October 2010


Many moons ago I played soccer.  I was part of a club team that was one of the very few to employ a trainer.  We were considered “elite” and “premier.”  At the time I thought very little about the titles given to us, I just knew that we were all serious about soccer and wanted to win tournaments.  And we did.  Every year we attended a number of ‘by invitation only’ tournaments, and we fortunate to win a few.  We even competed on a national level, winning the youth national championship.

Our parents spent a lot of money each year on all of these tournaments and the training, but in some ways it was worth it.  We saw results for the money invested, and I think just about all of us were recruited by a number of schools to play soccer in college.

I have often thought about whether I want to do the same with my kids.  Despite our soccer success and the doors that opened for college, do I see the benefit in the money spent?  Thus far the answer is no.  There is no way I want to spend that kind of money (let alone time) pursuing sports in that same way.

Fast forward to today, over ten years since all of that, and I am coaching a high school JV team were about half of them have private trainers.  Parents spend thousands of dollars each year for the privilege of being called “premier” as if somehow having a trainer makes you premier.

I took an unofficial poll among my team last week, asking what their goals are for soccer.  Most of them hope to play varsity in high school, but only a very small handful had the goal of playing soccer in college.  For some, they have other sports that they plan to play in college, for others they simply have no interest beyond high school.

I drove home from practice that day baffled.  Here the parents are spending thousands each year for these private trainers, yet these girls have no desire to continue with soccer after high school.  What is the point?  Do these parents know what is in the mind of their daughters?  It seems to me that these parents are investing in a very expensive family hobby, and the girls play the sport, and the family spends their weekends and holidays watching the games.

There is no profound insight here, just honest befuddlement.  I simply don’t get it.

I’ve been watching a documentary called “Babies” that I got from Netflix.  It follows four newborns during their first year of life, in four different locations: Nigeria, Mongolia, Tokyo, and San Francisco.

It is fascinating to see the pampered American and Japanese baby attend baby music classes, in contrast to the Nigerian baby who is often seen playing in the dirt with rocks, sticks and such.  To see the diaper-less societies, and the just about naked society.  The city babies and the as remote as you can possibly get babies.

But the among all the differences shown in culture, there is one striking similarity that runs through each story….the universality of sin, even in the youngest of people.

The documentary opens with two adorable Nigerian babies, ever-so-slightly older siblings of the newborn, playing side by side.  The younger turns to the oldest and, unprovoked, decides to bite.  The oldest, in return, gives the younger a firm wallop on the head.

Later on you see the Mongolian baby sitting, doing nothing, with his older sibling repeatedly hitting him with a shirt, as the baby fusses in disapproval.

The Japanese baby throws an all out temper tantrum in frustration as she plays with a toy in her toy room.

I am certain the American baby is due for some sort of fit, I just haven’t gotten that far in the documentary yet.

Sin has no language barrier.  It touches the old and young alike.  It reaches from the cities to the most remote stretches of land in far away places.  No culture and no color is exempt.  There is no place to hide, because sin isn’t some outside force that impedes upon us, but rather an inner reality that exists in each and every one of us.  We can escape sin because sin is part of the package.  From the day we are formed we are filled with this disease called sin.

Thankfully, we do have a Refuge.  His name is Jesus Christ.  Through faith and repentance, we can unload our burden and guilt of sin upon Him, as He joyfully endures our punishment in order to redeem us and make us right with God.

Just as sin knows no barrier, neither does the Gospel.  From the city to the most remote parts of the earth, everyone who is breathing is in need of the saving grace offered only through Christ.  Are we doing enough to bring that Good News to the ends of the earth?

I coach soccer at my old high school in the fall.  I’m up there each afternoon coaching a group of 9th and 10th graders.  I am constantly shocked and appalled by the attire I see from both my players and the overall student body, specifically the girls.  All I can think is where are the fathers saying ‘over my dead body, you are not walking out of the house in that!’  Where are the men who were assigned the task of protection and care of these girls?  Where  are the men protecting the purity and dignity of their daughters.

Shorts way to short, shirts way to low, cleaving popping out, among 14 year olds.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?  They barely have any clothes on.

Early in the season, on a particularly hot day, one of my players asked if they could take their shirts off and play in their sports bras.  I was appalled that such a request would even be made, and with the boys soccer team on the left and the football team down a ways I gave them an adamant ‘no.’  One girl replied that it wasn’t any different than a bathing suit.  Sadly, we was correct.

How do you explain to 14-16 year old girls that their dress is largely inappropriate when it is clear that their parents have never said so.

Undeterred by my denial of their request to play half-naked, a number of them decided to tuck their shirts up, showing their midriff.  I instituted a ‘no skin between the shoulders and the thighs’ policy, that hasn’t been too well respected.  Recognizing that I am fighting a losing battle, I often choose to overlook this habit.

Dad’s (and moms) are clearly failing their daughters here, but should I be surprised when I see pagans acting like pagans?

What is even more appalling is walking into church on Sunday mornings, seeing similar immodesty among professing believers.  Shirts too low, skirts too high, dresses too tight. Many of our “Christian” young people come to church looking like they stepped out of a fashion magazine.  It should be no surprise to see the world dressing as they do when often the pews each Sunday aren’t much better.  Even our wedding attire has begun to resemble the worldly way of dress rather than maintaining a standard of modesty.

Christian women, when is the last time you went through your wardrobe with a discerning eye? When is the last time you honestly asked your husband if certain items were modest, or if they are likely to tempt another man to lust?   When did you last check the neckline of your shirts and dresses.  Husbands, when is the last time you took leadership here and made some honest observations (despite the possible push-back you may receive from your wife and daughters)?

Are we dressing with an understanding of the way our clothing (or lack of clothing) effects our brothers in Christ?  Husbands, are you explaining this to your wives and daughters so that they understand that their dress isn’t just a ‘personal choice’ but has external implications?

We are called to be set apart from the world.  That doesn’t mean we need to dress like nuns, or start sporting a Christian version of the burqa, but it does mean that we should be dressed in a way that glorifies our Lord.  Dressed in a way that is not with the goal of ‘looking cute’ or attracting attention to our bodies, but as a frame of our face, as CJ Mahaney puts it.

The other night I had my first midwife appointment for the new baby.  The first appointment is always loads of fun, with a million and one question, recounting medical history and all that fun stuff.  One of the standard questions is, ‘was this pregnancy planned?’  I’m not exactly sure why, but this question bugs me.  I think I understand the intent behind this question, but it seems like an unimportant and unnecessary question nonetheless.

Or course the pregnancy was planned.  It was planned by God before the foundation of the world. But, I’m fairly certain she was not looking for a theology lesson, so I didn’t give this answer.

Does it really matter whether it was planned or not?  Regardless of intent, hope or desire, this child is here.  Does planned or unplanned really matter?

From a medical standpoint, part of her job is to ensure the mental health of her patients.  If this was a unplanned pregnancy, it could possibly be unwelcome at this time, and cause an inner struggle. I get that.

At the core of her phrasing is the idea that we have ultimate control over our reproduction.  That, at will, we can choose to get pregnant or chose to prevent pregnancy.  In reality it is the Lord who opens and closes the womb, not us.

At the core of this question is also the assumption that people are actively ‘trying’ to get pregnant, or are intentionally preventing pregnancy.  Why is the assumption one or the other?  Aren’t there folks who simply enjoy the marital bed and allow God to give or not give children?

Maybe the better question is, ‘was this an expected pregnancy.’