Some Life Lessons from Basketball

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Basketball, and sports in general, can be a great metaphor for life. For example, in the course of a basketball game, many analogies can be made to what transpires in a person’s life. The ups and downs, the challenges, the adversities, and what it takes to meet them head on.

The dynamics in the game of basketball very much correspond to what takes place in life. As in basketball, so in life:

1. Learn and “master” the fundamentals of the game.

Before you can play the game of basketball you must learn the basics or fundamentals – how to play the game, how to pass, to dribble, run the court, and shoot the ball. You have to develop the necessary skills to play at an acceptable level.

I discovered early on that the player who learned the fundamentals of basketball is going to have a much better chance of succeeding and rising through the levels of competition than the player who was content to do things his own way. A player should be interested in learning why things are done a certain way. The reasons behind the teaching often go a long way to helping develop the skill… Good things take time, as they should. We shouldn’t expect good things to happen overnight. Actually, getting something too easily or too soon can cheapen the outcome. – John Wooden

Lesson: In life you must also learn the basics. You must establish what it (life) is, what it means to you, and want you from it. You must then develop the requisite skills and strategies for attaining your goals.

2. Be prepared both mentally and physically.

Elite athletes know that you can’t function optimally or win games if you’re not prepared both mentally and physically. You must be in great physical shape to withstand a long, grueling and demanding basketball game (and especially for an entire season). Equally important, you must have mental fitness. Mental fitness includes a positive, willing, and winning mindset. One without the other will not win games.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail… There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning. – John Wooden

Lesson: Being prepared mentally and physically is equally essential in life.

3. Be unselfish and a team player.

Basketball is a team sport, which means it requires contribution and co-operation from every member in order to play well and win. Everyone must focus, work together, and fulfill their individual roles for the common good of the team.

As great of a player that Michael Jordan was, he did not win any championships until he learned to involve his teammates by trusting them and distributing the ball.

In one of the highest scoring games of his career, where he scored 63 points and set a playoff game record, his team lost to the Boston Celtics. In a sport where individual greatness is in large part measured by winning a championship ring, personal glory does not get the job done. Not even players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Lebron James can win championships by themselves.

Much more can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit… We don’t have to be superstars or win championships… All we have to do is learn to rise to every occasion, give our best effort, and make those around us better as we do it. – John Wooden

Lesson: So it is with life. Contribute, co-operate, and share.

4. Be alert and aware. Anticipate the play.

The greatest players in basketball have all been credited for having extraordinary court vision and awareness. Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and other great players knew exactly where everyone was on the court, the other players’ tendencies, and which plays would work against the different teams. The ability to anticipate and be ready for a play made them active, rather than reactive, players in a game. It’s one of the factors that separates the great players from good players.

Each of us has a huge capacity to learn and to achieve. Being ever alert makes the task of becoming all we are capable of becoming so much easier… When we aren’t alert, we miss opportunities to improve ourselves. We should always watch for circumstances or situations that can help or harm us and be eager to learn from these encounters. – John Wooden

Lesson: Being conscious and aware in life sets the stage for greater achievement.

5. If the plays aren’t working, re-adjust the game plan.

Every great basketball player knows that when your plays aren’t working you have to adjust, and then adjust some more. The varying strengths and styles of different opponents require different tactics. You have to be able to withstand and respond to whichever attacks an opponent uses on you. Sometimes a player/team will have a weakness at a certain position, will be vulnerable to a certain type of offense/defense, or have difficulty guarding a certain type of player or style of play; good players, teams, and coaches notice these things and adapt to exploit them to their benefit.

The greatest fault is to be conscious of none. – Thomas Carlyle

If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward… Failure is not fatal, but failure to change can be… The man who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success… If you do not have time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over? – John Wooden

Lesson: Life presents us with many challenges for which we must adjust our game plan.

6. Never give up on the play. Persevere.

Another characteristic common to the brilliance of players like Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller, and Tim Duncan was that they never gave up on a play. When they missed shots they would be the ones to retrieve their own rebounds, dive for loose balls, outwit defenders, and make every last second count (many times it did). They were willing to do the small things that the statistics didn’t reflect. Many a dagger was thrust into an opponent’s heart by these players when the outcome of the game seemed a foregone conclusion. Why? Because they never gave up. Not on the play, not on the game, not on themselves!

Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts… Success is piece of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming… Remember, results aren’t the criteria for success – it’s the effort made for achievement that is most important. – John Wooden

Lesson: Persevere. Never, ever, ever give up.

7. Win more games than you lose, but accept both victory and defeat graciously.

No matter what sport you play, you can’t win every game. In a 7 game championship series, two evenly matched teams often win only one more game than they’ve lost. Sometimes that deciding game is even only by a few points. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to win a championship. If you give it everything you’ve got, no matter what the outcome, you can walk away with your head held high. The San Antonio Spurs‘ team from 2013 is a prime example of a team that lost a game 7 World Championship with grace, class, and great poise. It was a devastating loss for them after having come so close to winning it all in game 6 and losing game 7 at the wire, but they walked off the court celebrating and congratulating the Miami Heat on their win.

Learn what it takes to win and come back and try again. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Lebron James and many other players before they won, lost many, many games and championships. They had to learn to experience and accept defeat before they understood what it took to win.

If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier… Perfection is what you are striving for, but perfection is an impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility. Do the best you can under the conditions that exist. That is what counts… You can always look back and see where you might have done something differently, changed this or that. If you can learn something, fine, but never second-guess yourself. It’s wasted effort… Does worrying about it, complaining about it, change it? Nope, it just wastes your time. And if you complain about it to other people, you’re also wasting their time. Nothing is gained by wasting all of that time. – John Wooden

Lesson: So it is with life. Everything will not always go your way. There will be both losses and wins. If you give everything your best shot and learn these lessons along the way, you will come out a winner.

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Why “Player Handouts” Every Week?

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Each week we only get to hold organized team practice for a combined four hours. There is only so much that can be said, only so much that can be covered in this allotted time. So, in addition to the physical training that takes place during the scheduled practice time, I try to pass out a couple handouts to my players. These handouts consist of a short article I found or wrote for the team, along with another page I refer to as “the player of the week.” The player of the week handout portion contains a page with a brief biographical summary of one of the legendary basketball greats like Pete Maravich, John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, David Robinson, etc. I want the kids to know more about the game and be more familiar with some of the incredible players who have impacted history by stepping on a basketball court. However, my hopes aren’t simply for the guys to have more knowledge of the game’s rich history.

My hope is that we all walk away from this season with more of Jesus. It would be a monumental failure on my part as a coach if my players walk away at the end of a season with just an increased ability to put an orange ball through a hoop ten feet in the air. It is a great loss for us all if we end the season with more W’s than any other team, but Christ is not reflected in our lives. I care far more about our relationship with our Heavenly Father than our efficiency to outscore opponents in a basketball game.

Now do I want us to win in our games? Yes, absolutely… always. But I do not want us to be so short-sided that we are willing to trade depth in life, depth in our relationship with God, for a couple extra W’s and a few more points on our stat sheet. We need to remember that basketball is just a game; but at the same time it is so much more than a game. It can be a microcosm of life. Through playing basketball we can learn more about ourselves, we can develop discipline, drive, courage, determination, and leadership. We can learn how to better deal with both success and disappointment, with rapid change and unmet expectations, and how to better interact with others like us and those who are different in many ways.

So this game really can be an incredible part of our life. Basketball is so much more than tossing a ball through a basket. The benefits of the game go well beyond physical exercise and conditioning. It is a great sport (in my opinion the greatest organized sport of all), but it should never be ultimate in our lives.

“Basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere.” – John Wooden

Basketball: Without the Basketball

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There are some things about the game of basketball that we all know and fully comprehend, but sometimes we don’t seem to notice all the implications of that basic, simple, and common knowledge. For example, we all know that there is only one basketball used to play with in a game. During an organized league game there are ten players on the court, with five players on each team actively playing. Only one player can control or have possession of the basketball at any given moment. Only one player at a time can dribble or shoot the ball. In whatever the league, however long the quarter or half is played, there will always be nine players who are playing the game without the ball currently in their hands. This obvious knowledge can actually tell us a lot more about this great game.

As a player, it is very important to have good ball-handling skills, to make moves with the basketball in order to avoid having it stolen, to make clean passes, and to be able to shoot well. However, 9 out of 10 players on the court will be playing without the ball in their hands at every given moment of the game. So the chances are pretty high for any particular player to not have the ball for the vast majority of the game. This leads us to realize that there is going to be a great necessity for understanding and playing the game without having a basketball in your hands.

So again, during the game, all but one of the players will be moving without the basketball. This means that your skill level to dribble and shoot the ball are only part of the game. While those parts are very essential and require a lot of time and effort to develop and refine, the majority of the time during a game actually consists of how well you play without the ball in your hands. It won’t be that great of a value to a team if you can shoot lights out, but you are slow, don’t play defense well, can’t even get open on offense, and just seem to get in the way by being out of position when the ball isn’t in your hands.

Remember… movement is life. If you’re not moving, you’re not living. (And don’t be silly or pedantic; even when you are sleeping or just standing still, your heart is beating and body parts are operating internally to keep you alive.) In the game of basketball, we are required to have constant ball movement, but also constant movement without the ball. All this movement without the ball must still have an actual purpose. All five players on the court should constantly be working together as one unit, with one common goal: score more points than the other team. Whether the ball is in your hands or not, there are aspects of the game that go well beyond your ability to manipulate a round, orange object. Here are some absolutes for the game when there isn’t a ball in your hands:

1. Each player should always know where the ball is at on the court and who has the ball.

2. Each player should be anticipating what others players are about to do and where the ball might possibly go next.

3. Each player should be comfortable setting screens and coming off screens.

4. Each player on offense should be looking to get open for a pass, or set someone else up to get open. We should be spread out or bunched up tactfully in order to create the right spacing needed for the best possible quality shot.

5. Every player needs good court vision. We must survey the court and quickly process where everyone is, where they are headed, and how to exploit any holes or weaknesses in the opposing team.

6. Each player should be moving on offense, not just the point guard bringing the ball down. Whether you are setting a screen, setting your defender up for a screen, flashing through the lane, posting up on the block, darting up to the top of the key, rotating to the backside, drawing the defense away from another player to set up an opening, or sliding up to the elbow to create better spacing during a set play, you should always be moving.

7. Whenever the ball is shot, the ball becomes fair game on a miss, and you should want that rebound. We should all be crashing the boards; this is not merely the job or role of a post player. Anyone and everyone is allowed to rebound the basketball, not just the 4 or 5 position.

8. Every player should be hustling up and down the court on both offense and defense. No team can function properly if all five guys are cherry-picking or snowbirding on every single possession; somebody has to rebound the ball after all. We have to fill the lanes and run on offense, but we must also do the same on defense. On the way back downcourt, everyone should be locating where their man is, where the ball is, if anyone is out of position, and if help is needed on the ball or an opponent who is currently a wide open threat.

9. On defense we should always know where our man is at when we are in man-to-man, and always know who is in our area when we are in a zone defense. You’re going to have to move to cover your man or area; zone defense does not mean we all stand flat-footed in a 2-3 or 1-3-1 formation; you are guarding a general area and working together as a unit in a zone formation to prevent penetration into the paint.

10. You’re on defense, and you want the ball back… so you should be trying to get the ball back.

Players on defense obviously won’t have the ball and will need to do their best to get the ball back; and hopefully do so without the other team scoring any points first. We should be using our heads more than our hands to get the ball back from an opponent. We can get quicker by running suicides and defensive slides all practice, but I’m sure most of us would rather become “quicker” by using our heads.

We want to work and play smarter, not just harder. Our defensive positioning, hands up and moving around at all times, getting low and wide on ball coverage, slapping up on the ball while being dribbled by our opponent instead of down, disrupting passes with our backhand instead of compromising our position, constant communication with our teammates, putting pressure on the ball, contesting shots, anticipating where the ball will bounce on a missed shot, blocking out on rebounds, and going for the ball with reckless abandon when it is loose are all key components to playing the game well… and none of that has to do with how well you can dribble, pass, or shoot the basketball. We need to learn to play well without the basketball.

Little Things in Life & Basketball*

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When I was younger, I remember reading an article about how legendary basketball coach John Wooden used to explain to his players how to put their shoes on correctly, and wear at least two pairs of socks so that they wouldn’t get blisters on their feet. (To this day I actually always wear double socks, with the first pair inside out, no matter what the activity because I became so used to it while playing ball.) The reason he did this was to emphasize just how important the little things are in the game of basketball. Although this might be a little bit much, it just shows you the importance of details. Details and little things can be the difference maker in basketball, in your faith, and in life. Paul Tripp put this well when he said, “Life is really lived in the little moments.”

As a player, a constant volunteer for camps, an avid fan of the game (particularly the Kansas Jayhawks and San Antonio Spurs teams), and now someone who serves as a head coach, I have been able to catch a decent glimpse of both sides of the player-coach dynamic. As a player I have been apart of some good teams, as well as some pretty bad teams. The difference between the losing-teams and winning-teams for the most part wasn’t a major talent gap or a significant game-plan strategy issue, it was the little details. It had a lot more to do with all the little things than a single big shot or turnover on a crucial possession.

My life has had some big moments: particular birthdays (like the Space Jam themed party in Independence, KS… or the couple birthdays where Texas Rangers baseball was still being played into October and we gathered around a TV with some good friends and good food, to cheer for a Rangers’ win), certain holidays (like our annual Easter, 4th of July, Neewollah, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve celebrations), trips and vacations (like Disney World, Padre Island, Red Lodge and Yellowstone in Montana, and many trips back to Kansas), my proposal to my wife Kathryn down by the lake after a nice picnic dinner, our wedding day (that whole day is a blur, with some beautiful highlights and moments I’ll never forget), our honeymoon in Montana (that was a blast), anniversaries, great meals at nice restaurants (like the first time we went to a Brazilian steakhouse… oh my goodness), big games and concerts we’ve been blessed to attend (like the Eagles, The Who, Anberlin, Phil Wickham, U2 & Muse, and Jimmy Eat World & Foo Fighters concerts)… or the 2005, 2007, and 2013 NBA Finals in San Antonio, or the final KU vs. Mizzou game at Allen Fieldhouse… that was an amazing and unforgettable game), multiple road-trips with great friends including trips to Tennessee, Salt Lake City, Lawrence, Kansas City, and Galveston… and on and on I could go with big moments in my life that I’ve been truly blessed to experience… my heart is greatly stirred by these memories, but that is the vast minority when compared to all the little moments of life.

