Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Have you ever seen a life change? I mean TRANSFORMED....from the inside out. Yes, I know that God changes people everyday. Not everyone sees or experiences it, however, because we are usually too wrapped up in our own selfishness. Over the last few months I have seen a life broken and then picked up to be transformed by our Maker. Amazing. And I would like to share this story with you...
First, let me tell you that this person gave me permission to share part of her story. We are going to call her "Angel." Not her real name but I stole it from a book I recently read, so just roll with it. I am sharing her story with you because of what God has taught me through her. But more on that later.
Angel was like most of us...broken, confused, and searching. The only problem was, she thought she had it figured out. She thought she was content with "everything in moderation," giving parts of her life to God, but keeping the rest for herself. It's often hard for us to see that when we keep things from God we are limiting Him. We are telling Him, "Sorry, this is too big for you...I got this." This allows us to justify things that we know are wrong. It ultimately pushes us further and further away until we aren't sure where we are or where we came from.
Well, that's what happened to Angel. She was tearing herself apart...making a mess of who she was created to be. She found herself so far from God that she couldn't even recognize her own face in the mirror...all she saw was darkness. It seemed as if life had lost meaning and she was trying to fill the void. With what? A lifestyle that was destructive, unfulfilled, and willing to do anything. Anything other than God. Pick whatever you want, though, we all do it. I look at myself and I see her in me. The brokenness manifests itself differently in my life than in hers...but it's all the same, for all of us. It's ironic that the only thing that can and will save us is the very thing we refuse to run to. Instead, we run away. Actually, it's not ironic. It's SELFISH.
Angel is a close friend of mine and I was watching this destruction happen. I was watching but couldn't do anything about it. But I prayed that God would bring her to her knees and give her no where else to turn but to Him. There were times when I wanted to give up on her so badly. But I didn't because I couldn't. I couldn't because of how God has changed my life. I couldn't because, as I mentioned before, I saw myself in her. He didn't give up on me and He wasn't allowing me to give up on her because He wanted to use me to be the tiny light in the darkness she found herself in. But the thicker the darkness...the brighter the light can shine.
I have never seen a prayer answered like this before. Rock-bottom is where she found herself. Literally, lost and alone. But who was there? The only One who will ever be there...God.
I wish I were an eloquent writer that could describe the life-change I have seen in her since then. But I can't. She went from lost child to Beloved Daughter. All I can say is that she is a new person. New. Transformed. Forgiven. Redeemed. Loved.
I am not kidding when I say I want to cry every time I see her. Why? Because God showed me how much HE LOVES US through her. I know people talk about "God's Love" all the time but I had gotten to the point where I was like, "What the crap does that even mean? I don't feel that."
If ever there were doubt in my mind, it is no more. Jesus tells us, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Well I BELIEVE and now I have SEEN! How can we not love a God who loves us like that. Who loves us so much that He is willing to SAVE US FROM OURSELVES?
Angel, like myself and many others, has been transformed from the inside out. Her perspective has changed and she is starting to see the world as Jesus does. She looks back and regrets much but also understands that she can now allow herself to be used as a light to others...and she's already shining brightly.
Life is about God and about people. It's easy to get lost in this world of deception...but that's why He gives us each other. I think I need to seriously reevaluate how I treat everyone that crosses my path...did I love them even though they can do nothing for me? Angel's path has crossed mine quite a few times...and now we're finally on the same one. I learned that it's mostly about patience and grace with each other. Not from ourselves...but from seeking God and letting Him work through us.
I thought I may have lost a friend...but now I have a new sista :)
"We are His portion and He is our prize,
DRAWN TO REDEMPTION BY THE GRACE IN HIS EYES..."
- How He Loves, John Mark McMillan
Thursday, November 13, 2008
It's time to speak. It's time to take action. It's time to become an ABOLITIONIST.
2 children are sold every minute.
1.2 million children are trafficked annually.
sex-trafficking is a $32billion business.
27 MILLION people are currently enslaved...which is more than double the number of Africans enslaved during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The trafficking and rape of children for profit is one of the darkest stories on the planet. This physical, mental, and emotional trauma leaves children broken and scarred for life.
I think it would be awesome if we got over ourselves and started to take a look around at what's happening to our world. Here, democrats and republicans are at each other's throats about "life" and "choice." But what if we got to the root of the actual problem? What if we raised awareness and attempted to put a stop to this injustice? What if we turned off all those red lights? (A "red-light district" is a place where the sex industry flourishes...the red lights are where the brothels are located. In some places, all the lights seem to be red.)
There is a much bigger problem here. It's the problem that Jesus came to fix. It's the problem that only He can fix, but it's up to us to be His hands and feet in our short time on this earth. The problem is in our hearts. It's the broken mess we've all made of ourselves....which leads to the sickening reality of the sex-trafficking industry.
In a world that is pushing itself more and more each day into a place of loneliness and destruction....I say pro-ALIVE.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul writes, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity."
This verse has been on my mind since becoming the coach of this U10 team for one reason- the parents. Most of the parents were awesome and very supportive, but there were one or two that were very resistant and made me feel very discouraged. These few thought that I didn't know what I was doing and that they could walk all over me, just because I am a new, young coach. Most of the time, I had to ignore the things they were saying and I had to be more mature.
It's hard to get people, especially parents, to understand my coaching philosophy, even after explaining it. I feel like it goes against the way that many coaches choose to coach. I don't believe in screaming at my players and making them play out of fear of failure; or getting angry about mistakes; or becoming overly-obsessed with winning. I believe in peace instead of anger; gentleness instead of yelling; unity instead of selfishness; encouragement instead of pressure; hard work instead of individual glory; self-control instead of recklessness; learning instead of 'getting by'; patience instead of frustration.
