Sunday, April 29, 2018

Reflections from the Home Team – April 30, 2018


Greetings from Cedar Falls,

Sometimes we all need an inspirational boost to remember the love and passion that ultimately motivate us all.  One of the best ways to remind each other of the value of what we do is through the telling of stories; inspiring stories…

As a teacher, coach and administrator, my motto has always been… “Be ready because you may be the difference in someone’s life at any moment of the day.” Just as I have always tried my best to serve my student’s, my athletes and their families by being ready, I’ve recently had several opportunities to share some of the stories from my journey which illustrate how the relationships we build, can also help us when we face our own difficult challenges in life.

Since I was diagnosed with stage 3-throat cancer back in 2009, I have been journaling about my cancer journey and sharing it with many who have been such a supportive part of my Home Team. It has not always been an easy journey, but what I want to share with you is that the journey was made more bearable with the love and support that my “Home Team”, both human and divine, has provided me along the way.

If there is one thing I’ve learned on my cancer journey, it’s that sometimes we tend to want to deal with life’s challenges on our own instead of staying in touch with those whom we love. What I’ve found interesting along the way is that comfort and support can come from complete strangers as well as from those close to us.

Our lives are full of interruptions…traffic, a sick child, a long line, a needy neighbor, a complaining customer, a co-worker in crisis, illness and even death. These all look, sound and feel like interruptions. However, each of us has the ability to look beyond life’s interruptions and instead see illustrations of God’s love as well as the love of others in our lives.

Interruptions can be appointments for compassion as life at times may feel unfair, but in our everyday routines, we need to recognize that interruptions represent people to love and also create opportunities for us to be loved! We each need to allow those interruptions to slow us down a bit, so we can better focus on receiving and giving love from both God as well as others in our lives.

As I visit with others who are struggling with challenges and difficulties in their own life’s journey, my hope is that their life can be filled with a “loving presence” as they navigate the challenges each day presents in their lives. Everyone needs prayer and encouragement—either to celebrate God’s goodness or to seek God’s grace. It certainly isn’t wise for us to walk up to strangers and demand that they open up to us, but we certainly can be aware that each person most likely has some unexpressed yearnings. It is comforting to know we never have to handle things alone, and that if we choose, we each can each develop a “Home Team” of our own to help encourage us through those times when we or someone we love is struggling.

Given that thought, I’d once again ask each of you to consider being an encourager… So often the difference between success and failure is belief, and so often someone who encouraged us instills that belief in us… Be An Encourager!  Be that person who decides to uplift someone who is feeling down or who may be struggling with a health challenge. Share encouragement because it matters and we all need it!

As the image on this reflection shares, “When life throws you a curveball, be patient because the ‘perfect pitch’ is coming.” As we deal with the frustrations in explaining how we feel about the challenges our life journey can present us, John 13:7 provides me some guidance… “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” As we learn to live in this world, He is with us. As we walk down dark paths, He is with us. As we face grief, disappointments, addictions, illnesses, and the unfairness of life, He is with us… for eternity. He is the best teammate anyone could ever ask for and that ‘perfect pitch’ awaits us all, as the Lord is good to those who wait for Him.

I’ve provided a link below to a message I recently shared which talks about the importance of the “stories and loving presences” that I have been so fortunate to experience on my life’s journey up to this point. By sharing this message, my hope is that each of you will feel comfortable in sharing your stories with others to help provide them the strength, love and support needed to meet their life challenges, whatever they may be…

How Stories and a Loving Presence can Impact our Lives…           


Blessings your way,


Are you or someone you know fighting cancer... struggling with the physical, emotional and spiritual issues that accompany a cancer journey? If so, Reflections from the Home Team... Go the Distance was written to offer strength, hope and comfort when confronted with a cancer journey's challenges. Share a message of positivity with those you care about. Learn more at this link:

Monday, April 9, 2018

Reflections from the Home Team, April 9, 2018

“As I think about the physical work, mental preparation, and ‘performance anxiety’ that accompanies spring training, I can’t help but take pause and reflect on how many similarities there are between the work involved in getting ready for a baseball season and the work involved in preparing your self for the ups and downs of a cancer journey.”

Greetings from Cedar Falls,

As it appears spring has had a hard time finding us this year, Major League baseball teams have reported back north to begin their baseball seasons following weeks of preparation in spring training drills, conditioning and game situations. The season will be a six-month marathon filled with 162 games as they try to earn the right to play a seventh month. If a team never played extra innings that’s 1,458 innings of baseball! (What could be better??) The season will include many ups and downs as well as a few aches and pains along the way. The preparation and work put in prior to the season will pay dividends as the players enjoy the game of baseball while also facing the “daily grind” of a long season.

As I think about the physical work, mental preparation, and “performance anxiety” that accompanies spring training, I can’t help but take pause and reflect on how many similarities there are between the work involved in getting ready for a baseball season and the work involved in preparing your self for the ups and downs of a cancer journey…

For many years, I was able to tell people that God had blessed me with good health, and then, in 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer. Having experienced only minor illnesses in my life up to that point, (despite a couple of knocks in the head with a baseball), cancer was quite a shock.  All during my cancer treatments, many of my family and friends, (my “Home Team”) prayed for me. I experienced some anxious moments, but I was always aware that those who loved and cared about me were praying for me and asking God to support me. I began to realize that I still had the greatest blessing of all—God’s unconditional love shown through the support of loved ones and friends.

As part of this reflection, I’m asking for some prayers from my “Home Team” for a young man I have become acquainted with in Texas through one of my former players who has been coaching him. His name is Trevor, he is 16 years old and he is battling bone cancer. He is in the midst of treatments and is going through some difficult times.  If you are on Facebook, you can find him at TStrong. Just as I was blessed with the love of God and my “Home Team” during my treatments, I am asking for your prayers for Trevor so that he may also realize, just as I have, that God has blessed him with love greater than any struggle he may face!

