“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
I just read the verse above about the “narrow gate” when my dad forwarded the following article to me. It shares a valuable lesson not only about coaching, but also about parenting…and, most importantly, the narrow road that leads to life:
In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.
While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”
Who the heck is John Scolinos, I wondered. Well, in 1996 Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. No matter, I was just happy to be there.
He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate. Pointed side down.
Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?
After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.
Then, finally …
“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.
“No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”
Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.
“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”
Another long pause.
“Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.
“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”
“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.
“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”
“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.
“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”
“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”
“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.
“And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over these seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.
“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Bobby. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of throwing the ball over it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”
” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? What do we do if he violates curfew? What if he uses drugs? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?
The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.
Then he turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”
Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.
“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful….to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”
“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”
I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.
“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”
With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.
“… dark days ahead.”
Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.
His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.
(copied post – author unknown)
Go in confidence and grace—no rushing, no frantic escape.
There’s no need to be anxious—the Eternal One goes before and behind you.
The God of Israel paves the way with assurance and strength.
He watches your back.
Isaiah 52:12 (VOICE)
“Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (1956). Section “December 31”).
God is the God of your yesterdays, your todays, and your tomorrows. Often memories of the past keep you from fully experiencing God’s grace and joy for today. It’s possible that you are longing for days gone by because they were happier times (the good ‘ole days), or it could be that you are wallowing in the junkyard of past memories, allowing the blunders of the past to overshadow God’s blessing for today. In either case, you are stuck in the quicksand of yesterday, and you can’t move into the future that God has in store.
Just remember, that God’s got your back! He’s your rear guard, and His hand can reach back into your past and settle any claims against your conscience. He can use yesterday’s mistakes and turn them into today’s ministry of growth for your future. He has a grand plan for your life, so let the past rest in God’s sweet embrace. He’s paving the way ahead with assurance and strength, so step confidently into your irresistible future with Him! “And He will be leading you. He’ll be with you, and He’ll never fail you or abandon you. So don’t be afraid!” Deuteronomy 31:8 (VOICE)
“Look! I’m making everything new.
Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”
On the first day of a brand New Year, are you looking forward to closing the door on your past and opening the door to your future? Perhaps you are glad for the chance to breathe in the freshness of the new possibilities that the coming year might bring. Are there pages (or entire chapters?) that you would like to delete from your life’s story? “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.” Ephesians 3:14 – 17 (MSG)
By opening the door of your life to Christ, He promises to bring about a glorious transformation inside of you, and you’ll be renewed from the inside out. There’s no better way to start out the new year than by accepting the gift of a fresh start with God. He alone can erase the pain of your past and the mistakes you’ve made along the way. You don’t have to spruce up for God or clean up your act before turning to Him. He meets you right where you are with His limitless love and grace. By inviting Christ to be the center of your life, He’ll be the compass guiding you along the path to your very best future.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 1-2 (MSG)
Now take a deep breath, close the door to your past, open the door to your best future, and step through to a new life with God!
- “In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord. Isaiah 66:9 (NCV)
- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2(NIV)
“So the impossible is possible with God.”
Luke 1:37 (VOICE)
With God, nothing is impossible! What an encouraging, universal truth. Though the demands you face today may seem insurmountable in light of your own limitations and weaknesses, remind yourself that The God of All Possibilities is right beside you, as an ever-present help. He simply asks that you trust Him and stay connected to His limitless resources through each moment of the day. When anxiety invades your thoughts and you feel overwhelmed, turn your attention away from obstacles and difficulties and focus on His capabilities, rather than your inabilities. When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. Remember that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever imagine or request in your wildest dreams.
If your life’s purposes and actions are directly aligned with God’s will, nothing can derail you. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, every moment of your day. Trust Him to illuminate each step of your journey and to equip you to handle any problems that come your way. It’s through your weaknesses that God displays His infinite strength, so His power working through you is an unstoppable combination!
- “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)
- “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
- “God is our shelter and our strength. When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide?” Psalm 46:1 (VOICE)
- “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
- “But he said to me, “My grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So I am very happy to brag about how weak I am. Then Christ’s power can rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIRV)
- “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)
“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.” Romans 8:28 (VOICE)
What an amazing vision of your future ~ the overwhelming hardships you have experienced could very well be preparing you for your “extraordinary destiny!” God promises His children that He can use everything to work toward something good and beautiful if we live according to His plan ~ Yes, He can even use the bad, ugly, painful, and heartbreaking things that happen to us.
When you completely trust God… and not in life’s treasures…you allow the Master Craftsman to use each event in your life to create a glorious masterpiece. Like threads in a tapestry, He can weave your defeats, your struggles, your heartache, your pain, your loss, your trials, your rejection, and even your shameful mistakes into a rich, beautiful, one-of-a-kind design.
No one else has walked in your shoes. Your experiences are completely unique to you. Will you accept God’s invitation to launch into your extraordinary destiny by allowing Him to orchestrate something good and beautiful from your personal life experiences?
- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
- “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” Isaiah 38:17 (NIV)
- “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
“The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (VOICE)
If you have ever driven through a dense fog, you know how difficult it is to navigate safely through the dangerous conditions, especially if you are unfamiliar with the road. Your visibility is limited, and you can’t see what hazards lie ahead.