All the daily breakfasts, lunches, dinners, all the time cooking and waiting for something to heat up, grocery shopping, stopping by the gas station to fill up, all those moments right after walking in the door from being somewhere and getting settled in, all that time spent at work (perhaps sitting in a cubicle starring at a computer screen, just mundanely working one account after another), time spent in the gym, time spent loading and unloading the car, those moments spent watching movies or television, time spent doing laundry, time spent playing video games, board games, card games, etc., all those text messages sent each day, time spent cleaning and organizing, time getting ready to go places, time spent reading or studying, time spent in school taking classes, driving to and from work, time spent putting something together, countless hours messing around on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media, time spent getting ready for bed, time spent day dreaming, the moments of laying in bed trying to fall asleep, the third of your life spent sleeping, and heck, even all that time spent in the bathroom…

Similar to life, the little things make up the vast majority of the game of basketball. That’s why there are highlights for games that last only 10-20 seconds, for a minimum 48-minute game in the pros (still 40-minutes in college). You don’t win games because of a spectacular dunk that replays for weeks on Sport Center’s Top 10. There is a lot more to basketball than just shooting a ball through a hoop. And even more involved in the preparation for playing the sport than simply practicing one’s shot. Being a minute late to practice, shorting a line in sprints, not going over the mechanics of shooting over and over, ball-handling drills ad nauseam, or missing an assignment may seem minor, but these things are such a big deal if not dealt with the right way. If a player is willing to short a line in a sprint, then who is to say that he won’t be one step out of position on defense at the end of a crucial game, and instead of a charge he gets called for a block. There are just so many little things in basketball that can add up if you don’t focus on them everyday.

For example: closing out with high hands, talking on defense, talking on offense (just always talking to your teammates), putting a body on someone during a rebound opportunity, squaring up for a jumpshot, setting a good screen, rubbing tightly off a screen, making an intentionally crisp pass, setting your man up before coming off a screen, etc. are little things or minor details and the list could go on and on. Each thing individually might not be that big of a deal, but put all (or even just some of them together) and it can be the difference between a win and a loss, the difference between great season with some hardware to take home… or end with some players losing significant time on the floor, being cut/traded, or even the General Manager (or Athletic Director) looking for a new head basketball coach for the next season.

From the very first day of practice, and every single day after that we must emphasize the little things. Just like someone in the Christian faith never moves on from the basic and fundamental message of the Gospel, a basketball player never moves on from the need to have the basic and fundamental aspects of the game down. A good ball player is constantly going over and refining their basic, fundamental skills of the game. No player, not even guys like Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, or Lebron James could ever practice too much, improve their ball-handling enough, tweak their footwork, work on their shot too much, go over too much film, or be in the gym too long, to have reached a level that moved on past the need to continue to work on those basic skills.

As a coach, I need to explain to my players what is acceptable and what I am expecting of them. It may take a little while at first, but once the team realizes what is expected of everyone, and we all buy into the system with the hopes of achieving an end goal, players will more earnestly do what is expected of them. Since most players have never been held accountable like this before, a little patience and grace should always be shown at the beginning. We all need to understand the value of doing the little things and be committed to doing them. Whether a coach has to run his team or repeat a certain drill for days until the players get it right, it is the coach’s job to ingrain in his players the details of this great game until it becomes second nature. Coaches also aren’t to show favoritism, whether it is their best player or the 12th man, we strive to make sure that everyone is doing their job correctly and putting forth their best effort. We aim to see every player improve and mature into the best player they can be. However, as coaches are human, we will fail you some days, but I hope my players can forgive me and never lose trust that there is a greater purpose behind all we are working on together.

Just as relationships with spouses, friends, family, parents, children, small groups, pastors, etc. serve to expose and uncover deep heart issues in our lives, certain situations in basketball will reveal areas of your game that are lacking. For the sake of maturation and development, coaches strive to put their team in circumstances that will test them, to help them to come up against obstacles that will likely spring up in a game; which will reveal those who can’t or won’t do the little things. Conditioning is one of the greatest ways to do this. When players get tired or have to do something that is hard, we begin to see their true nature. Just as someone who is going through a very hard time, and is extremely stressed out by their current circumstances at home, school, and/or work; how they react to the storms of life will be a greater testament of their character than how well they handle having money in the bank, good health, and they’re currently at a party having fun.

The players who don’t buckle under a little pressure, the guys who touch the line every time, don’t go down to their knees or grab a seat after every sprint, and who encourage their teammates throughout drills are the players you can trust. These are ones who are going to be able to execute a play the right way at the end of a close game. It is my job as the coach to encourage all my players to do this, to put their heart into it, to give it their all, and to really buy into the team. The players also have a responsibility to do this for one another.

During a game or even in practice a coach is not always going to be able to stop play every time a player closes out without high hands, isn’t in the right defensive position, doesn’t put a body on someone as a shot went up, doesn’t crash the boards, doesn’t shoot with proper form, throws a lazy pass, hogs the ball too long, etc. However it is still very important to focus on the details and a great way to do that is film. It is a lot easier for players to correct something if they can see themselves doing it the wrong way. I once heard a commentator say during a review in a big game, “the film doesn’t lie…” And that is exactly true. If a player is continually forgetting to close out with high hands in a game, going right every single time they get the ball, or is always out of position on defense, a coach can use film to sit them down and show them what they are doing wrong. We probably won’t always have film for all our games and practices though, so we must trust and rely on each other.

Similar to how a brother in Christ goes to a friend to help him see something in his life that is harming him in hopes of seeing him repent from that, and then strive together for further sanctification to get more of Christ, to know Him more deeply; a coach pursues the maturation of his players. A coach is to strive to make sure that his players understand their correction and discipline is out of a motivation of love and hope for improvement in their ability to play. A good coach earnestly works hard and puts forth a diligent effort to make sure his players understand this.

Still, you may be asking yourself, why is doing little things correctly and practicing them so much being made out to be such a big deal… Well, if you do not have time to do something right, when will you find the time to do it over? It is not easy to do all of the little things in life or in basketball. It takes a lot of effort from the coaching staff to communicate, mentor, and guide the players well in hopes to make sure that every day the players are doing things the right way, and progressing in their skill. It also takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and buying into the team’s plan and strategy from the players. It always takes community and team effort.

Basketball really is like a microcosm to so much of life. The game of basketball can teach us so much about ourselves, as well as us being able to take our strengths in life and apply them towards the game. Something that will help make playing basketball easier is for a coach to sit down with his players and explain to them why the little things are so important. This short article is only a small part of my efforts to do just that. If we all understand and really believe in what we are doing then we will work harder to accomplish it. It will always be very difficult at first for everyone, so we must try to remember that and not get frustrated quickly. (Also, it is important to note that over the years when a team has players return, it can have some stability, the returning players will be able to help the new players, and it will be easier on the coach, and the team overall.)

However, not every year will work that way, and we don’t always have veterans on our teams. Sometimes a lot of change takes place, and requires a great deal more effort and time to establish a firm foundation of the little things. Similar to life, the little details in basketball are what it takes to be great. It is worth the time and effort, and I hope you guys are looking forward to this season as much as I am.

*adapted and updated for player handouts

Life, and the sanctity thereof.

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There is a lot of talk these days about the horrors of abortion, as there very well should be. But Christians should also be proclaiming the forgiveness that is available in Jesus Christ for women who have had abortions, for the doctors who have performed abortions, for men who have encouraged abortions, for government officials who have legislated easier means for abortions, and anyone who has ever been involved with the action of an abortion. Because the bad news is, abortion is murder. The good news is, Jesus Christ died for murderers.

I of course cannot speak for everyone who claims to hold a “pro-life” point of view, but for me personally, I’ve yet to meet the person face-to-face who calls themselves “pro-life” and honestly advocates that any form of abortion, in any possible given situation, under any conceivable circumstance, for any possible reason is absolutely wrong, a “one-way ticket to hell,” and should never be allowed in any case whatsoever even to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape and incest. (It should be noted however, that since Roe v. Wade, the number of legal abortions done for those reasons amount for less than 2 percent of the 55-million-plus abortions performed in the United States since 1973.) The overwhelming majority of people I know, and the things I have read that take a “pro-life” stance, are against elective abortions being performed outside those perimeters, especially those that are merely due to inconvenience, financial issues, because of the gender of the baby, or high percentage probability that the child might have cognitive disabilities… those type of abortions are the clear cases I find it nearly impossible for anyone to justify morally.

