Attitude-Is-Everything-PictureWell, I did it again. I guess you can say I’ve got a thing for the underdogs. This time another inmate and I drafted an underdog 15-man softball team for the upcoming season. In one of my recent blogs dated  April 20 I wrote an underdog story about my three-man sand volleyball team I drafted this past spring, with both of my teammates never playing volleyball before, but had the heart, desire, drive, and motivation to be coached, tocraig vball have fun, and to carry a positive and uplifting attitude. What I didn’t write in the blog, because the season was only half over with at the time, was that my underdog team of rookies was the champions in the year’s three-man league. It was a great underdog story. Check out the picture of this motley crew!

During the year’s softball draft, the other coach and I agreed upon not taking the cocky and arrogant players, but players who are humble, fun, want to learn, have great attitudes, and not caring about winning or losing. I know I’ve said this before, but in prison, there are a countless number of know-it-alls, cocky individuals. And a lot of these individuals are good athletes, with most of them easily being selected in the top four rounds in the year’s softball draft.

This was the exact opposite what we were looking for. Before drafting, we knew most of the players we wanted would be fifth rounders or worse, so we knew drafting them on our team would be no problem. And giving up talent for positive and good attitudes in order to make this season fun is what I would take in a heartbeat. And that was what we did.

There are only eight teams in the league this year, and on draft day we went with our game plan and got all fifteen of our players we wanted. There were definitely a lot of confused and puzzled looks when we started taking late round picks as our top picks. The first time we got our team together for our first of only two practices before the season started we told them our game plan. We told them that we by far were not the most athletic team, but we by far had the team with the best attitudes and were going to have the most fun, whether we win or lose. We knew we would win some games and lose some, too.

Honestly, in prison, to me, it is not about winning or losing, it’s about changing who you are as a person and making your life better. And if it takes playing prison softball to help people change, then softball we will play. So all of our players on our team jumped aboard the game plan and was excited to play on the team this year. I’m not sure what to expect yet, but am happy to have a team full of great attitudes. Oh, and by the way, last week we had our first of 21 games, and we underdogs came from behind to win the game. I know it was only the first game, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun season! In prison or outside of prison, it’s not about winning or losing…..attitude is everything!

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The Perfect Shot

Hole-in-One-2

There is one sport that I miss the most that I cannot play while in prison. Golf! It’s such a simple game. Yet can be as hard as you make it, or frustrating as you make it, too. It seems easy enough to get a tiny ball into a hole while hitting it with metal clubs. Obviously, like everything in life, practice makes perfect. In golf, it’s very tough to be perfect but by practicing, you can see tremendous improvements.

I started playing golf at the age of 11. My Dad bought me a starter set of clubs, which consisted of a driver, a 7-iron, a wedge, and a putter. He took me to a park and my playing days began. Like any sport, I was not that good and needed a ton of practice. But I greatly enjoyed it, and knew it would be a sport I would play for a long time. Through my teenage years, as I got older and stronger, my game improved drastically. I was able to hit the ball further and straighter. I earned my share of pars and birdies, along with an eagle or two as well.

As years passed and my game gradually improved, I never accomplished that great feat of a hole in one. Even today, after 24 years of playing, I still have not earned my first hole in one. I did hit the pin in the air on a par 3, in which the ball stopped a few feet away from the hole for a top-in birdie.

But the greatest shot I’ve ever had was when I was living in Hawaii and playing at one of the local courses. I was about 160 yards to the hole in the middle of the fairway. It was to be my second shot on a par 4. I was using my old school Macgregor clubs that I got in high school, so they weren’t the greatest to hit a ball with but they did the job. I pulled out my six iron, wound up, swung, and made solid contact with the ball, hitting the sweet spot of the club. The ball traveled through the air right at the hole, and hit the front part of the green. It bounced a few times and then started rolling towards the pin. Eventually the ball came to a stop. From 160 yards away, it was difficult to see how close the ball was to the hole. All I knew was that it looked pretty darn close.

I put my iron back in the bag, carried my bag and started walking towards the green. After I walked about ten yards or so I looked up at the green and noticed that my ball was gone. I was confused, and wondered if there was a slope on the back of the green that I was unaware of……maybe the ball rolled off, as this was my first time playing this course. As I got closer to the green, there was no slope, and I still didn’t see the ball anywhere. Then I began to wonder….is the ball in the hole? Maybe the ball was leaning against the pin, the pin moved and the ball dropped into the hole? So I walked onto the green without setting my bag down, and immediately made my way to the hole. My heart was beating a mile a minute, and I was wondering if I actually made the shot.