Often times, my patience and encouragement and teaching was not accepted, probably mostly due to the fact that we weren't winning. And, that's the most important thing, right? Nope. But we are all seeing the world through different eyes so it's hard to relate sometimes. One parent decided to take things into his own hands and I had to kick him out of a practice. Yes, you read that correctly. I couldn't believe it either. Absolutely ridiculous.
Going back to what Paul said; I am young so it's hard to be the leader and enforce things, as a coach, while trying to still have respect for those older than me. I found MYSELF having to set the example. This is cheesy but, I am trying to see the world as God does. That's what we are called to do. I need to continually remind myself that most people are not trying to do this and that they do not understand why I am trying to do it. It's hard to tell parents, "well, I'm just going to try and coach the way I think Jesus would." Yeah, right. But I'm trying to be patient and, despite the discouragement, continue to coach with the vision that I have. Building players up, teaching them, and setting an example so that they are learning more than just how to be better soccer players.
I'm not trying to win the freaking World Cup. I'm trying to teach them to have an eternal perspective and teach them things that will help them to become better people: honesty, trust, unity, tenacity, determination, perseverance, leadership, discipline, competitiveness, passion. These things will then all be reflected in the way they play soccer.
So....how do I explain this to people?
The truth is, I can't. It might not be successful through the world's eyes...but I don't want the eyes of all the people just living life; I want the eyes of the One that gives life. I can only continue to 'live it' and 'coach it,' and, as Paul goes on to say, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:16).
Friday, October 3, 2008
In Revelation 19:11-21, the writer talks about a "...white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True." (v. 11). He goes on to say "The ARMIES OF HEAVEN were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean." (v. 14). The passage goes on to describe how this Rider destroys the "beasts" and "false prophets."
The first time I read this passage, it kinda lifted a weight off my shoulders. I think the first thing we need to realize is that THIS IS NOT OUR BATTLE. I think it's our job to do our part to provide love rather than hate but, ultimately, we are God's instruments here on earth. He is the supreme orchestrator.
Another passage that I stumbled upon, while getting frustrated about trying to change the world, haha, is Revelation 22:1-6. It paints the most beautiful picture of Heaven. "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city" (v. 1). The WATER OF LIFE. Ahhhh....refreshing, isn't it? I like to think of this beautiful, radiant-blue river, flowing through the center of all the destruction and pain in our world. It might only be a tiny stream right now but, eventually, it will flood and wash over everything. When this happens, "There will be no more night" (v. 5).
That just pumps me up! Instead of getting frustrated, I read this and realized that THIS IS NOT IT. There is more to come. As William P. Young writes in The Shack, "This life is only the anteroom of a greater reality to come. No one reaches their potential in your world. It's only preparation for what God had in mind along the way."
Friday, September 26, 2008
The question of "what am I going to do with my life?" is always lurking in the back of my brain. I know very well that I shouldn't be worried. But some important life-decisions need to be made soon. Let's just say I'm concerned, not worried. Very concerned :)
On top of all these life-changes that will be happening in the next year, something is missing. I knew this was coming. I also knew I couldn't be prepared, I just have to deal with it...
Last week. Friday night. Sitting in the stands at the UK women's soccer game. Watching the team walk across the field, exhausted, heads hanging in despair (because of tying a game they should have won). "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen was playing on the speakers, (this song is played after every single home game and I can't get it out of my head). And that's when it finally hit me. Ten yards of green space and a fence is the closest I would ever get to being a college soccer player again.
I felt kinda sick to my stomach. This is what's missing. Something that I have been doing since I could walk. No wonder I'm so confused. It seems so stupid: kicking a round ball into a goal. But there's just something about it I guess.
I realize how ridiculous I sound right now. Give it up...right? Nope. If I were to go back in time and tell the 18 year old Kelsey that I was going to stop playing soccer at age 22, she would be freaking pissed. 'Why would you ever want to stop playing?' she would say. Great question, indeed. I miss it. I love it. I want to play again. And I will :)
"Sky of blackness and sorrow...Sky of love, sky of tears...Sky of glory and sadness...Sky of mercy, sky of fear...Sky of memory and shadow...Your burnin' wind fills my arms tonight...Sky of longing and emptiness...Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life...Come on up for the rising...Come on up, lay your hands in mine...Come on up for the rising...Come on up for the rising tonight..."
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Life-changing, for real.
A few nights a week, a bunch of us just sit out on that porch, people watching, talking , and strumming guitars. We often get into deep, meaningful conversations about Jesus and about life :) It has become one of my favorite places in Lexington. It has actually made me realize how much I am going to miss this place when I leave.
I know people say this all the time, but four years have gone by so incredibly fast. I am definitely not the same person. It's funny to think of who I was back then...an 18 year old coming to a new and unfamiliar place; A student that had to figure out how to balance classes and homework without driving myself crazy; A soccer player stepping into a program that would push me beyond my mental and physical limits; A girl meeting teammates that have become my best friends and family; Just a person searching for more.
And now...I bleed BLUE; I am 22 years old and Lexington has become home; I am 4 classes (which don't stress me out anymore) and less than a semester away from graduating; I am a retired college athlete that knows what it takes and misses the uniform; I am no longer part of a team but the current and past players are my family for life; I am still just a person but, somewhere between the soccer and school and friends, I have found what it means to be alive.
So I sit on this amazing porch thinking about all this stuff. It makes me want to cry a little bit. But then I look around at the homeless person digging through the trash, and the people going out, and the cars going by. And then I look even closer at the people I'm sitting with. Some faces that I've known for 4 years, and others for only less than a year. These are the people that have gone through arguably the most challenging four years of life with me, and I with them. As my roomie roasts me a marshmallow over the tiny candle flame, I realize how much I love life and how much I appreciate the people God has put in mine.