Some reasons I’ve seen given for abortion outside of rape, incest, and severe endangerment to the mother’s health, are the issues or problems with the current adoption and foster care climate in the United States. I don’t know if those making that argument would go so far as to say it’s better to just kill a child in the womb than allow them the chance of a life outside it because it’s just statistically more likely that their life will be spent in poverty and strife, but that seems to be the logical conclusion of some advocates for this situation. I’ll admit that I am by nature a skeptical pessimist, but I have not been able to bring myself to such a logical conclusion as that. I find it difficult to justify choosing who gets a chance at life and who doesn’t. I don’t understand how the adoption and foster care systems of our country not being as effective as they should be, supports the case for women to electively abort babies anytime they please or see fit to do so (because it’s their body and nobody has a right to think any form of ethics should be a factor). Blaming such problems on a particular political party, however misguided and corrupt said party (let’s face it, all parties to varying extents) might be, doesn’t negate the ethical and moral implications of the fundamental issue at hand.

The battle over human dignity is waged not just at the local abortion clinic or crisis pregnancy center, nor merely in the halls of Congress or the Supreme Court. It is also carried out in our choice of words. And this is where the fundamental issue resides: what is life, what is human, when do ‘rights’ begin?

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV)

The ‘pro-choice’ stance on the sanctity of human life relies on bullets of deception and warheads of untruth – in short, on what George Orwell called “political language,” which he said “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Those who support the legal killing of unborn human beings in the womb have used political language for decades, cloaking their morally indefensible position in innocuous-sounding terms such as “choice” and “women’s health” – hoping the rest of us will forget about the status and rights of the other person directly affected in the abortion transaction – namely the fetus.

Philosopher Peter Kreeft says that the “personhood of the fetus is clearly the crucial issue for abortion, for if the fetus is not a person, abortion is not the deliberate killing of an innocent person.” Kreeft adds, “Persons have a ‘right to life’ but non-persons (e.g., cells, tissues, organs, and animals) do not.”

Many people, when hearing about abortion, have maybe conjured up in their minds some not-so-invasive, painless “medical process.” That’s not what abortion is… Abortion is the dismembering of one human body in order to be able to more easily extract it from another human body. We read in disbelief about ancient pagan’s throwing their babies into fires in sacrifice to their “gods” – yet we harden our hearts to the reality of children this very hour being dismembered in worship of the god called “women’s rights.”

So it seems to be clear that the real fundamental issue in which many in our society differ on, is what is a human being (and when does life and basic human rights for that life begin)… I would dare to say that as a man, I have equal right to define human life as a woman (contrary to what some people have told me); since men and women are both humans and both are needed to procreate (outside of the use of a test tube, but that is silly and a bit pedantic to try to cloud the core issue with extreme cases). I believe that as a man, I have every right to help conceive a child, love a child, emotionally nurture a child, care for a child, provide monetarily for a child, protect a child, and fight for both the life of my wife (the mother of my child) and my child (whether biologically related or adopted).

It is well accepted in our society and culture (and yes, pretty much universally) that murder is wrong, whether from a legal, moral, or ethical basis. The issue therefore of abortion ultimately boils down to whether or not the one being aborted is a living human child. If so, he or she is to be protected by the same principles, and basic rights which guide our guarding of other human life. There are at least eleven important questions that I cannot quickly recall having heard “pro-choice political candidates” being frequently asked by the media:

1. You say you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion and contraceptions. Are there any restrictions at all, under any circumstances, or any particular situation that you would approve of?

2. In 2010, The Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate any pregnancy because the unborn fetus is a female (or any gender)? If you don’t agree a woman should be able to abort a child because of the gender of the baby, why not?

3. In many states, a teenager can have an abortion without her parents’ consent or knowledge but legally cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notification regarding abortion access for minors?

4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it does begin? At what stage of development should an unborn child have basic human rights? (What supports your view on this? Science, constitutional law, ethical principles, moral philosophy, faith, religion, worldview, personal experience?) (If an unborn baby isn’t really a human life yet, why do miscarriages seem to be so emotionally and psychologically difficult for mothers who experience such unfortunate events?)

5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome (or other genetic “disadvantages” or “flaws”), many women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?

6. Do you believe an employer should be forced to violate his or her ethical, moral, or religious conscience by providing medical insurance to cover any and all abortion procedures (especially those of an elective nature) and provide easy access to abortifacient drugs to any and all employees?

7. Alveda King (niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.) has said that “abortion is the white supremacist’s best friend,” pointing to the fact that Black and Latinos represent 25% of our population but account for 59% of all abortions. How do you respond to this charge that the majority of abortion clinics are found in inner-city areas, servicing large numbers of minorities? Do you simply dismiss it as status quo, and give the excuse that “minorities” make up the majority of inner-city populations?

8. Many “pro-choice” advocates describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not truly morally or ethically objectionable at all, then why is it so tragic then? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?

9. Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn fetus is viable – able to survive outside the womb?

10. If a pregnant woman and her unborn child are murdered, do you believe the criminal should face two counts of murder and serve a harsher sentence? If so, why?

(Many supporters of no restriction, “pro-choice” under any circumstance make statements along the line that it is a woman’s body and men have no right to have a say, an input, or even an opinion. While I would agree that yes, the baby is very much conceived and living inside of the woman’s body, the baby is a separate entity. The baby is its own person, distinct from the mother… when would you say a child has basic human rights of its own? At what point does it become a human being with any rights?)

11. If a woman (mother) has the right to choose to abort her unborn child or carry the pregnancy to term and deliver the baby, and the man (father) has no say at all in the matter, should the man (father) still be equally legally and monetarily responsible for the child? That is to say, if a woman (mother) gets pregnant unexpectedly and she opted not to have an abortion, and the man (father) had already been very clear he did not want to have a child, the mother had previously agreed to abort the child, and the father had steadfastly made it clear that he did not want any part of the child’s life, then should it be legally possible for the single mother to request the court to mandate the father to pay child support? While I personally believe that the father is morally responsible for taking responsibility for the life he helped create, does this issue present a double standard in regards to abortion rights? If not, why?

Some more questions worth considering in regards to literally zero restrictions, legally eligible under any circumstance, elective abortions:

What should we legally, medically, realistically call the unborn in the womb?

If the entity in the womb is a living thing, is it not a life? If your person began as a single cell, how can that fertilized egg be something other than a human being? Isn’t it more accurate to say you were an embryo than that you simply came from one? So when exactly does a human being have a right to life?

Should we say it is size that matters in determining this distinction? Is the unborn child too small to deserve our protection? Are big people more valuable than little people? Are men more human than woman? Do big offensive linemen have more rights than little jockeys? Is the life in the womb of no account because we can’t hold him or her in our arms, or put him or her in our hands, or because we can only see them on a screen?

Should we make intellectual development and mental capacity the measure of our worth? Are three year-old children less valuable than thirteen year-olds? Is the unborn child less than fully human because he cannot speak or count or be self-aware? Does the cooing infant in the crib have to smile or shake your hand or recite the alphabet before she deserves another day? If an expression of basic mental acuity is necessary to be a full-fledged member of the human community, what shall we do with the comatose, the very old, those who have down syndrome, or the fifty year-old mom with Alzheimer’s? And what about all of us who sleep?

