Affirmation circle: Story of a 5th grade basketball team

Ten Year Old played on the 5th grade basketball team this year, with other students from the Friends School in a league at a city rec center.

Following the last game of the season a couple of weeks ago, the team gathered for a pizza party in a room at the rec center.

Once most of the team was there, along with a hefty chunk of the parental population, the boys gathered in a large circle, mostly rather quiet and calm. In fact, I was struck by just how quiet and calm they were. No doubt part of it was they were tired after a day at school and then a game on the court. Yet clearly, they were simply used to drawing together, without anyone asking them or directing them.

Coach Chris, one of three coaches for the team and the lead PE teacher at the school, asked for a moment of silence. Whatever chatter remained disappeared. There was some rustling, but still an air of calm and quiet fell about the place.

A few minutes later, Coach Chris asked the team to share an affirmation of something or someone from the season. He said that once the first person said something, then it would go around the circle in order from him. Students could contribute their own affirmation, echo what someone else had said, or pass.

After a less than half a minute of waiting, the first student spoke up. He thanked the three coaches for their help and the parents for their support. Many of the students echoed his remarks. Another boy thanked the parents of another student for giving him rides to practice. When my own son's turn came, he said that boy had spoken for him -- the same parents had given my son rides, too.

One of the last affirmations came from a boy who thanked a teammate for his efforts, saying that he hadn't started out as the best player but he had really worked hard and been a leader and inspiration for the others. This coming from a 10 or 11 year old boy about another one -- wow!

The final affirmation came from the staff coach at the rec center. I believe this was his second year working with teams from the Friends School. He was warm and full of praise for the team and they way they supported each other. I couldn't help but think that this team must be a bit different from most he works with. They sure didn't win many games, or even score that many points, but they had a spiritual maturity that was awesome to behold.


Another Day, Another Tooth

The day after I wrote that last post, Seven Year Old lost his other top front tooth. Once again, a basketball to the face hastened the inevitable. Two days in a row he gets a basketball to the face! Poor kid.

Pretty charming though.


Stop to smell the trees

Seven Year Old and I had a nice trip to school today. (Ten Year Old is on his fifth grade camping trip, two nights at Ben Lomond Quaker Center [yay!] and one night backpacking in to Big Basin State Park.)

We brought a mix CD along that a parents of a preschool friend made of kid-friendly pop songs, so we bopped to that in the car into the city.

I parked near 14th & Guerrero, and he asked, "Why do we always park here?" Making it sound so far away. All of one block and half of another!

As we walked down 14th, we passed a mock orange in bloom, and it smelled heavenly. I pointed it out, and the smaller tree next to the first one had blossoms at nose level for both of us. Silas really liked the scent, and he stopped for a bit to sniff. (You can see the tree on Google maps' street views, at about 460 14th Street...)

As we continued walking, he pointed out the next tree, but it didn't seem to have any blossoms. I kept walking, but he stayed where he was, then called me back. A few of the branches out over the street did have flowers, and he had spotted them. Then we noticed that almost every tree on the block was in bloom.

By the time we got to Valencia, he was skipping along he was so happy, and then he reached out to hold my hand as we went around the corner.

Lord, thank you for the many blessings in my life. Here are two of the bigger ones!


Compulsive Ministers, Tend Ye the Inward Fire!

I'm reading Henry Nouwen's book The Way of the Heart. It's ostensibly aimed at "compulsive ministers" who are busy busy busy, and lose their spiritual way in the process. It's reprinted in a small, semi-gloss-covered trade paperback, though, so it's clearly got a much larger audience. People like me, for example, an unprogrammed Friend; though as the volunteer clerk of my Quaker meeting, I can certainly relate to some of the bits about professional ministers.

Really, the larger thrust of the book is about finding time for solitude, silence, and prayer as a way of refreshment. That's useful for anyone, not just those called to the ministry. (Except perhaps the theophobic, as one Facebook friend of mine describes his religious views; they can call it reflection instead of prayer.)

I liked this passage quite well, from page 47 of the recent Ballantine paperback (emphasis added):
What needs to be guarded is the life of the Spirit within us. Especially we who want to witness to the presence of God's Spirit in the world need to tend the fire within with utmost care. It is not so strange that many ministers have become burnt-out cases, people who say many words and share many experiences, but in whom the first of God's Spirit has died and from whom not much more comes forth than their own boring, petty ideas and feelings. Sometimes it seems that our many words are more an expression of our doubt than of our faith. It is as if we are not sure that God's Spirit can touch the hearts of people: we have to help him out, and, with many words, convince others of his power. But it is precisely this wordy unbelief that quenches the fire.

Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers.
Lord, help me offer warmth and light to others.