I would like to travel back in time, as I am now, to ask that naive 18 year old 'me' what she thinks of who I have become now. There is still much growing/learning/changing to be done and I want the person that I have become now to be proud of the person I am yet to be, years from now.
It hasn't been easy. It never is, right? There are some things I regret but, mostly, I look back and smile. It's just another season of life. Stepping out of the house and onto the porch. Eventually I have to step off that porch and find a new path. There are so many paths and it's a bit confusing. So, for now, I think I will stay right here on the porch.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I tend to get really distracted and caught up in all the craziness going on around me. I am always going a hundred miles an hour. I think this can be a good thing. But it can also be a very bad thing when the business starts to get in the way of things that matter. I like how Anthony DeMello explains it in The Way to Love, " Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval. they hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company, to send your spirits soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead. You live by their norms, conform to their standards, seek their company, desire their love, dread their ridicule, long for their applause, meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you; you are terrified to go against the fashion in the way you dress or speak or act or even think. And observe how even when you control them you depend on them and are enslaved by them. People have become so much a part of your being that you cannot even imagine living a life that is unaffected or uncontrolled by them."
I have an imaginary box on my desk. Inside this box I have placed God. Or at least God in the way I like to think of him: I can take Him with me when I choose or leave Him sitting there when I would rather He not be involved. Because of the standards and norms I have learned from my society, I consciously or unconsciously know when and where it is 'safe' to take Him out of this box.
During this road trip I think I finally realized that it is time to take God out of this box. Although, I know that He was never in it to begin with, it's just something my own control-craving human nature has created in order to make myself feel secure.
In the book Through Painted Deserts, Donald Miller says (of his own road trip), "I've learned, too, that I don't really know very much about anything. I mean, I used to have all these theories about life. I thought I had everbody figured out, even God, but I don't. I think the woods, being away from all the clingy soot of commercialism, have taught me life is enormous, and I am very tiny in the middle of it...And yet the chemicals in my brain that make me feel beauty when I look up at the stars, when I watch the sunset, indicate I must be here for a reason."
I first thought about my 'nothingness' when we hit Utah. Wow. That's pretty much the only way to describe it. Hours and hours of the most beautiful rust-striped mountains. Zero civilization, except for us and the few cars that would pass and do a double-take to witness the insane amount of stuff we had packed into the tiny car. For a while I actually had myself convinced that I wanted to move out there into a little shack for the rest of my life. How peaceful that would be. But then I realized that I love being around people...dang it. :) And then came Colorado and Nebraska. We drove through the mountains and along the Colorado River for a while. That was great, but what I liked even more was 'the cloud.' There was this huge storm cloud right in front of us, almost like we were driving into it but could never actually get to it. So, for a good 5 hours we drove at this cloud and from it we watched lightening bolts light up the sky as it began to get darker and darker.
So I guess I finally had a chance to breathe. To get away from the people, away from the noise, and away from control. God is much cooler when I don't condense Him into a God of structure. When I realize how small I am and how big He is I also start to see how alive He is...in everything around me and in me. He is in the desert sand of Nevada and in the midst of Sin City. He is in the mountains of Utah. He is in the rivers of Colorado and the clouds of Nebraska. He is in the very world He created but, even more importantly, He is IN ME. Not in the box...IN US.
I like to think I have it all figured out and understood but God, much like the ever-changing scenery of my road trip, comes in many forms. There is always more. Which is why I know He is not out there but inside of me; it is something that can be experienced but not understood.
I know there is more to life than what we have created it to be. Our illusion is beginning to seem like reality. Sometimes it may only take a spontaneous road trip. For others, it may take more because of the deepness with which we believe the lies surrounding us.
It's time to get away from the noise and unattainable standards.
It's time to open the box and listen. Go.
"There is a serenity in life, after all, and once a withdrawl is felt at having left the lies behind, a SOUL BEGINS TO FEEL AT HOME in its own skin." -Donald Miller
Sunday, August 3, 2008
During the past few months I have had some of the most real, honest conversations. People just can't take it anymore...all this "make up." You know? Everybody does it, to some extent. Putting up walls and putting on fake smiles so that, to the outside world, everything looks great. Afraid to be vulnerable because of wounds that have been reopened one too many times. As one friend put it, "there has to be more to life!" I say...indeed, there is.
It's so easy to become numb to our problems and to the world, trying to hide from all the brokenness. Which is one quality that puts me on edge...APATHY. It could be one of the most dangerous attitudes. When you don't care you don't feel. And when you don't feel you aren't alive...you are just living. Apathy is also the easy road. Shutting off our emotions is just a way of putting up walls so that we don't get hurt. It allows us to get through life...lifelessly. Like in the song Runaway Train by Soul Asylum..."Can you help me remember how to smile? Make it somehow all seem worthwhile? How on earth did I get so jaded? Life's mystery seems so faded..."
Honesty is scary but, you want to know what the best thing about honesty is? It keeps us ALIVE. I'm not talking about breathing lungs and a beating heart. I'm talking about giving meaning to life. When we are real with ourselves and with each other there is no room for "fakeness." When all our crap is out on the table it allows us to deal with it. Not alone...but with each other. Which also brings us closer to the people around us. We weren't put on this earth to 'figure it out' all alone. Amazingly, a lot of us are going through the same stuff. We all have a little bit of wisdom that we can share to help each other learn and change and grow.
It's OK to talk about stuff and ask the tough questions. I think our society is afraid of this because it allows others to see us as we really are. If we take off all the masks everyone can see everyone else's ugliness. I wish we would embrace our brokenness. It might be painful at times but, in the end, so much more real and joyful.