As I’ve visited with many folks who either are facing a cancer diagnosis themselves or with a loved one, the question that so often pops up is “What do I do now that I’ve been diagnosed??”  I’ve been asked that question several times in the past few weeks alone as I interact in some of my unscripted conversations with others. I can recall the shock and numbness I experienced when I came home from University of Iowa Hospitals with my diagnosis… It was life changing! And that brings me to this reflection.

As I “replay” the multitude of emotions I experienced during the first few months following my diagnosis, I generally place them into four categories; Attitude, Anxiety, Trust and Controlling the controllable.

Just as success in baseball so often depends on having a positive attitude, the importance of having a grateful and positive attitude, no matter what our circumstance, needs to carry over into our daily lives. Many negative thoughts often creep into our minds when we are challenged.  In baseball, it may be “If I don’t start getting some hits they’re going to send me down”, or “If we don’t start winning some games I’m going to get fired.” In a cancer journey, it may be “What if my lab results are negative”, or “The pain and misery of treatments are beginning to seem unbearable”.
As Thomas Jefferson stated; “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” Even when the challenges of a cancer journey stand in our way, we need to do our best to turn a negative into a positive.  The following thought has been very helpful for me on my journey… “By remembering that each day is a new beginning, we can either waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it. I want it to be a gain, not a loss, good, not evil; success, not failure.” As we face life’s challenges, don’t allow those challenges to dictate your emotions. Be positive and proactive, not negative and reactive as you move forward. The Apostle Paul provided us with instructions for dealing with life’s difficulties in Romans 12:12… “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.”  That has been a good formula for me.
Thoughts like the ones above often enter our minds at some point during the day and when they do we feel the anxiety that comes with them. And that anxiety makes it even harder for us to have success.

What gives us the best chance at success is focusing completely on the task that is currently in front of us and doing it the best we can. When we do that, then we don’t have time for worrying. Our minds are so focused on what we’re doing that our anxious thoughts get crowded out. As one of my favorite baseball coaches drilled into my head, “To be successful, you have to fix your eyes and focus on the ball, blocking out all those things that may be whirling around in your mind competing for your focus and attention.”

When feeling anxious, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What action can I take in this moment that will help me?” By living in the present you can focus on that action with everything that you have! As Will Rogers shared; “We can’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”
My most important take away is that the past can't be changed, and that we have God's help in the present as well as His hope for the future. I need to remind myself to try and relax... trusting in His control over my life while remembering He is always close providing abundant joy with His presence in our lives. As Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:34; “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Trust …
Like most people, I have failed more times than I care to remember. I’ve struck out playing baseball; I’ve made mistakes as a teacher, coach and administrator. Yet, when I look back, I realize that every failure has moved me forward. Every failure taught me a lesson and made me stronger, wiser and better. I’ve realized that sometimes we have to fail to move forward.
Through each challenge and failure we may experience, we must stay hopeful and know that failure can lead us to a better future if we have an attitude of faith, are open to the possibilities and TRUST that new opportunities may be coming our way. I have placed trust in those around me to help me learn and grow from my experiences. By placing my trust in family, my friends, my medical team and most importantly, God, it has helped me to look at failure not as a dead end but rather as a temporary detour to a better outcome.
And what hits me is this… Jesus never called us to focus on what's wrong with everything; he called us to remember God is in control - of everything. By trusting in Him, that will bring us peace. When you have difficult moments that may cause pain and suffering, take the time to bring them to God and ask for His guidance.  Don’t beat yourself up wondering “why me.”  Remember, as Psalm 46:1 teaches us; “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” God’s purpose for us is not to grant our every wish, making life easy and pain free, but rather to learn to trust Him in all circumstances.

Controlling the controllable…
We don’t get to choose what happens to us in life. As much as we’d like to think we have a great deal of control over the events that happen to us, the fact is that we do not. What is always within our control, however, is what meaning we give those events.

We need to remember that we don’t control what happens to us in life, but we do get to decide how we’re going to react. If we’re sent to the Minors, or cut from a team, or when we get diagnosed with a serious health condition like cancer, we can choose to focus on the unfairness of it and be a victim or we can live in the present, taking one day at a time while revolving our thoughts around hope and guaranteeing ourselves that nowhere in our story will it ever read “I gave up!” Events don’t define us. How we choose to react and the meaning we give them does.

Only God can take the broken pieces of our life and make something beautiful out of each one. He is waiting for us to let go of our pain and trust Him, knowing that He is in control. And we really can trust Him. I have to remind myself of that when my thoughts wander and when my aches and pains trigger those thoughts. No one loves us like He does. I may not always understand or even like His process, but I can always trust in His heart of love for me.  God’s promise to us in 1 Corinthians 13:8.13 speaks clearly about His love for us; “Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” No matter what lies ahead, God is faithful. No matter how difficult the trial may be, God is with us and will deliver us in it or from it.

By receiving God’s healing, loving and guiding presence during times of weakness and wounding in our lives, and in turn revealing them to others, we can help comfort and strengthen those who may be experiencing the same struggles. God’s strength comes into it’s own in our weaknesses.  The two fit perfectly together.

Thanks for keeping Trevor in your prayers, and thanks for being such a special and supportive part of my Home Team!

In Christ’s love and comfort,       

Are you or someone you know fighting cancer... struggling with the physical, emotional and spiritual issues that accompany a cancer journey? If so, Reflections from the Home Team... Go the Distance was written to offer strength, hope and comfort when confronted with a cancer journey's challenges. Share a message of positivity with those you care about. Learn more at this link: