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You probably noticed I had a major gap in blogging dates.  Well there are  3 big reasons:

1. Graduation: no not mine, but my oldest son graduated from high school in May.  I was able to help him “make wise choices” (our on-going parental coaching phrase) by offering a trip to Montana with me instead of a Panama City trip with his friends.  He actually took me up on it.  We spent the week fly-fishing and riding four-wheelers through the Rockies with our friend Joe Windham.  Graham said it was the best trip of his life. Making memories!

2. Baseball summer tour: My youngest son has played for years on a travel baseball team.  You probably have heard of them…thru previous blogs…the Smyrna Bugs.  The team received the invitation letter to the July 25 week of Cooperstown Dreams Park World Series. In preparation for that Gresham played as many tournaments as he possibly could.  In addition to the Middle TN tournaments, the big tours included playing at the Disney/ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando and South Haven Baseball Complex in Mississippi with the Tennessee Knights baseball team.  Then it was off to Cooperstown by way of a Cleveland Indians game and Niagara Falls.  We joined 104 teams there and played seven games going 5-2 for the week.  We finished in the top 20 and had the week of a life-time.  We concluded our vacation as a family by touring Boston, Fenway Park and a Red Sox game.  Making memories!

3. Evaluation: The remainder of the gap I would have to say was due to very in-depth, serious evaluation of LifePoint’s Small Group Ministry (GroupLife).  In the spring each staff member was asked to work through Real Life Discipleship Training Manual (Jim Putman) with five of their ministry’s Coaches or volunteers.  The hope was that at the end of the twelve weeks, each of the five would take five others through the material.  Approximately 135 people completed the material in the spring.  From that almost half of them committed to taking five of their friends, small group or volunteers through the material in the fall.

This brought on a needed evaluation of our ministry from the phrase found in Jim Putman’s ministry and resource: “Making disciples who make disciples.”  So are we? That is what we spent our time doing this fall.  I have to be honest, when you are in the middle of looking internal so deeply, there is not much room, time, energy or excitement about looking outward (blogging).  So what did I spend my time doing?

I spent September thru December reading: Missional Small Groups, Missiorelate, A Different Kind of Tribe, Tangible Kingdom, Building a Discipleship Culture, Leading Small Groups with Purpose, Small Groups with Purpose, Launching Missional Communities and CommunityI read various blogs on a regular basis as well.

I contacted people in the Small Group Network resulting in hours of conversation learning and sharing about small group ministry.  (Read more about or join the SGN here.)

Now we are conducting interviews and Focus Groups with LifePointers to learn more and share our proposal for the next phase of LifePoint Small Group ministry.  I plan to keep you updated on the future, as for now…that is where I have been.

Stay tuned…..

 

Today I have the honor and sadness of writing the final Smyrna Bugs post.  Yesterday they ended their six-year run as a travel baseball team.  It all began in the spring of 2006 with a dream of Coach Chris to have a championship travel team.  The first year’s sponsor was a pest control company from Nashville, Tennessee who used to sponsor Chris’s travel softball team.  After the Bugs won the state championship that year the coaches and parents agreed to keep the name.It would become a name, a team, a family that is recognized across the state for year after year the Smyrna Bugs were a team “to be reckoned with”.   And it will remain a name to be talked about not just for years to come, but generations to come.

The Bugs earned many tournament championships and three state championships.  They could scratch out wins or dominate games.  They would cheer together in the dugout and come together in a loss. They have had opportunities to celebrate the wins and always learn a lesson or two in the losses.  They watched Coach Chris, Pete, Eddie, Wes and David call some great plays and make some mistakes.  They learned how to pick each other up as well as stand strong for each other in times of struggle.

I will always remember some of the yells from the dugout or coaches box: come on six, stay on the bag, FOUR, two-two-two, who left their Gatorade? hit your cut, where’s your hat, hold your head up, and one of our all-time favorites, STACKKKKK. Then there were the pool parties, the skull cap, the sunflower seeds of many flavors, the dented Worth bats, dusty trophies, lost belts, dirty hats and dirty pants.