As Henri Nouwen, author of 'Life of the Beloved,' explains it, ""My own experience with anguish has been that facing it and living it through is the way to healing. But I cannot do that on my own. I need someone to keep me standing in it, to assure me that there is PEACE beyond the anguish, LIFE beyond death, and LOVE beyond fear. But I know now, at least, that attempting to avoid, repress, or escape the pain is like cutting off a limb that could be healed with proper attention. The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it. The great secret of the spiritual life, the life of the Beloved sons/daughters of God, is that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity."
So...suffering leads to joy. It allows us to realize, not only that we are broken, but that there is more to life. Much more, indeed. Jesus didn't come just to tell us about heaven. He came to show us how to LIVE. How to be ALIVE...NOW.
We are all broken and this world is dying. There is another path. The wounds can be healed. Be honest with yourself. Follow the light. It's scary but you'll find that, when you reach that light, you will never look back. It will soon be frightening to imagine life without this light. What this world needs is broken people who have COME ALIVE...
"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." -John 1:4-5
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
My dad is also a soccer coach. I was just asking him about this past season and what he focused on. We talked about a bunch of stuff and he gave me a lot of good coaching 'gems' (as he likes to call them, haha)...just things he has learned over the years. We both agreed that EVERY SINGLE DAY that we coach we learn something new.
The one thing that we talked about that, I would say, is the single most important thing in creating a 'successful' team is getting them to BELIEVE in what I am trying to do. In order for this to happen, I need to believe in what I'm trying to do.
I started coaching a U16 team last spring. After the first tryout, I didn't want to do it. I tried to quit, haha, but the club owner wouldn't let me. I didn't think I could do it. I didn't believe. This, clearly, was not a good attitude. How can I expect my team to follow if I don't even know where I'm going? Someone recently told me, "You must let your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no. TRUST YOURSELF." (Now, I eventually had more confidence in what I was doing as the season went on- so I wasn't quite this drastically unsure of myself).
Let me first talk about my version of 'success.' A lot of coaches just want to win. Obviously, that's the ultimate goal but I believe that there are more important things. I don't talk to my teams about winning, (ok, maybe I did a few times haha, but it won't happen again). I talk to them about hard work. I told them about a hundred times this season that "nothing replaces hard work." Walking off the field- whether its practice or a game- with absolutely nothing left because you gave 100% effort. THAT is my version of success. I set an impossibly high standard of this success knowing full-well that they will never achieve it. Why? Because you can always work harder, so it's never ending. But I do this in order to push them so that they have to dig deeper than they even thought possible. Success is not walking off the field with a win...success is walking off the field empty, because you left it all out there.
Ok...so how do I get my teams to do this? How do I get them to believe in me and what I'm trying to do?
They don't have to like me...they just have to respect me. It's my job to push them mentally, emotionally, and physically...so much that it's going to be painful at times. They need to be challenged like this at each and every practice so that when they get to the games, its almost easy. While challenging them in this way, I also want to be giving them confidence and encouragement. I need to get them to be passionate, intense, and competitive in a way that is loving, compassionate, and respectful. I think John Wooden put it best, "The greatest strength is in gentleness." Unfortunately, this balance is a lot easier said than done. I'm only human and sports bring out emotions like anger and pride, so it's hard to be patient and understanding. But it's also necessary. When you treat people in a challenging yet respectful way, they start to respond and trust and follow your lead.
Now, I obviously want them to believe in me. This past season I found that their belief in me was initiated in my belief in them. It was amazing what happened just because I BELIEVED IN THEM.
Winning is how the world defines success. I define success with my heart: Did we give it everything we could? How can we get better? I can teach my teams all the skills and all the tactics there are to teach. But with a little patience and trust and confidence and BELIEF in those I'm leading...they start to follow.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I now appreciate PB&J in a whole new way because I ate it every single day during my 3-week trip to Los Angeles. I had the privilege of enjoying this meal for 21 days with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. So, now, every time I eat a PB&J it takes me right back to sitting around a table with my new brothers and sisters, surrounded by a love and community that I miss more and more each day.
I would also like to take the time to mention one of the greatest inventions known to man. It, like PB&J, is a sandwich...on a whole new level.
Diddy Reise's. Better known as "Diddy's."
Wow. The name just makes my mouth water.
Diddy's is an ice cream place in L.A. It is a small business, with a line going out the door and down the block. You get to choose two homemade cookies, they can be the same or different. You then choose an ice cream flavor. The Diddy's experts place the scoop of ice cream between the two cookies...making a beautiful sandwich. And it's only $1.50! Absolute brilliance.
During my first experience at Diddy's I had, not one, but TWO of these masterpieces. Yeah, no worries...I can throw down. We then proceeded to eat Diddy's 4 or 5 more times during the last week.
One night at 11:42pm a craving for Diddy's overtook a few of us. Now, Diddy's closes at midnight and on a normal drive it takes about 20 minutes to get there. Nothing was going to stop us. We jumped in someone's car and risked our lives on the highways of California to make it to Diddy's in EIGHT minutes...getting there in plenty of time to order and fulfill our need.
Peanut butter and jelly. Diddy Reise's. My amazing sisters.
Sounds like heaven to me :)
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Something is missing. Summer seems kind of weird right now. I'm used to setting my alarm clock every morning to go running, lift weights, and play soccer, preparing for the upcoming season. I'm used to feeling the pressure of having to get my body into the best shape of my life in order to pass fitness tests and earn a spot on my team. I'm used to having the excitement building up as August approaches, eager to play against some of the best competition in the country.
All of this is gone. I don't have a team anymore. I don't have a 'season' to prepare for. I miss the burning in my lungs as I finish the last shuttle in a sprint-workout. I miss my jeans being too tight because of all the power cleans and squats. I miss setting distant, seemingly impossible goals like winning a conference championship...and then achieving them. :)
As I said...I am an athlete. This doesn't define me, but the pain and privilege of being a college athlete has come and gone. Not many people can say that they survived 4 years of a college sport. It has been the hardest and, at the same time, most enjoyable thing I have ever done. It breaks you down until you have nothing left...but you must find more.
