One of the more popular lists these days is one named after a bucket. "The Bucket List" started as a catalog of things to do before one "kicks the bucket." However, it has taken on new dimensions. Many college kids create one for their campus experience.
Perhaps you have a list of your own? 100 Things to Eat in San Francisco before you die? Top 10 road races in America and one list I still need to blog about is Pope Francis' 10 Tips for Living a Happy Life. In the meantime, let me follow up with the remaining 20 Things to Give up for Lent with the eye of an athlete and a coach.
- Bitterness – The only person I am hurting by holding on to this is myself. Bitterness is insidious. It eats away at our hearts and can reside there for extended periods of time. And nothing can compromise the notion of sportsmanship and team work like bitterness. Do what you can to let it go.
- Distraction – Life is filled with distractions that will take our eyes off the prize. Mary Oliver offers but three commands in In her poem "Instructions for How to Live a Life." Number one is "Pay attention." It's a given in sports. You have to read the play, focus on your breathing, respond to your opponent. Paying attention is the opposite of distraction; Lent is a good time to give that up!
- Giving up – God never gives up on us. Jimmy V said it best: Don't give up, don't ever give up. And I love Stuart Scott for adding to Valvano's message. He said "When you get too tired to fight, then lay down, and rest, and let somebody else fight for you.” Amen.
- Mediocrity – If you are going to do something, then give it all you got. The late John Wooden said "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” Indeed, there's no time for mediocrity. Do your best, and everyone wins.
- Destructive Speech – Encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching (see Hebrew 10:25). One of my favorite sports to watch at the high school where I teach is boys volleyball. And I know that's because in addition to being great athletes, I love the way they encourage one another after every play. They regroup and affirm. The help one another shake things off; they have to. Destructive speech is to a minimum.
- Busyness – It is a badge of honor to be busy. But that does not always translate to abundance. While playing golf a few weeks ago, a friend noticed how two men were taking their time as they unloaded their equipment from their respective carts. They were talking to those assisting them without rushing. I thought of how often I just run from one place to the next; my busyness prevents me from engaging with those right in front of me...those who are all too often, my neighbor.
- Loneliness – With Jesus I am never alone. He is with me wherever I go. I always look out for that girl on the cross country team that is sitting on the bus alone. On a team, we can still feel lonely. During Lent, keep an eye out for that teammate who might feel isolated or left out.
- Disunity – If two of you agree on earth about anything, it will be done for them by the Heavenly Father (see Matthew 18:19) When "camps" or "cliques" develop in a team, nip it in the bud. Call it to everyone's attention through a team meeting. Lead by saying "it has come to my attention that groups are forming within our team....what can we do about this."
- The Quick Fix – Rarely does true transformation happen overnight. In the movie "Chariots of Fire," the Rev. J. D. Liddell, told his son, the Scottish Olympic runner Eric, Don't compromise. Compromise is the language of the devil. It's no different than a quick fix. Take the necessary time to allow for change.
- Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help. Mother Teresa said: "if you pray don't worry. If you worry, don't pray." As a coach and as an athlete there is so much to worry about! Pray!
- Idolizing – Don’t assign anyone a standard they cannot live up to. It's inevitable in professional sports to idolize and see these men and women as heroes. But I prefer to recall the words of Thomas Merton: "for me to be a saint is to be myself." And his biographer said Merton was "so human, but so holy." Role models and mentors? check. Idols? No so much.
- Resistance to Change – Change is certain. It is not if we will change, but how we will change. I had a conversation with the head football coach at the school where we teach. He said the teams that have won the championships have had to overcome so sort of adversity. If they were resistant to change, they wouldn't be there. Keep that in mind over the course of your own season.
- Pride – Blessed are the humble. All too often, egos come with the territory in athletics. But coaches say "act like you've been there before" for a good reason. Humility is more that gracious. It's impressionable.
- Small View of God – Don’t tell God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big your God is. I like this one as is. Amen.
- Envy – I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. It can be very easy to envy the talents, abilities and success of our teammates, especially if we believe we have worked just as hard. When you feel this creeping in, think green. Cool down and Count your blessings.
- Ungratefulness – You have been blessed in a way greater than you realize. As chronicled in my blog posting "One Hit Away: Something Beautiful for God" be the 10%. Always say "thank you."
- Selfish Ambition – God has a mission for me that is bigger than me. Our athletes wear AMDG on their uniforms. This is a reminder that all we do is for the Greater Glory of God. Not our own.
- Self-Sufficiency – Jesus is my strength. I can do all things through him (see Philippians 4:13) Many athletes live by this motto. I think it's important to have a few passages of Scripture committed to memory. They serve as "tools for the tool box" when we need to think and speak about our faith and offer a prayer. St. Paul's words here help us to realize the real source of our life comes from God.
- Sorrow – Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5b). An athlete I was close to started to cry at the completion of his final high school basketball game; one his team should not have lost. I wondered if his sorrow would prevent him from shaking hands with the victors. He walked away, regrouped and extended his congratulations. That said a lot to me. Sorrow is natural, but remember the joy...and the journey itself.
- My Life – Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25) I wish this wasn't true...but it is. It's tough to give it over to God. But athletes and coaches do tough things everyday. Trust, pray, and love. All very challenging and yet that's a recipe for a good life!
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