Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kickin' Pandas, by the numbers

This past Saturday, I had to say goodbye to another great youth soccer team. The parting was bittersweet. The team had just won the Fall 2011 Harrisburg Parks & Recreation U7 tournament and was all smiles and yells and gold medals and good ol' kid energy. But after sharing the past 14 weeks together (and with several of the players returning from previous seasons, too), it's difficult to see a season come to an end — even such a great end.

I like numbers, so here's a quick snapshot of our season in numbers:

  • 10 players on the team
  • 1 extremely helpful assistant coach
  • 49 team-wide emails I sent
  • 10 regular season matches played (9 wins, 0 losses, and 1 draw)
  • 4 post-season matches played (4 wins, 0 losses, and 0 draws)
  • 3 goals allowed
  • 43 goals scored
  • 10 players (out of 10) who scored at least one goal
  • 6 (out of 140 possible) match absences
  • 0 injuries

Of course, numbers don't tell the whole story. My 5- and 6-year-old Kickin' Pandas were truly a fun and talented bunch of young athletes, with energetic and supportive parents who provided the best practice and match attendance rate I've ever seen. This team challenged me as a coach to keep raising the bar for them as they successfully mastered skill after skill. As I tentatively introduced new drills and exercises — some of which I was half-convinced would never fly with some of the younger players — I was repeatedly surprised to find each player willing, excited, and able to learn the new techniques.

The more mature players learned not just to play the game mechanically, but strategically — you could observe them thinking beyond just "get the ball, take it up the field, and shoot". And while the less mature ones certainly had their moments of drifting attention spans, they were always ready and willing to engage on the field and give their very best. And my favorite factoid about the team? That every single player scored at least one goal this season.

Of course, as I coach, I learned alot this season, too. First, I learned not to underestimate what even very young players are able to learn. I also learned just how much of a difference it can make in a player's effort investment when they know their coach believes in them. (These might seem obvious to most folks; sometimes I'm a little slow to come around.)

Overall, the Kickin' Pandas were an amazing bunch of kids for whose hard work a championship medal seemed an appropriate reward. I am truly honored to have had the chance to get to know them and their families and to share my love of soccer with them. I hope to see them returning for season after season of youth soccer.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Fill This Place"

A few weeks ago, my church (Providence Baptist Church in Harrisburg, NC) celebrated the opening of its new sanctuary building. Some months prior, Pastor John Cashwell challenged me to compose a song to be used in the dedication of the building. (And I don't use the word "challenged" here lightly — writing songs from scratch is a craft I have failed miserably to refine.)

After some initial brainstorming and prayer, it became clear to me that a new building is spiritually and socially disinteresting. It's what you put into the building that matters. Scratch that. It's who you put into the building that matters. And certainly for a church, if the Spirit of God isn't in that building — filling the atmosphere and the attendees with His presence — well... what's the point?

The song that resulted from those thoughts practically wrote itself. Here are the lyrics (sans repeated sections).

"Fill This Place"

We will gather here today
We will worship, we will pray.
We will sing in one accord
We will bow before You, Lord.
We will bring our tithes and offerings to You, Hallelujah!

You have called us, every one —
Called us daughters, called us sons;
Called us to receive your grace;
Called us to respond with praise.
Now we're calling out to You, Lord Jesus,
"Come, come and fill this place!"

Come, fill this place.
Lead us from the start and send us forth from here.
Send us forth from here.
Come, fill this place.
Lead us toward Your heart, and send us forth from here.
Send us forth to tell the whole world who You are!

We all need your new beginning here.
We all need your grace for living here.
We all need your help forgiving here.
Won't you come? Won't you come?
We all need your hope to heal us here.
We all need your love to free us here.
We all need to meet you, Jesus, here.

It's a simple song, really. But judging from the encouraging feedback I received after our worship team shared it during the Dedication Service for the new sanctuary, it served its purpose of helping our congregation focus on the real point of this beautiful building.

Some might wonder why I've posted these here instead of rushing them off to the U. S. Copyright Office and seeking a willing publisher. I'll tell you. I want to do my part to right what I think is a very large wrong in the artistic community in general and specifically the Christian music community. I'm talking about copyright assignment and restrictive licensing. How can a songwriter thank God publicly for his chart-topping worship song knowing that he sold the publishing rights to that song to a company that will slap a restrictive license on its playback and use? How does it make sense that corporations such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC can intimidate — or even prosecute — people who want to share worship music with each other? There is and has ever been exactly one Creator, and all man's works are mere remixes of the original. I'm not brave enough to restrict what's not mine to restrict. Because the laws of the land grant me the copyright on the songs I write automatically, I'll use those rights for good, freely licensing my songs so that others may benefit from them without fear of litigating, and encouraging their re-use by providing lyrics, recordings, and sheet music where I can.

UPDATE 9/5/2013: I've decided to post my original demo recording.  It's so unpolished and pitchy and ... well, that stuff just matters less to me than the freedom of the song.  So here's "Fill This Place":