It is an honor to be part of the Bugs family.  Many things have happened over this six years: births of babies, funerals of family members, broken bones, broken hearts, baptisms, hours of batting practice and winter workouts in the gym.  From home run hitters to brand new pitchers, new bats, new gloves, outgrowing the red and black “clown” pants, and ever increasing shoe sizes.  Coaches yelling, cheering, encouraging, teaching and sharing life lessons; Coaches praying before and after games, to players stopping us from taking the field until one of them could pray and another lead the cheer.

In my 40 plus years of being around baseball teams I have not seen many coaching staffs who would call each player “their own child” or show emotion in front of the players as they shared in the closing huddle.  The Smyrna Bugs were about much more than winning.  We were about family.  Decisions were not always in the best interest of winning a game, but were always in the best interest of the players and families.  The season ended with a tournament where the players were able to hear one of their favorite announcements: “Guys, go play your favorite position.”

Today I know the sun will burn bright, but it will never burn as bright as the place in our hearts reserved for:  The Smyrna Bugs.

To:

Bryce #8  1B, P                            Alex #11   2B, SS                        Gresham #6   SS, P

Chase #18   C, P, 1B, 3B            Justin #2   3B, P, 2B, SS           Brandon #10   C, P, 3B

Aaron #5   P, OF, 1B                   Patrick #9   3B, 2B, P               Dayton #3   OF, P

Steven #23   CF                           Dylan #1   OF, P

…and each of their families…

Thanks for the memories!!

 

The Smyrna Bugs story is about a travel baseball team that began in 2006 in middle Tennessee.  They are a team that has won the title of state champs 3-times.  They have always been a hard-working team with some talent and a lot of ‘team’.  They are a team who can walk on field and beat or scratch out a win most of the time.  They have prayed as a team for years and invited other teams to pray with them following games.  They conduct chapel services and/or devotionals when they play games on Sunday mornings.
A lot of life’s lessons are learned at these games.  The team meetings after every game are always a combination of game evaluation and life application.

However, as we continued to win, practice and focus seemed to start to slack. The things that brought the wins began to slowly drift…and we did not see it because the drift was so slow.

Lackadaisical becomes the descriptive word of our hustle.  Recently the Bugs experienced a tough, unexpected loss which caused us to look back and see where we had drifted.  We began to evaluate every act, every practice, every swing, every pitch…what is it? Then a parent reminded us that we no longer prayed before or after the games. Instead of more practice or running to help us not lose, what about getting back to priorities. We can stop the drift by getting back to the basics of playing and praying as a team.  Remember God is in control and giving Him glory is what needs to be our focus.

Drift is not only in baseball.  Every one of us experience drift in our lives.  When was the last time you stopped to check  and to see if you have drifted from God?   You may lead at church, be a leader at work, of a team, or even in your family;  have you drifted?  What unexpected loss or tough situation will it take for you to realize the drift is happening?

Don’t wait for drift to come in your life before you get back to God!

The Bugs turned it around and pray before and after games with other teams as appropriate and are experiencing more team unity and morale than ever before.   Now, I did not say we are winning every game, but we understand there is more to life and team than winning.

Learn from the Bugs:  check to see if you have drifted and make necessary changes to stop the drift.

For the second weekend in a row the Bugs make it to the championship game facing the good-hitting Franklin Outlaws.  For the second weekend in a row both teams experience the unfortunate experience of umpires not knowing the rules of the game.  For the second weekend in a row frustration built due to these mistakes. For the second weekend in a row the Bugs made errors and the Outlaws hit the ball.  For the second weekend in a row the Bugs come away Runner-up.  AND for the second weekend in a row Bugs parents sent encouraging emails about their kids positive experiences and learning moments, despite the loss.

“I just wanted you all to know how much my wife and I appreciate your continued faith in our son Patrick (he was hit in the eye by bad hop) today after the eye injury.  I don’t think there is another team anywhere that would have  that trust and faith in a player like you showed him today.

Jeff says “Grow slow”.  I say ‘savor the moment, remember the hit, remember the catch, remember the throw, remember the time(s) you played off the ball off your face’? There will be no better times on a baseball field than there have been for the past several years. The boys put on a great show today, you should be proud and I know you are.

I have experience as a parent and coach with several different teams and (you use) each little moment as a teaching moment.  It is the little teaching moments when the kids learn to play the game, when they learn to overcome adversity. It is the little moments that build the champions from within and builds them into the men we want them to become.

For years I have been hearing from different coaches of different teams that “it is a privilege” to be on this team or that team. It is truly a privilege to be a Bug parent.