The cool thing about this, however, is that I get to see new people enter into a lifestyle that I am now leaving. One of these people is my little brother, Aidan. He is going to be a senior in high school. He has started looking at schools where he can play college soccer. He has seen me go through the ups and downs (some of those downs were rough, haha) of college soccer, which I think makes him a bit apprehensive. I, of course, am in full support of him playing college soccer. I explain to him that it's not easy but that it will teach him valuable things about himself and about life, in a setting that will force him to dig deeper and deeper, finding more than he ever thought possible. It's not just about those Friday night games in front of thousands of people. It's about having enough courage to sacrifice many things to do all the lifting, running, and training that is required to prepare for those games. Hopefully I haven't scared him too much :)
Anyway....I would like to give a little shout-out to my bro right now. As he looks ahead to playing college soccer in a year, he surely can't overlook this upcoming week. His club team, Everest, won the US Youth Regional Championship. They beat one of the best teams in the country, from Missouri, in a shootout, to win the championship. Unfortunately, I was not at the game but I was on the phone with my mom when they won....screaming and jumping up and down on a street in Los Angeles, (if anyone was watching they definitely thought I was nuts).
Next week they travel to Arkansas for the National Championship. I am not missing this one! My brother is a center midfielder on one of the top 4 boys U17 teams in the COUNTRY. Dang! That is just so cool and I am really proud of him. He likes to give me a hard time asking, "Hey Kels, have you ever won Regionals?" Knowing full-well that no, I haven't. So I like to joke back, "Hey Aidan, have you ever won an SEC Championship as an underdog, beating one of the best teams in the country?" All in good fun, though, haha.
So as I sit here feeling bad for myself that the 'glory days' are over, I now get to see my brother achieve something that millions of kids can only dream of. I get to see my brother train everyday in preparation for Nationals. I get to see my brother face the toughest competition he has ever faced. I get to see my brother go out onto a stage where he will have to dig deeper than he ever has.
I am still an athlete. Now I get to learn all kinds of new lessons from watching rather than running and lifting :)
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
One of the movies that hit me like a ton of bricks was called "Born in the Brothels." It is a documentary about Calcutta, India and the children that are born into the brothels. A 'brothel,' as defined by Wikipedia is "a whorehouse; an establishment specifically dedicated to prostitution." In Calcutta the brothels were not simply a house. They were a huge apartment-like structure with hundreds of women, generation after generation.
There's more. Want to know the worst part; the part that broke my heart? The children that were born into these brothels. The CHILDREN. Born, not by choice, into a place that they can't get out of. They know nothing else. So that by age 14 these girls are in the same line of work as their mothers and grandmothers: selling their bodies to stay alive. Mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual chains. As far as they know, the 'brothels' are what the whole world is like. They know nothing else.
Those children could be super-star athletes, doctors, teachers, artists, lawyers, CEO's.....
But they will never be those things. They aren't allowed to dream like we are.
What does this have to do with me? with you? with us?
Understanding the Gospel is crucial to understanding what is really going on in the world. We have simplified and molded the Gospel to look just the way we want it to…but we miss some of it. We think that we just need Jesus and we are “saved” and that’s it. Well I hate to break it to you, but it’s not about ME and it’s not about YOU. It’s about God and how He wants to use us to build His Kingdom. And by ‘build His Kingdom’ I basically mean change the world. It’s not about us and our salvation…it’s more about what we are doing NOW while we are here on earth. Our world has enough hurt and hate. As Ghandi said, “YOU must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that we first know Jesus and understand that we are sinners and He died so that we might live. What’s even more important, though, is that we understand that it doesn’t stop there. It’s not about “getting better” or “achieving success” for God; we don’t have to earn anything…it’s about loving because we understand His love for us. We must start to live like Jesus and have a heart like Jesus and begin to see the world through His eyes.
One of the speakers at Project gave us this analogy to what “changing the world” looks like: IT'S LIKE TRYING TO EMPTY THE OCEAN USING ONLY A THIMBLE.
Talk about discouraging. Well I guess I will just give up now, what’s the point…right? Wrong. That’s the attitude that most people take but, that’s also what I was just talking about with the whole ‘understanding the Gospel.’ We like to be selfish and justify it with that fact that “I can’t make a difference.” Take the brothels, for example. Look at all the brokenness going on there...and then realize that is only one small place on earth. There is so much hurt going on, all over the place.
Let me say it again: it’s not about ME and it’s not about YOU. It seems hopeless. As individuals, we will barely make a dent in the big picture. We will hit walls and adversity.
But we have a choice: Will we be part of the cure or part of the disease? In everything we do, will we bring a little bit of heaven to earth or a little bit of hell?
No, I might not be able to directly help those children in Calcutta. And no, I can't answer why I was born in Westlake, OH and why those little girls were born into a whorehouse. But I can tell you that, because of where I was born and because of the resources and abilities I have now, I am going to do what I can, where I'm at. I am going to do this with LOVE. In hopes that other people will see that and begin to understand and to follow as I have chosen to follow.
Let me grab my thimble...I choose to bring heaven.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Right now I want to talk about COMMUNITY.
When I first walked into the fraternity house that I would be living in for three weeks, I'm not gonna lie, I freaked out a little bit. I slept on an air mattress, on the floor. I had 2 roommates. There was no air conditioning. There were 4 stalls and 4 showers for nearly 20 girls. We ate peanut butter and jelly every single day for lunch, on $1 bread. We at some sort of fried meat every night for dinner, and all the side dishes had at least 3 sticks of butter in them. I quickly realized how spoiled I am. The food made me pretty sick for the first 5 days. After I got over my illness and then, more importantly, after I got over myself...that place became home to me. Now...I have a new appreciation for food and I kind of want to sleep on an air mattress for the rest of my life. It was a simple, less cluttered lifestyle.
