Category Archives: Hope

Don’t Widen Home Plate

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“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?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“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.’”

Pause.

“Coaches …”

Pause.

” … 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)

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God’s Help When You’re In Over Your Head

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Bottomless sea

A personal message from your Heavenly Father:

“But now, God’s Message,
    the God who made you in the first place…
    the One who got you started…:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you…:
That’s how much you mean to me!
    That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
    trade the creation just for you.”

Isaiah 43:2 – 3 (MSG)

So today if you are experiencing deep waters of difficulty, and you feel like you’re in way over your head, don’t be afraid and don’t lose hope. God knows you by name, and He knows every messy detail of your life. He’s right beside you in the rough waters, and He will bring you safely through them ~ You will not go down. This feeling you have, like you’re between a rock and a hard place, is only temporary. God has big plans for your future, and He can use everything you’re experiencing for your good. Your Savior paid a huge price just for you ~ That’s how much you mean to Him! That’s how much He loves you! Trust that He is capable of bringing you through this tumultuous period. Nothing is impossible for Him, and there is no limit to the boundless strength He can provide for you. With Him by your side, you can endure anything.

“Try to remember that the ‘bottomless sea’ can’t hurt us as long as we keep on swimming”…with God!

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  • “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43: 1 – 3 (NLT)
  • “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 118:5-6 (NIV)
  • “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11(NLT)
  • “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28(NLT)
     

The Door To Your New Life

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Open Door to Your New Life

“Look! I’m making everything new.

Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

Revelation 21:5(MSG)

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)

Looking Ahead

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Snowy Path CS Lewis quote

Don’t revel only in the past, or spend all your time recounting…days gone by.
Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak,
and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.

Isaiah 43:18 – 19 (VOICE)

 The eve of a fresh new year is a great time to start looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead. Perhaps there are things that you wish you could change about the year you see in the rear view right now, and of course you can learn a great deal from past failure ~ as well as past success! But continually looking backwards will hold you frozen in your history, rather than focused on the present task of writing your story. So don’t revel only in the past, or spend all your time recounting days gone by. The things you leave behind have already happened, but the future ahead is like a brand new page in a new chapter of your life.

As the New Year dawns, vow to live each day with resolve and intent.  God has given each of us a certain number of days to fulfill our life’s purposes. Ask Him to give you the grace to understand the important significance of each new day ~ and each moment ~ that you spend here on earth.  Some of us have more time than others, but none of us know the exact amount of time that we have left to complete our life’s mission. Pray for divine instruction concerning how to use your time purposefully throughout the days of the coming year.

Remember, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C.S. Lewis

  • You crown the year with your good blessings, and you leave abundance in your wake. Psalm 65:11 (NET)
 

Making the Best of Less-than-the-Best Situations

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“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)
 

Do you know certain individuals who can always take the “lemons” in life and make lemonade ~ those people who can seemingly make the best out of the worst situations? You may wonder how they do it. How can they possibly keep a smile on their face and joy in their heart when their world seems to be falling apart? It’s likely that those individuals have a quiet confidence from within ~ the confidence that their Heavenly Father is orchestrating everything in their lives ~ even the bad things ~ to create a beautiful masterpiece.

Let’s face it, life’s not always perfect. No one is immune to the imperfections of this world. Things happen. Mistakes are made. Accidents occur. Tragedy strikes. Relationships fall apart. Diseases spread. Bad decisions lead to terrible outcomes.  But regardless of the situation, the Master Craftsman promises His children that He is able to pick up the broken pieces and fashion them into something good and lovely. He is able to take the problems and difficulties in your life and use them for your benefit.  Trust that His wisdom is sufficient to weave every detail of your life (both good and bad) into a beautiful pattern, transforming you more into His likeness. As your trust in Him grows, you will spend less time looking backward, wishing things could be different, and more time looking ahead with hope and anticipation of the future He is preparing for you.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Jeremiah 17:7

 

Hope of all Hopes

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Hope of All Hopes

“Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
    a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
    The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—
    He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
    Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6 (VOICE)

What an amazing birth announcement this beautiful passage describes ~

A child is born.  Sweet breathed, living gift to the world. Hope of all hopes. Dream of our dreams. Even with his tiny features and dewy hair…He is Great.

His name?  He will be known by many names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Christ the Lord, Dear Father Everlasting, Ever-present Never-failing, Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace, Messiah, Son of God…Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

The good news about Jesus is that He came for ALL…even the least of the least ~ the plain, the ordinary, the sinners, the misfits, the outcasts. He came for YOU! Jesus is your gift from God. As we celebrate the birth of our precious Savior, thank God for His living gift to the world!

  • “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:9 – 12 (NIV)
  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

The Immeasurable Power Within

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“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them,
because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
1 John 4:4 (NKJV)
 

Do you realize that God’s Spirit lives in you, if you are a child of God? His Spirit is your constant companion.  From the day you became a believer in Jesus Christ, He “set his seal of ownership on you, and put his Spirit in your heart as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:22 NIV) So as one of God’s children, you are “sealed” by the royal seal of the King of Glory ~ you are HIS, and nothing can break that bond! And even though you may not always feel His presence, the Spirit of God is always within you. He placed His Spirit in your heart as a security deposit, as a guarantee that He will fulfill all His promises to you.

“You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God Himself is present in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16 (MSG) So if God Himself is present in you, you possess an unlimited supply of God’s power, protection, wisdom, discernment, guidance, and provision.  His capabilities are immeasurable, unlimited and unsurpassed.  You have nothing to fear because GREATER is He who is inside of you, than he who is in the world! Think about this: The Creator of the Universe indwells your heart! The very same might and power which raised Jesus from the dead is at work inside of His children. With Him, all things are possible.

So tap into the limitless power source within your heart. God’s Spirit will work through you to accomplish great things!

  • “Let them see the full extent of Your power that is at work in those of us who believe, and may it be done according to Your might and power. Friends, it is this same might and resurrection power that He used in the Anointed One to raise Him from the dead and to position Him at His right hand in heaven. There is nothing over Him.” Ephesians 1:19 – 20 (VOICE)
  • “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” Ephesians 1:18(NIV)