———-

I just want to say that after last night, I am even more proud to be a part of the Bugs family than I was before.  What an unbelievable group of boys and coaches we have.  They played their hearts out last night.

You all know that Bryce is a “man of few words”.  After we got home last night, we were all just sitting there and he said “you know what, we have the best coach in the whole world”.  Believe me, that is a lot coming from him.  I don’t know much of what was said in the (teachable moments) huddle last night, but it made an impact on Bryce.

Thank you coaches!!!

Why do you do what you do? As a coach, neighbor, friend, co-worker, etc…when you walk away from good times; not so good times, good experiences and not so good experiences; when you said the right thing or maybe said the wrong thing…what will be said of you?  Invest in the future by taking advantage of teachable moments. 

Coach Pete was so moved by the effort of the Smyrna Bugs 11U baseball team (in their sixth season) this past weekend that he sent the following email to all the parents.  After reading this short email ask yourself if your extra-curriculum activities are producing these kinds of relationships.

I couldn’t be more proud of your kids this weekend. We grew as a team and learned even more about ourselves. Please share this email with your kids:

Highlights of the weekend;
Gresham shutting down one of the best teams in the state and grinding for 80+ pitches
Bryce turning into a machine at the plate and putting fear into the other team with his bat
Dylan throwing out runner after runner FROM RIGHT FIELD
Chase catching an entire Sunday in sweltering heat and mowing down runners
Brandon hitting a 60 mph fastball in the most clutch situation to win the game against the Knights
Chewy pitching a great Sunday game and going deep* for the first time as a Bug!
Buzz finding an extra 6 inches in his frame
Justin supporting his team even when on injured reserve
Steven going deep* and striking absolute fear in the hearts of opposing coaches
Patrick showing us a work ethic between games we could all learn from
Aaron pitching his heart out and getting us deep into the tournament
I love coaching this team and they are learning how to conduct themselves under very stressful situations.
May God keep his hands all over this family.
Coach Pete
*going deep: Coach Pete’s terms for ‘hitting a home run over the fence.’

If there is one statement that makes me mad, belittles me, totally goes against a mentoring or apprentice lifestyle, it is “I got it covered.”  I hear this statement too often in a meeting, hallway conversation, or in a home.

In sports, consider how important it is to play as a team.  Peyton Manning has been an incredible quarter back in the last several years.  However, in 2010 we began to see how he is not as dominate without a strong offensive line.  When Peyton walks on the field he knows, in all of his greatness, he is nothing without blockers in front of him. For him to say “I got it covered guys, you just stay on the bench this series” would be stupid, but we basically say it all the time when we don’t take others along with us.

At home, when working the car, what help have you given if you don’t have someone watch you and learn from you.  When your teenager turns 16 and begins to drive, who is keeping a check on the oil? Tires? Wipers? If you have told them for 16 years, “I got it covered” you have told them they are not worthy to learn or you don’t care what happens to them when you are not around. Invite them come along with you when working on the car.

At Small Group, when you never ask someone else to help in leading your group you have told them they are not good enough to lead like you do. You have said “our group is perfect and we don’t need to worry about sending out someone to lead others. I will always be your leader.” Invite someone to come along with you as you learn to lead the group.

At work, when you don’t train others to do what you do you have said “I’m busy doing what I do, you don’t need to know what I know.”  Or in the extreme situation to say “I got it covered” could mean that it is none of your business.  What if God calls you to another position, location, opportunity? Invite someone to come along with you work and learn your job better.

Each of us have a responsibility and work to be done. Each of us also have a responsibility to develop those around us, the next generation and our family.  When tackling a project why not say: “Yea I am going to work on this, why don’t you come along with me?” Inviting others to participate as apprentices will help them know what to do when you are not there.  It also develops them to go out on their own one day and lead others.

Words are powerful!  Are your words developing others or isolating you from taking others along on the journey?

Bugs Win!

This travel baseball season the Smyrna Bugs have seen a lot more ups and downs than in previous seasons.  The guys have played hard in very hot weather. They have practiced both as a team and as individuals, making their parents sweat it out with them in the back yards and fields across Middle Tennessee.