Ok, enough about the living conditions. The PEOPLE are what I am missing the most about my time in L.A. It is hard to put into words the amount of love and community we lived in. We weren't there to "get ours" and compete with one another. We were there to look out for and take care of each other. We were there to sacrifice for the sake of the family. We lived life TOGETHER. We all understood that "it's not about ME," but that we were there to serve each other. These people who I spent only three weeks with are now my brothers and sisters. I already know that some of them are now my best friends for life. It's amazing how fast we bonded and just loved each other without hesitation.
Let me tell you about one of my favorite nights. A bunch of us girls climbed up onto the roof of the frat house to have a dance party. It was hilarious and we probably looked ridiculous. After thoroughly wearing ourselves out, we blasted worship music and laid our heads together in a circle, staring up at the stars. We didn't talk at all, but we just laid there. Do you ever have those moments when you just feel safe and content and accepted and loved and at home? This was one of those moments.
Why can't the world be like that? I can guarantee you that if it were, it would be a much better place. The reality is that it is far from that type of community. Instead, it is full of hate, anger, bitterness, jealousy, pain, competition and, ultimately, selfishness. It is because of all of these things that our world is becoming more and more evil and twisted. This is what makes it so challenging to leave that environment and return to the real world.
Living like that for three weeks was a glimpse of heaven. I know that it was not "reality" as we know it but...why can't it be?
By the last day, we couldn't stop crying and hugging each other. We knew that we were leaving behind something special. Something that we may never experience again. Now, this new family of mine is dispersed throughout the United States on our respective campuses. It is sad and it is frustrating, but it is now up to each of us to try and create that same community throughout the world. Impossible? Maybe. But that doesn't mean we aren't going to try.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
I know what you are thinking. The big HOLLYWOOD sign on the hill. Beverly Hills, 90210. Rodeo Drive. Shopping. The beach. The boardwalk. Celebrities. One of the richest economies in the country.
Let me give you a different picture of L.A. The picture that we never see because it's real and no one wants to admit it...
Between 2nd St. and 7th St. and between Main and Central. Fifty blocks. Eighty thousand people in varied states of homelessness. Average age of homeless= 9 years old. Psych patients. Crack addicts. Heroine addicts. Gangsters. Artists. Veterans. Children. Missions. Welfare hotels. Dealers. Sex-offenders. Racism. Unemployment. Cyclical poverty. The "worst social disaster in America." Better known as Skid Row.
THAT is the Los Angeles that I am going to. I want my eyes to be opened. I'm excited. I'm scared. I have no idea what to expect. I don't even know what to say. The bubble that I live in is about to be popped. My world is about to change.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
He has tried to teach us the various field techniques: discus, shot put, long jump, and high jump. I have picked up bits and pieces, but I don't think anyone has learned enough to go try out for even a high school track team. The running is a bit painful, mainly because I haven't sprinted that hard in a while. I was timed in the 400m yesterday and the 800m today. Ouch. It was a good pain, though. I happen to be one of very few people that appreciate the burning lungs and aching legs. It makes me feel alive. I miss that.
Needless to say, Dr. Taylor hasn't taught me very much about track. He's tried. But I think 4 weeks just isn't long enough and most of it is based on every one's natural ability, or lack thereof.
He does, however, have some funny ways of teaching me some life-lessons. The entire second week, for example, the weather was pretty bad. On this one particular day, it was gray, cloudy, windy, and cold. After our warm up he had a big smile on his face and said, "Ohhh, I see the sun coming out!" I looked up into the sky: dark, cloudy. I said, "Dr. Taylor, what are you talking about? I don't see any light, let alone sunshine!" With that same huge smile on his face he said, "The sun shines everyday in my world." Making the best of what he's been given and seeing the 'silver lining behind every cloud.' So wise :)
Last week, at the end of class, he started talking about washing dishes. He said, "You know, last night I had to wash the dishes. I didn't put them in the dishwasher, though. No. I washed them by hand. If I had put them in the dishwasher they may not have been cleaned all the way. Dishwashers probably only give 85%. I cleaned by hand because I didn't want to miss any spots. I wanted them to be clean. I wanted to give 110%." Why show up to anything if you aren't going to give everything? It's easy to 'coast' and only give half-effort. In the end you are only cheating yourself, and probably pissing-off the people around you. Dishes. Life. Brilliant.
Today's life-lesson was probably my favorite. There is a kid in my class who hurt his leg. Dr. Taylor walked up to him and said, "If this were the 'big game,' (referring to soccer), what would you say to your coach? You would tell him to put you in, right?" The kid didn't really answer him but I said, "Well what if he tries to run today and the 'big game' (thinking of a soccer game) isn't until next week? If he hurts it today he won't even be able to play in the important game." Dr. Taylor smiles at me and says, "No. The 'big game' (referring to life) is everyday. You better show up every single day and try like it's your last 'game' because you might get hit by a bus tomorrow. Then what's the use in saving yourself for next week?" We don't know how many days we have left. I forget that a lot. Sometimes I think I'm invincible. We can't show up and not try because it may be our last chance, without us even knowing it. The BIG GAME. Life. Right again, Dr. Taylor.