Shall we deny the unborn child’s right to life because of where he lives? Can environment give us value or take it away? Are we worth less inside than outside? Can we be justly killed when we swim under water? Does where we are determine who we are? Is it simply the eight inch journey down the birth canal that makes us human? Does this change of scenery turn “its” into persons? Is love and worth a condition of location?

Shall we reserve human dignity only for those humans who are not dependent on others? Do we deserve to live only when we can live on our own? Is the four-month old fetus in the womb less than human because she needs her mom for life? Is the four-month old infant less than human when she still needs her mom for life? What if you depend on dialysis or insulin or a breathing apparatus? Is value a product of fully-functioning vitality? Is independence a prerequisite for human identity? Are we worth only what we can think, accomplish, and do on our own?

If the unborn life is human life, what can justify snuffing it out? Would it be right to take the life of your child on his first birthday because he came to you through sad and tragic circumstances? Would you push an 18 month old into traffic because she makes our life difficult? Does a three year-old deserve to die because we think we deserve a choice, better opportunities, and less inconveniences?

What do you deserve now? What are your basic rights as a human person? Did you have those same rights five years ago? What about before you could drive? Or when you used training wheels? Were you less than fully human when you played in the sandbox? When you wore a bib? When you nursed at your mother’s breast? When your dad cut your cord? When you tumbled in that watery mess and kicked against that strange wall? When your heart pounded on the monitor for the first time? When you grew your first fingernails? When you grew your first cells?

What shall we call the child in the womb then? A fetus? A mystery? A mistake? A wedge issue? An inconvenience? A choice? What if science, philosophy, Scripture, and commonsense would all have us call it a person? What if the unborn child, the messy infant, the wobbly toddler, the rambunctious teenager, the college freshman, the blushing bride, the first-time mother, the working woman, the proud grammy, and the demented old friend differ not in kind but only in degree? Where in the progression does our humanity begin and end? Where does life become valuable? When are we worth something? When do human rights become our rights? What if Dr. Seuss was right after all, and a person’s a person no matter how small?

Why celebrate the right to kill what you once were? Why deny the rights of the little one who is what you are?

There is also the way our country’s Media frames the “Abortion Debates” we see today.

Framing the abortion debate as an “assault on women’s reproductive rights” plays well with abortion advocates because it paints any abortion restriction from the pro-choice point of view. But this is precisely what the debate is about, and why Americans are so conflicted on this issue.

One side believes in a woman’s unalienable right to terminate her pregnancy. The other side believes in human rights for all, including the unborn human in the womb.

If reporters and journalists were to frame all conversations about abortion as a “War on Babies,” I suspect abortion advocates would cry foul. They would protest such coverage as biased toward the pro-life view, and they’d be right. So shouldn’t we recognize that pro-life advocates are right to question the journalistic decision to adopt a pro-choice perspective in framing abortion restrictions as a “War on Women”?

When news reports use this motif or describe those who protest restrictions on abortion as “woman’s rights protestors,” they’re being unfair. They’re also being inaccurate.

Edmond Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” He also leveled this timeless critique to culture, “What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as they are disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good in preference to the flattery of knaves. . . . Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” (1791 ‘A Letter to a Member of the National Assembly’)

Along these same lines, John Stuart Mill made this statement, “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

These words from Martin Luther King Jr. also apply here, “We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws.”

The only issue I have ever seem to come across where many of the secular, relativistic humanists of our culture today do not want the evidence of science to bear great weight on the issue, is the issue of abortion. At eight weeks in the womb, it is scientific fact that the baby has brain waves, a heartbeat, a functioning liver, functioning kidneys, a fingerprint, and recoils from a prick. Again, this is scientific fact. There is not a great debate over these truths. Yet the argument is, “That’s not a human life. That’s a woman’s body, and a woman should be able to do with her body anything she wants to do with her body.”

However, even if we throw science out the window just “for the sake of argument,” and go with the current laws of our country, this is completely untrue in so many of our other laws. If you don’t believe me, try taking off your clothes and running through the streets naked. Do you know where you’re likely going? Jail. Try to sell your body for sex. If you try to do that, chances are you might get busted. Do you know where you’re probably going? Jail… along with the guy(s) who tried to buy it. What about drugs? If it’s really true that the woman’s body is her body, and she has the right to govern her own body anyway she chooses, what happens when she takes illegal drugs or substances? If caught, that usually ends in some jail time as well. So this idea that self-autonomy rules and reigns is not completely true in many of the other domains of our laws, except around this one…

On top of that, many of the laws are so backwards. If a man were to assault a pregnant woman and the baby were to die in her womb, he’d be tried for manslaughter. Yet the same woman can go to a clinic, and for a small price (maybe even subsidized by the government), can have the baby inside of her killed, the baby who does not have her genetic code, who cannot have her same blood-type, who does not have her fingerprints, who does not share the mother’s heartbeat, lungs, brain, etc.

Of the one million plus abortions that occurred in the United States of America last year, the majority of them occurred after eight weeks, which means there’s a heartbeat, brain waves, and functioning organs. But the ‘pro-choice position’ seems to be: “That’s not human. That’s not really a soul. That’s not a person with separate rights.” In fact, we know you can potentially sustain a baby’s life after 23-24 weeks if they’re born early, if they’re born prematurely. But in many states it is still legally viable to kill that baby in the womb post-24 weeks. If we step away from the ‘life issue’ and just look at it on the surface, how can one logically buy into this unless they’re willing to suppress some truth? Scientific, logical, rational truth…

Besides the gymnastics needed to evade the scientific problems that arise in this discussion, abortion also has deeply racist effects. Abortion is discrimination based upon one’s degree of development and location, and is in fact more offensive and objectionable than racism and sexism because it almost always results in the death of its victims. Francis Beckwith explains:

Just as skin color (racism), ethnic origin (ethnocentrism), gender (sexism), national power (imperialism), and birth date (ageism) are irrelevant to one’s possession of fundamental human rights, so is one’s degree of development and location inside or outside the womb (natalism). Unfortunately, this politically correct prejudice, manifested in the practice of abortion, nearly always results in the death of its victim” (Francis Beckwith, Politically Correct Death, 12).

I really enjoy reading and studying history. In doing so, there come about times where I’m reading about a specific issue or certain topic, specifically stuff that revolves around slave trade, sexual-slave trade, and genocide, where I’m just reading history and I’m just left with this overwhelmingly crushing question: “What were they thinking?!” Not individual persons, because I completely understand how particular persons can stumble into dark things and do terrible things. I completely get that. I am a person. I’ve done some pretty dumb stuff. But my question when I read history isn’t just about persons; it’s about people. Like if you read about the slave trade and read specifically about it coming out of England, that the slave trade was really about sugar… SUGAR! The English were stealing Africans and taking them to the Caribbean to harvest sugar because they tried to use the Irish, and the sun just burned them all up. (I’m part Irish, and I can attest to this.) Literally hundreds of thousands of Africans were brutally killed for sugar, for sweet tea, and biscuits! So, I’m left with these nagging questions, “What were they thinking? What were they doing? Where were all the people who were going, ‘Hey, this is crazy!’? How did this bull continue on for as long as it did?”

What we find in history though, is that really underneath and subversively witling away at the foundation of that nonsense were faithful men and women, but the culture by and large was passive and ignored it. So, history is this long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as the words of Reinhold Niebuhr remind us: groups can be more immoral than individuals. I earnestly believe that over the next few years, science itself will help overturn some of the ridiculousness we see in our culture. I really think our children’s children will look at us and go, “What in the world? Where were you? What were you doing? Why didn’t you see this? Why didn’t you sense this? Why didn’t you stop this? How we’re you too busy to end this injustice? I mean, if you’re going to say that you believe what you believe, that a child in the womb is a life, how could you not do anything as millions were killed every year, the most helpless of helpless, the weakest of the weak, those who could not defend or speak for themselves… yet you did nothing?!”

I don’t really have any political affiliations. I vote, I have a voice, but I certainly would not label myself as a republican, democrat, libertarian, etc… and hope you and others would not paint me with any of those brushes. Life is so much bigger than political parties. I sometimes jokingly say (like a former pastor of mine) that I’m with the kingdom of God party, we already have our Guy. But in all seriousness, I find it difficult to support any man or woman who does not believe the sanctity of a human life is more valuable than convenience and relativistic personal beliefs, and is willing to sacrifice the defenseless innocent for popular opinion.

If life begins at conception… the Bible clearly weighs in it does (Psalm 139:13-16… but if I understand correctly, that doesn’t mean much to the majority of this country, and that is perfectly understandable that they wouldn’t heavily consider what the Bible says on an issue if they don’t trust or respect it as being an accurate, trustworthy, or authoritative source); however even secular science agrees with the Bible here, and would say life does begin at conception. One has to be careful playing this little game of, “Well, I define life as this amount of brainwaves.” Because, if that’s true, we have to pull the plug on a lot of people in a lot of hospitals. Our definition of personhood is another piece of this kind of relativistic schizophrenia prevalent in our culture, “it’s what I want to do” and “this is what I personally believe” type of ethic that’s driving this industry, because if we were to say, “Well, it’s only a human when it’s breathing on its own,” then we have a lot of people in ICU who need to go out, don’t we? We need to start pulling some plugs. We need to get rid of our dialysis machines. We need to get rid of our respirators. We need to stop wasting time and money keeping so many helpless people alive.

I believe this issue has become so logically insane, that I’ve found myself provoked at times by the insanity…

However, at the very same time, I do not believe that any women who has had an abortion (or anyone who has had a hand directly or indirectly in aborting a child) has gone beyond the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. In fact, a church I served at in the past has a large ministry called “Grace Abounds” that exists for men and women who are dealing with the post-abortion stress, guilt, loss, and sorrow. There is no condemnation for the repentant person seeking help, no judgment for them. From my limited knowledge, there are also advocacy and pregnancy centers all over near where I live… the DFW Metroplex has many of them, there is one in Denton, one in Lewisville, several down in Dallas, a relatively new one up in Keller. Their sole purpose is to walk with young women, support young women, care for young women who are pregnant and don’t know what to do.

There are also numerous documentaries available that support a more “pro-life” stance. However, the critiques of many of these documentaries seem to just side step most of the issues raised and attempt to “poison the well” argumentatively, attack a “straw man,” or throw a bunch of “red herrings” into the discussion. A lot of what I’ve found to be somewhat interesting in reading the comments on these videos, is the hypocrisy, ignorance, selfishness, and false humility. (Usually, I have a very general and strict rule that I don’t read blog comments or the comments on YouTube stuff, but I just can’t seem to help myself sometimes and inevitably read some of them…)

Here’s some of what what I’ve found in reading comments I should have known better than to give my time: the graphic scenes in these documentaries are just manipulative. “That’s emotive, manipulation, not based on fact. It’s overly graphic and completely distorted just to make people feel guilty.” Now here’s the irony of that. I’m not a huge television watcher and we haven’t paid for even basic cable in at least a few years (Hulu and Netflix are our only sources of television), but I can’t remember the last time I watched television where I didn’t hear something along the lines of Sarah McLachlan singing a song with a puppy that was all beat up. So this is something I’d like to point out, nobody (that is at all sane in the head) is going to say this is the same, that this puppy has more rights and honestly requires more care than any human. Nobody is going to say it, but if you fight for the rights of the unborn, then you’re manipulative… but if you want to give little Sparky a new home, that’s a worthwhile cause. Even the great comedian Jim Gaffigan draws attention to this when he asks, “Wait, there’s still kids starving in Africa, right?”

I hope that in all of this though, as anyone reads this, you know and understand that I believe Christians are no better than non-Christians. In fact, the believer in Christ who has actually been converted and understands the Scriptures doesn’t see them-self as morally fit for God at all. In fact, they see them-self as so desperately broken that unless God sends Jesus to become the wrath-absorbing sacrifice for our lives, we have no chance at ever being restored. So, here’s the thing I just love about the evangelical Church today, and what I mean by “love” is “openly mock,” is that so many self-proclaimed Christians continually show they don’t understand the gospel by pretending we’re more moral and more devoted than everyone else. I’m sure many of you have picked up on a bit of that nonsense. Maybe just a little?

I’m not claiming to have never said anything arrogant and dumb before (or that it’ll never happen again), but I get just as sick and tired as many skeptics and non-Christians when I see things posted on Twitter and Facebook claiming “We’re more moral.” It’s why we’ve got to picket stuff. “We’re more devoted. We don’t do those kind things or make those kind of mistakes.” That’s why we have to eat at Chick-fil-A, don’t drink Starbucks, and won’t pay to see certain movies. Now, despite all the empirical data to the contrary, it’s what so many people like to preach on, it’s what so many love to talk about, it’s what some idiots even put on their t-shirts… it’s just this weird, silly, odd, confusing Bible-belt subculture. “We’re more devoted than the rest of you, and we’re more moral.” But of course that’s not true, and that’s certainly not the gospel. In fact, it’s really the enemy of the gospel. It’s the antithesis of the good news of Christ.

The gospel is not we’re more moral or we’re more devoted. The gospel is, “Jesus saves.” Saves us from what? Us… our inability to be as devoted as we need to be, our inability to be as moral as He’s commanded us to be. Like those places in the Bible where God says, “Be holy as I am holy” (1st Peter 1:13-17 is one place) – do you know anybody else having some difficulty getting there, anyone else failing to act in such a manner? Anybody else you know have some trouble being perfect? Is it just me who struggles with that one? Am I really the only one who is selfish at times, messes up, and makes mistakes… regularly? Alright, so that’s what makes the teachings of Jesus so unbelievably intriguing. Because if religion had a bumper sticker… and I’ve never been a bumper sticker fan… unless it’s a Jayhawk… (Btw, nobody drives well enough to have a bumper sticker that has Jesus’ name on it. It’s true! Seriously! Nobody! If Evangelicals were really thinking, they’d just go the complete opposite. “I don’t believe in Christ,” and then drive like a madman.) Anyway, in the end, if religion had any kind of motto, it would say this: “I obey, therefore I’m accepted.” That’s it. That’s religion. Whatever belief system you want to get into, that’s it, but that is not the teaching of Jesus. Religion says, “Morality and religious observance are means of salvation,” but that is not the message of Jesus.

Our faith teaches us that we are not just set free from fear-based behavioral modification, and the vain pursuit of pleasures that never deliver what they promise, but we are saved to the freedom of knowing that God’s affection for us does not waver despite our persistent failures and shortcomings. We have been set free to enjoy the love of our Father as adopted sons and daughters.

Religion says, “We’ve got it right and everyone else be damned,” and Jesus says, “You love the Muslim, you serve the Muslim, if necessary, you die for him. You love the Jew, you serve the Jew and if necessary, you die for them. You love the Hindu, you give up your food for the Hindu, you open your home to the Hindu, you sacrifice your own life for the Hindu. Even the angry atheist, you love him and serve him, you sacrifice your time, money, and even life for him.” Jesus says, “Love your enemies. Don’t just love your friends. How easy is it to love your friends? Even murderers can easily do that.” I mean, this is a crazy Man here. The stuff He teaches, it is not really religious in nature in any way historically as religion has been defined. The teachings of Jesus go contrary – now, not necessarily what Evangelicals teach and do, but the teachings of Jesus; they’re very, very different. His teachings are the good news, He is the gospel… Jesus is better than life. We don’t walk in fear of some tyrannical deity, but in love for our adopted Father. We are no longer slaves to our own insecurities, rather we have been set free from fear-based behavioral modifications, and into love motivated pursuit of what we long for most. We’ve been set free from the pursuit of pleasure that has as an aftertaste of guilt and shame, and into the pursuit of pleasure that leads to ever-increasing joy. We have been blood-bought, purchased out of slavery to sin. And that is the motivation for why I believe what I believe about the controversial issue of abortion.

However, some people who discuss this topic seem to believe that as a male, I don’t have any right to even enter into the conversation, let alone hold an opinion on the matter that should be viewed with any credibility since I don’t have two X chromosomes…

However, I believe truth is truth, no matter who says it, and gender does not deem one’s views irrelevant to this issue. I will respectfully disagree with that offensive position, and will continue to speak about this topic. I care a great deal about this sensitive and divisive issue in our country, have just as much libertarian freedom and right to speak about it as anyone else. Like many, I have also been deeply affected by experiences both personal and those of very close friends and family. I’ve also been affected by what I’ve read and studied over the years; as well as a great deal of dialogue composed of conversations with people who agree and disagree with me to varying degrees. So I’m not entering into this discussion with views based strictly on emotions or some detached opinion formulated without any change, growth, or careful consideration.

My parents spent years trying to be able to have kids, my mother went through surgeries, and the heartache of miscarriages. Eventually my mother was able to have children and gave birth to me when my parents were both about 30-years-old, then my three little sisters were all born within the next five years. My Dad actually didn’t finish going to school and get his degree until well after I was born. When I was growing up, we were very grateful for the immense assistance we received from the government, friends, and family. There was a period of years in my family’s life where my father was only making between $15-20k each year, and that was with four kids and a stay-at-home mother. My father worked 60+ hour work weeks for many years to provide for us. So for those who might want to dismiss me as some mind of “right-winged conservative, Christian nut-job” who just wants to see the government neglect the poor and deny help to “those who don’t help themselves.” That is simply ridiculous.

I definitely do not think any government assistance is evil and should be terminated immediately, my own family actually benefitted from it directly. However, I would dare to say that the hope and goal of such programs should be to assist the individual(s) and/or families to “get back on their own feet” or become as “self-reliable” as possible after a given amount of time. That all would of course be a very relative, case-by-case scenario, but that should at least be the end goal of such programs, shouldn’t it? The government should not be enslaving its people to depend on it. Even if some would claim that to be a bit too idealistic.

Contrary to when you believe ‘life’ and ‘human rights’ begin in said life, the Bible gives us this command: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 82:3-4 (ESV)

Life is precious and to be protected. Sometimes in protecting life, we must give up our own comforts and self-will, but we must remember that love demands that we lay ourselves down for the sake of others. Abortion is contrary to the demands of Scripture to protect life, care for those who have not the ability to protect themselves, and humble ourselves by considering others before ourselves.

This particular passage of Scripture also gives us a deep resource for this controversial topic as we continue to discuss it and wrestle with the implications of the shifting values of our surrounding culture.

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2nd Corinthians 5:11-21 (ESV) (emphasis mine)

To those reading this who have had an abortion in the past, helped someone else have one, or been a steadfast supporter of “pro-choice” easy-elective and abortion-approving legislation, I don’t know what you’ve gone through or what painful personal experiences you’ve lived through that have served to influence and shape your beliefs on this controversial issue and the closely related issues tied to it, but I trust that you have done the best you could, with what you had, and where you were. I believe we’re all beggars in need of grace, and you will not get any hate, condemnation, or judgement from me. I would implore you to seek to know Jesus, as the Scriptures testify of Him, and rest in the hope, mercy, grace, and love He offers us all in His Gospel.

The gospel is the good news that God saves. It is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures from Satan, sin, and its effects to the Father and each other through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and future return of the substitutionary Son, by the power of the Spirit, for God’s glory and the Church’s joy.

We should never forget that grace and forgiveness exist for all in Jesus Christ.

If you have had an abortion or have somehow been affected by an abortion, homicide, suicide or euthanasia, allow me to encourage you in the gospel. Our great God and King brought us the forgiveness of sins through His Son, Jesus, for all who believe. There is no act of taking human life that is beyond the redemption that is possible in Jesus. The Bible is full of murderers such as Moses, David, and Paul, who were redeemed to serve God. For those who are repentant, God’s grace always washes away the painful stain of sin.

My hope is by far greater than you merely adopting a view that sees abortion as murder, but that you will rest in the mercy, love, and grace of our beautiful Savior. That you would know and follow Jesus; understanding then that God sees you as His child, and your identity is in Christ, not in your sin.

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Recommended Articles:

“The Gospel in an Abortion Culture” by Russell Moore

“Made in the Image of God” by Zach Lee

“We Know They Are Killing Children – All of Us Know” by John Piper

“Questions for Our Pro-Abortion Friends, Church Leaders, and Politicians” by Kevin DeYoung

“Unborn Babies Are Hearing You, Loud and Clear” article by: Meghan Holohan, NBC News

“Is the Abortion Battle a War On Women or a War Between Women?” by Trevin Wax

“Abortion and the Negation of Love” by Joe Carter

“Respecting Women is Respecting Life” by Pat Gohn

“Two Women are Behind Legalized Abortion in America: Now Both of Them Want it Reversed” by John Jalsevac

“The Truth (About Abortion) Will Set You Free” by John Piper

“Exposing the Dark Work of Abortion” by John Piper, Desiring God Ministries

“9 Things You Should Know About Roe v. Wade” by Joe Carter

“Anniversary Pictures: Remembering Roe v. Wade” by Kathleen Nielson

“10 Surprising Quotes from Abortionists”

“Beyond the Rhetoric: Gosnell and the Late-Term Reality” by John Knight

“Is Abortion Sinful?” by Geoff Ashley

“Aborted Babies and the Risk of Doing Nothing” by Michael Spielman

“Why We Should Legalize Murder for Hire” by Betsy Childs

“Why the Simple Right to Abortion is Unjust” by John Piper

“Comparing Gosnell to Newtown” by Adam Griffin

“Why the Gosnell Trial Shocks” by Jordan Sekulow

“On Abortion, Wendy Davis Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About” article by Kirsten Powers

“9 Things You Should Know About the Gosnell Infanticide and Murder Trial” by: Joe Carter

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Recommend Sermons:

“Life (2012)” by Matt Chandler

“Life (2013)” by Matt Chandler

“Abortion and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” by: John Piper

“Christ, Culture, and Abortion” by John Piper

“Abortion: The Innocent Blood of Our Sons and Daughters” by John Piper

“Abortion, Race, Gender, and Christ” by John Piper

Little Things in Life & Basketball

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When I was younger, I remember reading an article about how legendary basketball coach John Wooden used to explain to his players how to put their shoes on correctly, and wear at least two pairs of socks so that they wouldn’t get blisters on their feet. (To this day I actually always wear double socks, with the first pair inside out, no matter what the activity because I became so used to it while playing ball.) The reason he did this was to emphasize just how important the little things are in the game of basketball. Although this might be a little bit much, it just shows you the importance of details. Details and little things can be the difference maker in basketball, in your faith, and in life. Paul Tripp put this well when he said, “Life is really lived in the little moments.”