But today, June 27, 2010, they saw their hard work, dedication, love for the game, and total commitment to the team pay off in a big way.  The Smyrna Bugs won the 2010 Tennessee State USSSA Major Championship. The weekend saw tough opponents Brentwood Power and Nashville Knights Friday and Saturday.  Then it was the Tennessee Ravens in the semi-final and Greenville Little Devils for the Championship.  We also faced a lot of lighting and rain and HOT sun.

The Bugs went 4-0 only allowing a total of 3 runs in the three-day tournament.  Each game was a nail-biter considering these were some of the top teams in the state.  As I have said before, if you ever get the chance to see this level of baseball in your area, don’t miss it.

Well, now that you know the end of the journey to the state championship, what about the plays that got us there?

Was it Steven’s grand slam in the championship game against the Little Devils or his running catch against the Ravens in semi-final that kept the lead for the Bugs?

Was it Alex’s sacrifice that scored Gresham against the Power for one of our three runs or him fielding the grounders and pop-flies for the last six outs of the championship game?

Was it Gresham’s base hit in the fourth against the Ravens to set up our first of two runs in the semi-finals or his pitching four innings in the championship game?

Was it Brandon’s ground ball in fourth against the Ravens to drive in Gresham or his many innings behind the plate catching and throwing out runners?

Was it Aaron’s double over the head of the left fielder in the championship game setting up our first run or was it his Bugs record-setting, 3-pitch inning against the Power?

Was it Patrick’s utility playing of 3 positions over the weekend or his game-winning, walk-off base hit against the Ravens that scored Aaron from second?

Was it Luke’s sacrifice fly to center in championship that scored Aaron as our first run of the game or his throw from left field to get the runner at second early in the championship game?

Was it Bryce’s scoop at first to hold off the Knights scoring attempt or his bunt in the championship game to score Patrick for the first run of the game?

Was it Chase’s fielding of the grounder for a crucial out against the Ravens or making one of his signature scoops at first base in the championship game for the first out of the fourth ?

Was it Dylan’s diving stop in right to hold runner from scoring in the semi-final or his bunts in the championship game to help load the bases?

Was it Justin’s pitching in the semi-final giving up only 4 hits or his bunt to load the bases in the championship game?

Yes it was!  And the TEAM came together to prove every player, every play, every hit and every out is important!

Thanks Bugs for a great season and congratulations on your third State Title in five years.

Did you ever hit a home run?  Maybe yours was not on the baseball field. Maybe it was at work, in your marriage, as a parent or in another sport.  Hitting a home run is something we all get excited about and we always remember the first one of our life.

This past weekend the Smyrna Bugs got to experience a couple of firsts-in-my-life home run experiences.  It was the Global Sports Baseball State Tournament in Nashville.  We would have to win five games over the weekend to take the title of State Champs.  Head Coach Chris would be missing most of the games due to coaching his younger son, Brett, in their state tournament.  That meant that Coach Pete and Coach Wes would be leading the team.

We entered Sunday’s games 2-0 and would have three games on the hottest Sunday this year.  We faced the Hurricanes who were challenging to the Bugs bats into the third.  Stephen hit a home run in the third which motivated the Bugs to get four more in the fourth from batter 5-11.  Aaron and Brandon combined to hold on to the lead and get the win.

Then we faced the Murfreesboro Crush.  Steven led the game off with a home run which put the Bug through the roof! (His first two homer weekend) Then Gresham came up with one out and hit his first home run of his life. Now the Bugs were pumped and teeth were shining all over the dugout.  However Crush gained their composure and no more Bugs would score until the third.  Final Bugs 8-1 over Crush.  Dylan and Alex combined to win this semi-final game.

It was getting hotter. I mean it was HOT!! We would not have made it through the three games if it were not for Personal Assistants Todd and Jeff who kept the water bottles and wet towels going.  Added to this was the service of Graham’s Dugout Fan Co, which enabled us to stay cool enough to play all three games on Sunday.

It was on to the championship game against the Comets.  They brought their A-game. Bugs gave up 6 runs in the second and were trailing 6-4 through the third.  In the fourth Bugs scored 4 more tying the game at 9.  Bugs pitchers were tired.  We delivered up four pitchers before loosing 12-9 and coming in Runners Up in the Global Sports Baseball State Tournament.