So I've been waking up at 7am for the past 3 1/2 weeks of my summer. Not only to feel that lovely burning sensation in my lungs and to embarrass myself by not being able to clear the high jump pole; but also to pick up a few life-lessons. They may be subtle and sound a bit ridiculous and annoying to some people. But they are legit, from a guy who's been around and seems to know what he's talking about. I'd say that's a bit more important that learning how to throw a shot put.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I am reading this book called "With Justice for All" by John Perkins, a man who has had a huge impact on urban ministry. He has a true heart for the poor. Meeting the needs of the poor and then sharing the gospel with them. Just like Jesus. To do this, he says, we must go and live in community with the people we are ministering to. Perkins states, "Jesus relocated. He didn't commute to earth one day a week and shoot back up to heaven. He left His throne and became one of us so that we might see the life of God revealed in Him." Perkins also says that if we are missing the point that Jesus makes about "the least of these" then we are missing the gospel.
As I'm reading this book it is becoming quite evident to me how passionate Perkins is about ministering to the poor. For some reason, this just doesn't hit my heart in the same way. This sounds selfish but I'm just being honest. I don't know if it's because I am missing something, but I guess I don't have this burning desire to go and minister to the poor and to "the least of these." This bothers me.
And then I'm sitting in my house the other day watching 'American's Next Top Model.' I never really watch t.v. and this show quickly reminded me why I don't. As the show went on I began to get really angry. Angry because of how accurately this show represents our culture. Make up. Materialistic. Selfish. Superficial. Oblivious. Did I mention selfish?
More than anything, this show opened my eyes even more to the bubble that I live in. We don't want to deal with anything, so we have all these magic remedies for everything and anything. Take this pill. Drink this. Buy those clothes. Put on this make-up. Go on this diet. We just cover everything up until we are so covered-up that we don't even know ourselves anymore. We just become numb to everything. And apathetic.
So...back to what Perkins said about ministering to the poor and, in essence, what Jesus did while He was here on earth. I think that I don't have the same passion that Perkins has because I am so freaking oblivious to what is going on in the world around me. I have this made-up idea that everyone on earth lives the way that I do. I need to wake up because I am only part of a small percentage of people that lives in the excess that I know. I am very uneducated about what is going on in the world around me. This is my fault. It is also my fault because of what my culture has taught me. Here's a quick fix...just take this and the pain/hurt/suffering will go away. If it comes back...just take some more. Unfortunately, I've bought into this and I am now caught in this bubble. A bubble that allows me to think of the world how I want to think of it, rather than as it truly is. A bubble that I can't see out of, but other's can see in. A bubble that makes me feel safe.
As I mentioned before, I often sit in my little bubble and question why I am so blessed. Why do I get to have all of this great stuff? Why do I have money and food and clothes and a house and a car? Why am I so blessed?
Jesus says that, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." Dang. Guess who that 'rich man' is? It's us. It's me. It's you. It's our culture.
Inside of this little bubble of ours, we stockpile so much 'stuff.' Because of our selfishness and stupidity we think that we are the ones that are blessed. We need to get over ourselves. That 'rich man' is us. I don't want to be the rich man. I want to be humbled. I want my eyes to be opened. But I keep covering everything up with 'stuff.'
What makes me think I am the one that is blessed? The more I think about it the more I realize that I am not the one who is blessed. If anything, I am in more need than I can even realize because I am in my own way.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Anyway...I, of course, use this wall for soccer purposes rather than tennis. I like to go up there and just shoot the ball against the wall. Yes I know I'm a dork. No worries.
I was up there one evening last summer just juggling and shooting the ball against the wall. I noticed a little girl and her father watching me. She was leaning up against the fence, her eyes as wide as can be. Just watching. Mesmerized. They watched me shoot this soccer ball, over and over again against the wall, for about twenty minutes.
I decided to walk over and talk to them. I introduced my self and found out that she was 10 years old and played travel soccer for a team in Lexington. They were asking me about myself. I told them where I grew up and that I played soccer for UK. This little, adorable, 10 year old girl looked up at me like I was famous. Seriously. I go to school and play soccer and this little girl thought I was freaking Mia Hamm.
I invited her to come out on the court and play some soccer with me. She was a little shy and said, "no." haha, but then her dad urged her a bit and she eventually came out on the court with me. I passed and juggled with her for about fifteen minutes. The dad thanked me and she walked away with the biggest smile on her face.
Wow. That was humbling. What I do everyday is 'normal' to me, (i.e. class, practice, lifting, games). But to her and to millions of other little girls...what I do is their DREAM. They would do anything to play division 1 college soccer. They would put on a UK jersey in a heartbeat.
I have run out onto that field every Friday and Sunday in the fall for the past four years. Everytime I look up into the stands there are little girls with huge smiles on their faces, screaming our names, and lining up for autographs after the games. Why? Because to them, we ARE famous. We are who they want to be. We used to be just like them.
This is just so awesome to me because it puts a different perspective on what I do. Knowing that these little girls are watching ME. Knowing that they want to be like ME. It makes me think about how much influence I can have using soccer. All these girls instantly look up to me just because I play soccer. It's also scary because its up to me (and all of us) to choose HOW we influence those looking up to us. It can go either way, really.
This reminds me of a quote. I'm not sure who said it, but..."A society looking up to athletes as heroes needs heroes looking up to God."
Beautiful. And so true.
This year I have had the opportunity to coach some of those girls, just like the one at the park. Although a bit older, they still look up to me in the same way. However, they know me now, so I'm not as cool. hahaha. Anyway...the trust that I have built with my team, through soccer, has spilled over into life-stuff. That sounds corny, but some of them actually ask for my advice/help/guidance with stuff off the field. School. Friends. Family. Boys. God.
The coolest part about coaching has been actually being involved with their lives. I'm not just some coach who only cares about soccer and about winning. I actually care about them and what is going on in their lives. While our common thread is soccer...I don't want them to just see me as some college soccer player. I want them to see my heart for God because, ultimately there is much more important stuff than soccer. I want them to understand that the reason I am the person that I am, the reason that I make the choices I make, the reason I treat people the way that I do....the reason for all these things is because of what God has done in my life and in my heart.
Back to the park. I don't care where I am. It can be on the UK field on a Friday night, or it can be in class, or it can be shooting a ball against a wall in some park. People are watching. They are watching to see what I do and how I do it. It's up to me to choose how to use the platform I have been given. It's up to me to take the light off myself and shine it on Jesus. Because, honestly, I am nothing without Him.
Friday, May 2, 2008
My biggest challenge/frustration is learning how to coach so many different personalities. This is no new revelation, as I have been a part of a team since I can remember...but now I have a whole new perspective. One that requires me to actually try and figure out how to motivate each of those different personalities. By motivate I don't mean jump up and down and try to get them excited. By motivate I mean to tap into their COMPETITIVENESS.
Competitiveness. Let me start out by saying that I am one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. I understand that there is so much more to life than sports and winning. It's not so much the winning that I'm addicted to...I just absolutely can't stand losing. At anything. However, I do think that a lot of good comes from losing. It exposes weaknesses and allows you greater opportunity to improve. It is also a source of fuel to drive competitiveness. Competition stretches you and challenges you to accomplish things you never thought possible.
Before I start talking about my team let me just say that this frustration of mine is something found on almost every girls team, not just this one I coach. So I'm at our practice the other day watching my team play 2-versus-2. I'm standing there getting angry because they are not getting mad when they lose. Some of them lose with an "I don't care" mentality. Now, I know I sound ridiculous right now. Come on, Kelsey. It's a stupid 2v2 drill at practice. Well....yes, true...but, the attitude portrayed in the "little things" is a reflection of when we get onto the field during games.
So as I'm standing here getting angrier and more frustrated, I am trying to figure out how to FIX this. How do I MAKE them be competitive? How do I MAKE them get angry? How do I MAKE them set higher standards on the field? I almost snapped, but decided that could get ugly, so I let practice continue and for the remaining hour it continued in the same complacent attitude it had begun.
John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches of all time defines competitive greatness as, "A real love for the hard battle, knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required." Coach Wooden has a "pyramid of success," which is composed of many different qualities that make a great athlete. Where do you think "competitive greatness" falls? It's definitely not a corner stone and it's not even a building block. Nope. It's at the very top. The TOP. Meaning it takes so many other MORE IMPORTANT QUALITIES to reach it.
Driving home after that practice I couldn't help but laugh at myself. Here I am getting mad that I can't MAKE people be competitive. Wake up. There are other qualities that must be learned, molded, challenged, and refined in order to become the best athletes we can be. Work ethic. Loyalty. Self-control. Leadership. Discipline. Dedication. Condition. Poise. Confidence. The list can go on.
Dang. THOSE are the qualities that make a great athlete and, therefore, a competitive athlete. So initially, I was angry at the lack of competitiveness. The more I think about it, I am frustrated with a lack of EXPECTATIONS. Meaning...getting the most out ourselves, each and everyday. Whatever it is that we are doing, (in this case, soccer), we have an opportunity to get better everyday. It's like...why show up to a practice or a game if you aren't going to walk off the field absolutely drained, emotionally, mentally, and physically, with the satisfaction of knowing you literally have nothing left to give? If we don't push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, we will never know our limits.
So...back to me wanting to FIX all this. Let me rephrase my initial thinking. I know that each of these girls has so much potential. As a coach, it's my job to help them to reach their maximum potential. On the surface, this seems to be a lack-of competitiveness. Ultimately, however, the problem and solution lie in other, much more important areas. It is up to me to teach them and coach them in the areas...firstly leading by example.
The question now becomes how do I push them further than they ever thought possible? Or, as John Wooden puts it, how do I get them to "be at their best when their best is required"?
Monday, April 28, 2008
Do you ever just stop to watch people at their "jobs"? I'm talking about the people serving you coffee at Starbucks, your teachers/coaches, the cashier at Kroger, the mailman, your doctor, police officers, your waiter/waitress...the list goes on. When I stop and just watch people at their "jobs" it gets pretty depressing. It often seems as though people are just trying to get through the day, only to start the same process over again the next. It all just seems so dull.
Then Bradley reminded me of how it should be. I was sitting at a coffee shop with a friend of mine last Friday. There was a local musician playing. His name is Bradley. Now, even if you don't like Bradley's music, which I do, you can't help but love to watch him do his "job." After he's done tuning his guitar and getting all the sounds just right, he closes his eyes, strums chords for about three minutes, and smiles from ear to ear.
He just smiles. You would think it is just him and his guitar in that room, and no one else. You can tell that he absolutely loves what he does. And he wants us to love it, too. He wants us to feel the same joy that he gets out of making music. So he stands up there SHOWING us how he loves it.
Whether I'm playing soccer, coaching, writing a paper, or just walking down the street...I want people to see why I love it so much. I want them to love what I love because of the way I love it.
Sometimes, just watching someone else love something makes you love it, too.
Bradley makes me want to play the guitar and sing.
How amazing would the world be if we all did our "jobs" this way?
Whatever our instrument of choice...lets make others want to play it, too.
Friday, April 25, 2008
I will usually be talking about the PEOPLE in my life. So, to all of you amazing people in my life...I will most likely be sharing a story about you at some point. You should be happy about that. It means I respect you and am learning things from you :)
I feel like you need to know why I care about people as much as I do. I can answer that with one word: Jesus. Jesus is relational. He has a heart for people. He is chill, walks around in sandals, and He truly shows us how to "Love your neighbor as yourself." So...because I love Jesus, I want to see people, and the world, as He does. I want to love people like Jesus loves us. Unconditionally.
One more thing. I tend to analyze everything. From every possible angle. Over and over again. Yeah. Crazy...right? Sometimes. But, in a good way (I hope). And that's going to be my disclaimer to you. So, read at your own risk.