As a player, a constant volunteer for camps, an avid fan of the game, and someone currently pursuing an opportunity to coach full-time, I have been able to catch a decent glimpse of both sides of the player-coach dynamic. As a player I have been apart of some good teams, as well as some pretty bad teams. The difference between the losing-teams and winning-teams for the most part wasn’t a major talent gap or a significant game-plan strategy issue, it was the little details. It had a lot more to do with all the little things than a single big shot or turnover on a crucial possession.

My life has had some big moments: particular birthdays (like the Space Jam themed party in Independence, KS… or the couple birthdays where Texas Rangers baseball was still being played into October and we gathered around a TV with some good friends, good food, and good drinks, to cheer for a Rangers’ win), certain holidays (like our annual Easter, 4th of July, Neewollah, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve celebrations), trips and vacations (like Disney World, Red Lodge, Montana, and many trips back to Kansas), my proposal to Kat down by the lake after a nice picnic dinner, our wedding day (that whole day is a blur, with some beautiful highlights and moments I’ll never forget), our honeymoon in Montana (that was a blast), anniversaries, great meals at nice restaurants (like the first time we went to a Brazilian steakhouse… oh my goodness), big games and concerts we’ve been blessed to attend (like the Eagles, The Who, Anberlin, Phil Wickham, U2 & Muse, and Jimmy Eat World & Foo Fighters concerts… or the 2007 NBA Finals, or the final KU vs. Mizzou game at Allen Fieldhouse… that was an amazing and unforgettable game), and on and on I could go with big moments in my life that I’ve been truly blessed to experience… but that is the vast minority when compared to the little moments of life. All the daily breakfasts, lunches, dinners, all the time cooking and waiting for something to heat up, grocery shopping, stopping by the gas station to fill up, all those moments right after walking in the door from being somewhere and getting settled in, all that time spent at work (perhaps sitting in a cubicle starring at a computer screen, just mundanely working one account after another), time spent in the gym, time spent loading and unloading the car, those moments spent watching movies or television, time spent doing laundry, time spent playing video games, board games, card games, etc., all those text messages sent each day, time spent cleaning and organizing, time getting ready to go places, time spent reading or studying, time spent in school taking classes, driving to and from work, time spent putting something together, countless hours messing around on Facebook or other social media, time spent getting ready for bed, time spent day dreaming, the moments of laying in bed trying to fall asleep, the third of your life spent sleeping, and heck, even all that time spent in the bathroom…

Similar to life, the little things make up the vast majority of the game of basketball. That’s why there are highlights for games that last only 10 seconds, for a minimum 48-minute game in the pros (still 40-minutes in college). There is a lot more to basketball than just shooting a ball through a hoop. And even more involved in the preparation for playing the sport than simply practicing one’s shot. Being a minute late to practice, shorting a line in sprints, not going over the mechanics of shooting over and over, ball-handling drills ad nauseam, or missing a class assignment may seem minor, but these things are such a big deal if not dealt with the right way. If a player is willing to short a line in a sprint, then who is to say that he won’t be one step out of position on defense at the end of a game, and instead of a charge he gets called for a block. There are just so many little things in basketball that can add up if you don’t focus on them everyday.

For example: closing out with high hands, talking on defense, putting a body on someone during a rebound opportunity, squaring up for a jumpshot, setting a good screen, making an intentionally crisp pass, setting your man up before coming off a screen, etc. are little things or minor details and the list could go on and on. Each thing individually might not be that big of a deal, but put all, or even just some of them together and it can be the difference between a great season with some hardware to take home… or end with some players losing significant time on the floor being cut/traded, or even the Athletic Director looking for a new head basketball coach for the next season.

From the very first day of practice, and every single day after that you must emphasize the little things. Just like someone in the Christian faith never moves on from the basic and fundamental message of the Gospel, a basketball player never moves on from the need to have the basic and fundamental aspects of the game down. A good ball player is constantly going over and refining their basic, fundamental skills of the game. No player, not even guys like Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, or Lebron James could ever practice too much, improve their ball-handling enough, tweak their footwork, work on their shot too much, go over too much film, or be in the gym too long, to have reached a level that moved on past the need to continue to work on those basic skills.

Every coach needs to sit down and explain to his players what is acceptable and what he is expecting of them. It may take a little while at first but once the players realize what is expected of them, and they buy into the system with the hopes of achieving an end goal, they will earnestly do what is expected of them. Since most players would have never been held accountable like this before, a little grace should always be shown at the beginning. They need to understand the value of doing the little things and and be committed to doing them. Whether a coach has to run his team or repeat a certain drill for days until they get it right, it is the coach’s job to ingrain in his players the details of this great game until it becomes second nature. Coaches also aren’t to show favoritism, whether it is their best player or the 12th man, they strive to make sure that everyone is doing their job correctly and putting forth their best effort.

Just as relationships with spouses, friends, family, parents, children, small groups, etc. serve to expose and uncover deep heart issues in our lives, certain situations in basketball will reveal areas of your game that are lacking. For the sake of maturation and development, coaches should put their team in circumstances that will test them, help them to come up against obstacles in the game that will reveal those who can’t or won’t do the little things. Conditioning is one of the greatest ways to do this. When players get tired or have to do something that is hard you begin to see their true nature. Just as someone who is going through a very hard time, and is extremely stressed out by their current circumstances at home, school, and/or work; how they react to the storms of life will be a greater testament of their character than how well they handle having money in the bank, good health, and they’re at a party having fun.

The players who don’t buckle under a little pressure, the guys who touch the line every time, don’t go down to their knees after every sprint, and who encourage their teammates throughout drills are the players you can trust. These are ones who are going to be able to execute a play the right way at the end of a close game. It is the coach’s job to encourage all his players to do this, to put their heart into it, to give it their all, and to really buy into the team.

During a game or even in practice a coach is not always going to be able to stop play every time a player closes out without high hands, isn’t in the right defensive position, didn’t put a body on someone as a shot went up, didn’t crash the boards, didn’t shoot with proper form, threw a lazy pass, etc. However it is still very important to focus on the details and a great way to do that is film. It is a lot easier for players to correct something if they can see themselves doing it the wrong way. I once heard a commentator say during a review in a big game, “the film doesn’t lie…” And that is exactly true. If a player is continually forgetting to close out with high hands in a game, going right every single time they get the ball, or is always out of position on defense, a coach can use film to sit them down and show them what they are doing wrong.

Similar to how a brother in Christ goes to a friend to help him see something in his life that is harming him in hopes of seeing him repent from that, and then strive together for further sanctification to get more of Christ, to know Him more deeply; a coach pursues the maturation of his players. A coach is to strive to make sure that his players understand their correction and discipline is out of a motivation of love and hope for improvement in their ability to play. A good coach earnestly works hard and puts forth a diligent effort to make sure his players understand this.

It is not easy to do all of the little things in life or in basketball. It takes a lot of effort from the coaching staff to communicate, mentor, and guide the players well in hopes to make sure that every day the players are doing things the right way. It also takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and buying into the team’s plan and strategy from the players. It always takes community and team effort.

Basketball really is like a microcosm to so much of life. The game of basketball can teach us so much about ourselves, as well as us being able to take our strengths in life and apply them towards the game. Something that will help make playing basketball easier is for a coach to sit down with his players and explain to them why the little things are so important. If they understand and really believe in what they are doing then they will work harder to accomplish it. It will always be very difficult at first for everyone, so we must try to remember that and not get frustrated quickly. Because over the years when the team has players return and can have some stability, the returning players will be able to help the new players, and it will be easier on the coach, and the team overall. Similar to life, the little details in basketball are what it takes to be great; it is worth the time and effort.