Sometimes your journey through life can also feel like you are passing through a thick cloud bank of uncertainty. You can’t see what lies ahead, and you feel scared and unsure of which direction you should head. But the Author of Life sees your future clearly. After all, He wrote your story, and He knows the beginning, the middle and the end. If you place your faith in Him and allow His divine guidance to be your radar, you can be certain that He will chart the BEST path for your life. Trust Him for all the things your human eyes cannot see.
Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: “Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go” whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left. Isaiah 30:21 (VOICE)
Has God given you a vision or dream for your life? Has He gently whispered His plans for your future? What are you doing about it right now?
Like Peter, God may be telling you to stop thinking about the vision and start doing something about it. The Holy Spirit instructed Peter to “get up and go” without any hesitation, fear, doubt or second-guessing. Do you feel God nudging you into action today? Is it time to take the first step ~ or leap ~ toward making the dream a reality?
You can be confident that if God has given you the vision, He will give you the provision and wisdom to successfully bring it to fruition. If you feel inadequate to accomplish His plans, you can rest in God’s promise that where you have weaknesses, you are strong in the grace of Jesus. So take that first step and pray for supplies of divine strength and grace to fulfill His vision for your life.
Stop thinking…start doing….get up and go!“Each time He said, ‘No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.’ Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (TLB)
“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.” 1 Corinthians 7:17a (MSG)
In most parts of the world, a limb cut from a tree will not continue to grow and thrive. But in the fertile, tropical rain forest region of Central America, the growing conditions are so perfect that even limbs used as fence posts will sprout roots and produce new limbs! Eventually these “Living Fences” begin to look like groves of trees, growing in perfect alignment.
In the same way, God wants to use your life right where you are planted, and He has specifically placed you where you are at this moment in time for a special reason. Don’t miss out on the great opportunities to serve Him right where you live! We often feel strapped to our life’s obligations, and we are so concerned about what we could be doing if we were someplace else, but you can do God’s work and have a tremendous impact on others in your current sphere of influence. You are uniquely positioned to influence those around you in your home, your workplace, your community, your school, your team, your neighborhood, etc… You don’t have to be in full-time ministry or ship off to a foreign mission field to serve others. Live out each day of your life as your ministry, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Ask God to open your eyes and show you new and creative ways to serve Him. Be like the “Living Fence,” and live and obey and love and believe right there ~ Bloom where you are planted!Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done. Colossians 2:6 – 7 (NLT)
On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I was awakened each morning at dawn to an exquisite sound…the beautiful song of the Clay-colored Thrush. Before I ever spotted one of these birds, I was mesmerized by its beautiful serenade. And when I finally saw one of them, I was surprised by its bland appearance, and I was even more surprised when I learned that this plain-looking bird is the national bird of Costa Rica! In a country full of flashy and iconic birds – such as the macaw, toucan and motmot – why in the world would a tawny-brown bird that blends into the scenery be chosen as their national bird? But then when I connected this ordinary bird with its ethereal song, it became extraordinary in my sight.
The Clay-colored Thrush has achieved national bird status not by being showy, strong, colorful, huge or any other superlative. This common bird gained its status by simply using its God-given talent of singing its beautiful song. It has a tendency to live close to humans and is widespread throughout the country of Costa Rica, so each day its residents are all awakened by the same lovely sound – a rich, enchanting call which unifies the entire nation – making it an excellent choice for a national bird!
This ordinary bird is a great example of how God uses ordinary people for extraordinary purposes. God knows what’s in our hearts, and He’s not concerned with outward appearances. Most people spend hours each week maintaining their outward appearance, but they spend very little time developing their inward character and seeking out God’s purpose for their lives. Samuel almost overlooked David as God’s choice to be king of Israel, because he was young with a ruddy complexion, and he did not have the outward regal appearance of a future king. Not everyone is destined to become a king, but God has designed each one of us with a unique and meaningful purpose in mind. Live your life the Clay-colored Thrush — use your God-given talents and “sing your life song” to make an impact in the lives of those around you. Don’t let any excuses (such as your age, physical abilities, or outward appearance) stop you from fulfilling the extraordinary purpose for which you were designed!
Are you facing a major decision in your life? Do you feel overwhelmed and mentally exhausted with weighing all the pros and cons of each possible scenario? Is every thought interwoven with a thread of uncertainty?
Wouldn’t it be an incredible feeling to know with absolute certainty that you are moving in the right direction? Imagine the relief of not questioning each step you make, worried that you might be heading in a trajectory that is completely away from where you should be going with your life.
You can relax and rest in God’s promise to you: Your Heavenly Father will guide you along the BEST pathway for your life, and He will advise you and watch over you along the way. Here’s a simple prayer that you can pray to God right now: “Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you” Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT).
While you are listening for God’s answer, spend time alone with Him, free of distractions and away from your daily routine. Often His answer comes in a gentle whisper to your spirit, and the “noise” in your life can drown out His voice. Place all your hope in the One who has written every chapter of your life, the One who has your name inscribed on His palms, the One who knows the desires of your heart, and the One who knows the reason for which you were created.
Allow Him to show you the best pathway for your life and trust that He will watch over you every step of the way.