What do you know, as I was standing over the hole and looking down, my ball was in the center of the cup. I actually made the perfect shot! My first and last from that distance. The funny thing is, I was golfing by myself that day, so no one got to witness the shot with me. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m sure some of you are thinking I made this up. You can believe what you want to believe. Never again have I hit a shot like that, but hopefully someday I’ll accomplish my goal of a hole in one.

As I finished writing this, John 20:29 came to my mind. Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen me, but yet believe. What do you believe? Do you believe I made that shot? It takes faith to believe the story I just told. A better question for you though is….Do you believe in Jesus, even though you have not seen Him walk this earth? Now that takes great faith, and I pray that you do.

This weekend is Father’s Day. What better way to celebrate and honor your Dad than to treat him to eighteen holes of golf. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you!

P.S. This might also be a good time to make the commitment to spend more time with your Heavenly Father , too!!

Boundary Waters

 

As I sit here at my job staring out the windows, my mind always seems to wander. In prison I always do a lot of thinking about my life and memories prior to being locked up, especially when I don’t have a lot going on.

Today as I sit here in a daze, my mind wanders to the days of my Boundary Waters trips. I have had the privilege of leading five trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Ely, Minnesota. It is just south of the Canadian border. It’s an area surrounded by thousands of lakes with breathtaking views and wildlife everywhere. Each lake varies in size and are connected by walking trails on land that are used for “portaging.” Portaging is carrying your camping gear and supplies, including the canoe and paddles, across the land to the next lake, in order to finish the route you planned. The trails could be anywhere from one hundred feet to just over a mile.

Depending on the amount of people in your group (each of my trips had nine individuals) and the length of the trip, the number of canoes and supplies varied. Each of my groups had four canoes and anywhere between 7-12 giant canvas bags, made into backpacks. From my first trip to my fifth trip, the amount of bags greatly digressed as I became more experienced in how to pack and packing lighter for the entire group. When portaging, the goal was to carry everything in one trip between the two lakes. The first trip, carrying twelve forty to sixty pound bags and four aluminum canoes, was no easy task and quite the scene, as I recollect. But the nine of us somehow managed the 25 or so portages we had to traverse during our journey. And, of course, the last days of each trip, the bags were always much lighter than the first day, as we ate away the weight in food.

Each of the trips was five days and four nights on the water. We had to travel with our supplies the entire trip….from sleeping bags to tents to clothes to food and cooking utensils. And that meant carrying everything in a canoe paddling across the water, a canoe that could easily tip over. Fortunately, through all my trips and the constant getting in and out of canoes, there was not one overturned canoe. That would have made for a very wet experience, especially if a sleeping bag got wet. Yes, it did rain. But we had plenty of plastic bags to cover the appropriate items to prevent soakage.

Each day, the group would paddle between 8-10 miles, and had ample time for rest and relaxation. There were hundreds of make shift camp sites scattered around the thousands of acres of lakes and land. So when we got tired for the day, we would find a pristine campsite and make that home for the night. Most of the time, we tried to find campsites on small islands, beaches or ones with amazing views. The sunsets and sunrises were some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. Most of the time we would set up camp in the afternoon and have the rest of the day to swim, explore, fish and just relax. The temperatures were usually in the 70’s and 80’s with the water being cool, but not too cool for swimming. And every trip we would stay put and rest from paddling for one day….a whole day to enjoy the beauty and each other’s company. On those days we would try to find a nice cliff or rock face to jump off, which always resulted in some good times. In the evenings we would play cards, games or sit around the campfire until the dreaded mosquitos invaded our camp.To eat, we had packaged dehydrated food, plus burgers, bacon, eggs and plenty of PBJ. We had enough to eat and never went hungry. It seems like we were always eating or munching on something, replenishing our energy from the day. Paddling 8-10 miles a day wasn’t the tiring part. It was the portaging, sometimes up to a mile at a time with either a canoe over one’s head while also carrying  a backpack, or carrying two backpacks, one on your front and one on your back.

Theses Boundary Waters trips I led were part of a youth ministry program, so we always made time for devotionals and talks about God and our faith life. What better place to talk about Him than in the midst of the world He created. These lakes were in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles away from all civilization. We didn’t even have cell phone services. So, thankfully, no one ever got seriously hurt. It was nothing but our group and God during the trip, except for an occasional person we would run across, or a bald eagle, moose or howling wolves in the distance. Each and every trip was a successful trip with lots of memories and moments that no one will never forget. I believe those trips made a difference in the lives of those kids that I took with me. I truly can’t wait to go up there and do it all over again……someday.