It was a home-run for Coach Pete as his first official tournament at the helm. Coach Wes spent his weekend getting a home-run as first base coach.  The wives of Todd and Jeff discovered their husbands can probably hit home runs with the laundry and dishes since they were such great personal assistants to an entire team.  And the laughter and friendly jokes between the Comets and Bugs after the championship showed the home runs teams can have by keeping relationships first and the game in perspective.

What home run will you always remember?  What home run as a parent, as a husband/wife, as a co-worker, as a leader in your community will be the one that makes a lasting impression on you and those around you?  Hitting a home run is not always about athletic ability.  It is more about taking on challenges in life and totally focusing on turning them into something that can change a game, a life, a family, a workplace. Give it your all.  Try your best. Use what you have learned in practice (God’s Word, others Wisdom, Experiences, Parent’s advice, etc).  Go out today determined to hit a home run in your life.

Oh yea, Coach Chris and the Storm won the      State Championship.

The Bugs traveled to Jackson TN this past weekend and experienced a lot of things.  There were lots of hits on the field, lots of cannon balls in the pool, lots of water balloons at the Coaches and lots of diving catches on the field and in the pool.

We had two birthday parties, three swimming parties, and a lot of Bugs hanging on Coach Chris trying to dunk him. Yet they failed!

The Bugs returned home with a 3-1 record in Jackson’s V Foundation Challenge Tournament.  It was a pleasure to play baseball in the nicest facility we have seen in 2010, very organized and manicured facility!  Not only was it the best we have seen in appearance, but in service also.  Even the umpires were treated like rock-stars as they were picked up outside the dugouts by golf carts and taken the umpire den to cool off between games.

One terrible experience at The Old Town Spaghetti Store where the waiter dumped salad dressing in one of the mother’s hair and down her back.  No apology received.  The Manager never came by and actually avoided us as we exited the restaurant.  They even charged her for the salad and acted as if we were a burden to them. Won’t be back there.

Other than that, the weekend was a WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE OF FUN! This was the true travel ball experience for the Bugs. Can’t wait for the next trip.

The championship game came down to the biggest rivalry in the state.  The last time they faced each other it was in the semi-finals and we made two errors for four runs in the first and never had a chance.  This time was going to be different.  We knew what we had to do, hit the ball and throw strikes!

We kept the lead until the sixth inning, 8-3. Gresham had pitched every inning, but when he gave up three hits in the sixth for 2 runs, it was time for a trip to the mound by Coach Pete.  Coach Pete asked Gresham “What are you thinking?” Gresham’s reply would have caused even Bobby Cox to turn around and head back to the dugout.  His response “All I need is one more out!” And with that focus, that confidence, that determination, and that energy, Coach Pete headed back to the dugout.

How many times have you got near the end of a task and could almost see the ending of what God had called you to do and not finished because challenges or tough times arose?  You spent weeks, months, maybe even years trying to ‘discover God’s will’ only to discover it and not stay on task to the end.

Discovering God’s will sometimes may seem difficult.  Ultimately, His will is for us to bring glory to Him and make Him famous. Prayer, Bible reading, conversations with other Christ-followers and even circumstances line up for what you need to do next…the next step on your spiritual journey…but we don’t take the step.  Things don’t go as planned. Tough times arise and we finish short. We give up and head to the dugout to let someone else finish our job, our call, our responsibility.

Over the last five months I have been writing Connecting in Communities, a book on small group ministry.  Through this journey my son was attacked, my wife’s company was threatened and I had two of the biggest challenges in my 24 years of ministry. Several mornings I woke up and thought “I can’t get this done. I am not going to finish this because it is hurting my family too much.”  But as I stayed in the trenches and plotted along day-by-day, because all I needed was one more day to write and in the end  I was able to meet the deadline for the manuscript.

Finishing what God has called you to do will be met with some hard hits and you may give up a few runs along the way. People may ask you if you think you can finish which causes you to question yourself.  God’s will is not about the easy way.  It is not about the smooth road.  Check out Acts 7:54  What is it that God told you to do? Your next step is…take that step, finish the task!

Oh yea, Gresham struck out the next batter, pitching complete game, finishing the task and Bugs win the Memorial Day Weekend Tournament.

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I am on staff at LifePoint Church as the Executive Director of GroupLife. While I get to serve with a great team and help lead a great church, the opinions and views shared here are not necessarily the views of LifePoint Church or other staff. You have been warned...
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