Can I have your autograph?

I have been walking among giants this week. Literally.

Just shouldered past Michelle Akers, FIFA female player of the century.Michelle Akers

There goes Amanda Cromwell, had coach of the 2014 NCAA national women’s soccer champions. Someone just shouted “Hey, Anson,” and I turned to see the legendary UNC Women’s coach walking behind me. Anson Dorrance

Outside the exhibit hall I shuffle past a young woman posing for a photo with US National team legend, Kristine Lilly. Kristine Lilly

I am surrounded by fame. The funny thing is, I don’t have the urge to run and get its autograph. In fact, I keep my distance. Here, at the national soccer coaching convention, everyone knows who these people are, but they’re revered for their contributions, not just their accomplishments. People follow them, but from a respectful distance.

What is it that compels us to swarm famous people to get their autograph? We want “our moment” with them and we want to prove that it happened. So we can show people that greatness paused to attend to us. We were right there with them. Perhaps we want to suspend that moment in time, hold onto it longer, remind ourselves that it happened.

Somehow this has me thinking of James, John and especially, poor Peter, the disciples invited into the moment we call “transfiguration.” When an illuminated Jesus met up with pals Moses and Elijah on a mountaintop Peter, dumb-founded but ever action-oriented, offers to build dwellings for the three. Why not help them get cozy and stay a while?

Peter did what we do when dazzled by the brilliance of the moment in the presence of magnificence, we act stupid. We can’t help it; our brain takes a break and leaves us fumbling for words.

Which has me wondering if, now knowing that I can resist the urge to accost celebrities in the halls of the convention, I could apply my new found discipline if Jesus strolled my way. Am I over that need to prove that I met him by trying to suspend the moment? Would I ask for an autograph? I sure hope not. I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t be giving them out, but still. So what would I do?

Well, the last day of the convention, I couldn’t help myself. As I exit my session I see Tony DiCicco, head coach of the 99ers, the women’s world cup winners that inspired millions of girls onto soccer pitches all over the country, walking down the main hallway. He’s dressed in suit and tie, probably headed to teach a lecture session. No one else is with him, and he doesn’t seem hurried, so I did it. I crossed the main hall, and he stopped and looked at me.

He was smaller than I thought. Fit and handsome, but aged as I am. I touched his arm. “Thank you,” I told him, “Catch Them Being Good (his book about the women he coached to a world cup championship in 1999) has inspired everything I do.” It has.

He smiled, nodded his thanks, and went on his way. Humble man, that one. Huge legacy. Not really suited for fame. More for followers.

If I met Jesus, perhaps that would be a reasonable strategy: touch his arm and say, “Thank you. The Bible (that book about living a victorious life) has inspired everything I do.” It has.

Perhaps He’d smile His acknowledgement and go on His way. Humble man. Huge legacy. Not really suited for fame, more for followers.

I wonder if people ask for His autograph.

Golfers…is it hazard, boundary or OB?

Some games have foul lines. On or inside, the ball is in play. (baseball)

Some games have touch lines. On or inside, the ball is live. (soccer)

The ruling is made by an official with regard to the ball and not the player. Unless you’re playing pick up ball, where the loudest and most authoritative kid usually prevails.

Out of bounds stakeBut golf is different. Golfers contend with two kinds of lines: boundaries and hazards. Hit it out of bounds and all is lost – stroke, distance, plus penalty – although you might be able to rescue your golf ball. But hazards you can play out of, if you dare.

They pose an interesting challenge:

  • is it safe?
  • is it wise?
  • is it fair?

Golfers regularly navigate hazardous territory. Errant golfers more than the rest. We trudge through long, bug-infested, reptile-inhabited grasses, foraging for our ball. If we find it, we’re gonna try and play it. Even if this is unwise or the shot is low probability. Without grounding our club, we’re going to blast it out of the muddy water, drive it through the reeds, and sail it up and onto the green. So what if our shoes, socks and outerwear are decorated with goose poop. We got it out!

I have enjoyed watching players at the Junior PGA Championship this week.

8 fairway, from the tall grass

8 fairway, from the tall grass

They have me reminiscing about my heyday, which bears little resemblance to the way these kids play. Nearly always, they hit the fairway. It gets more interesting when they land in a hazard. Then they must elect whether to play it or take a drop.

Dropping it is safe, but it costs you a stroke. Playing it is risky, but it doesn’t. In the hazard, they decide. I love this moment for these kids (score and outcome aside). It offers them something our culture rarely does – a gray moment all their own.

So much for us is black and white and safe all over. Fair or foul. In or out. Rulings move the game along. But what of stepping over the barrier and into the hazard? What of stepping through difference to investigate options? What of stepping beyond comfort to engage whoever and whatever we find there?

Today I read this from inward/outward:

Breaking down the barriers between the givers and the receivers of aid, between those who have and those who have not, is an essential expression of the solidarity that liberates the privileged from their blindness and the marginalized from their invisibility. ~ Theodore W. Jennings, in  

Trump NationalHave we mistaken the hazard markers for out of bounds stakes? We, the “haves,” who know that OB stakes are white and hazard markers are red, are not meant to be blind to color but to see all of life in its shades. It’s so very like God to use a gray zone to sharpen our vision:

  • is it safe?

  • is it wise?

  • is it fair?

Those, we’re meant to distinguish. Out of bounds? nope. Hazardous? perhaps. Worth it?

Some boundaries will always be worth crossing


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