Tag Archives: soccer

Pay a scholarship for at-risk students for soccer


Levi shows why he’ll be midfielder.

This blog has always been about people. Even more than writing, I love interacting with and helping people. I’ve seen through the years how our school’s soccer team is another way to reach out to kids: to teach them discipline, excellence, respect and teamwork. Actually, I’m amazed at sport’s power to assist in the transformation of youth.

So I’m ask you, my loyal readers, if you can chip in for a scholarship for kids to play. Some kids can’t even afford the paltry $100 sports fee. Additionally, we need new penny jerseys and money for parents to drive kids to practices. There are park fees, game fees and referee fees. Pretty much everybody charges a fee except me. I do it because I love soccer and I love helping people. You can help too! Here’s my GoFundMe account gofundme.com/9tb5ehjw.  (Sorry, looks like you have to cut and paste it due to WordPress’ refusal to transfer the link.) I’m trying to raise $750 for the benefit of the team. I need your help because I don’t have this money myself.

I’m excited for a new season. Thanks for helping!

I quit, and we lost

Colegio cristiano guatemala

Hanging out with the guys in Guatemala. (If you notice, only my feet are on the ground.)

The two things are absolutely related. It’s hard to beat Banner, even though his older brother Mario is almost as good at soccer. I was on Mario’s team, and we pretty much trailed Banner’s team by one goal the whole game.

But after two-and-a-half hours playing in the sun, having fasted breakfast, I suddenly found myself, somewhere between heat stroke and exhaustion, on the bench in the shade. I needed water, and there was none. I was breathing quickly.

“Pastor, come and play. This is probably the last time you’ll play in Guatemala.” Ordinarily these words would shot energy into me. But this time this 48-year-old body wouldn’t budge. I didn’t care any more. I was really dog-tired.

As poorly as I played (about 20 turnovers), still my presence on the field counted for something. I made it a little bit harder for them to score, a little bit harder for them to defend. My absence proved our demise by simple math: one less player favored them.

When you quit the church, you cause the team to lose. Keep playing.

We won 43-10 at soccer

Guess which one is me.

Guess which one is me.

It was an incredibly lopsided score, a thumping to leave our opponents embarrassed for the rest of their lives. Their team was four players, and we were only three.

Actually, we were trying to get as many goals as years I’ve lived on Earth as of today: 48. But the other team quit.

To be fair, I personally made only three goals. And as best as I can remember, the 10 goals made against us were all my fault.

Yes, the victory was because of Mario and Banner Ajcip, exceptional footballers and brothers of the Door Church in Guatemala, where I pastored, where I learned to play soccer. Those two guys teach in our school, and we played against the students of our Christian school.

It felt like being on Jesus’ team. He lets you participate. He lets you feel like your doing something. You work hard. You make mistakes. But he brings the inevitable lopsided victory.

I’m glad I’m on Jesus’ team.

A tsunami name Carli Lloyd, and an American missionary in Japan

Carli Lloyd's goal from half line

Carli Lloyd took a speculative shot that completed her World Cup-winning hat-trick.

In 2011, Japan suffered a tsunami. The flood of water killed 15,891.

Yesterday, Japan again suffered a tsunami. No one died. But a flood of goals killed their hopes to retain the women’s World Cup title.

The name of the tsunami was Carli Lloyd. In the space of 16 minutes, the attacking midfielder swept past the Japanese defense to make an eye-popping three goals.  Her last shot, a wild crazy kick from the half line that caught Japan’s goalie out of position, gets my vote for best of the tournament.

world cup goal in net | Carli Lloyd

While backtracking, the Japanese goalie stumbled and was unable to push the ball out of its course.

Japan fought back to get two goals for some respect, but they lost 2-5. In soccer, that’s about as lopsided as you’ll ever see. And thus, the U.S. avenged their fluke loss from the last final (which they lost to Japan four years ago).

All I can do is offer condolences to my missionary friend in Japan Jack Garrot, whom I admire greatly. I admire him greatly because he’s been a missionary basically forever (since 1981). I admire him greatly because, being an American, he rooted for Japan.

But I admire Jack Garrot more.

But I admire Jack Garrot more.

A powerful spiritual dynamic is unleashed when a missionary adopts his target country. When he so closely identifies with his target people, he is giving the gospel and he is learning from them whatever cultural elements are actually more closely aligned with the Bible than corresponding cultural elements in America. Unencumbered by ethnocentrism, he is freed to preach the pure gospel without any of off-putting cultural accoutrements. I don’t even know if my friend would agree with any of speculations; all I know is he told me he was rooting for Japan. And I love him for that.

One day I hope to meet him in person here on Earth.

Whom do I admire more, Carly Lloyd or Jack Garrot? The latter, obviously. I’m happy for the USWNT on their cup. But I’m sad for my friend’s loss.

I predict Carli Lloyd’s fame will now surpass Abby Wambach and Hope Solo here on Earth. But in Heaven, Jack Garrot’s is immortalized. Between being a heavenly hero and an earthly hero, what would you choose?

*I don’t own the rights on these pictures, and I’m not making any money on them.

Stop making excuses

abby wambachMy son tore his ACL playing on turf, so I totally understand Abby Wambach’s complaint about having to play on turf at the Women’s World Cup.

But when she blames lack of goals, her lack of commitment, on the turf, then I’m ready to fire her.

Good thing she “committed” in the only goal the US scored against Nigeria yesterday.

Soccer was designed to play on grass, but turf is much easier to keep. I can understand why Canada, with snow and rain, would opt for turn.

abby wambach 2Turf doesn’t “give way.” So my son’s cleat got stuck, causing my son’s ACL tear. And when you tackle or fall (from doing a header), it’s much harder. Wambach had said: I don’t lay out and commit to those headers and that’s why they glance off my head rather than me contacting them. For me, I definitely think that the U.S. has more goals if we’re playing on grass.

But of all the women playing on turf, only Wambach whined. Someone even said that, if they had to play on concrete or dirt, they would give their all. This is for country. The Women’s World Cup is only once every four years. You have been selected to represent your country out of tens of thousands of female soccer players. You had better give your all.

Could you imagine what would happen if our soldiers took the same attitude? Aw sarge, I don’t want to charge. It’s dirty out and the rocks hurt. There’s too much dust. I can hardly see.

abby wambachOf course, we would all love perfect conditions. But if — as they say in Guatemala — you’re going to put on a pretty pink bow and demand your entitlements and not perform at full capacity, then it’s time to replace that player.

On Wednesday against Nigeria, Wambach calmed pundits who were up in arms. She scored a stunning goal on a cross. It was enough to win.

If we don’t allow excuses when you play for country, how much more so when you “play” for God? Maybe not all is well, but you can give your all to God.

Don’t hold back

canada's women's soccerCanada’s women’s team scored early, and it seemed they were going to crush the Netherlands in world cup yesterday. But the second goal never came — much less the third or fourth. For those of us rooting for our northern neighbors, the disappointment turned to bitterness when in the final minutes of the game Netherlands scored an equalizer.

Because soccer games are often won by one goal, a team CAN lay back and just try to hold on. Disgusting.

canada vs. netherlandsSame is true of the church, when we congratulate ourselves on the one goal we’ve already made, the offerings we’ve already given, the work we’ve already done. It is enough. Why work harder? Let’s just coast into victory.

Japan, the women’s world cup defending champions, did the same against Ecuador. When they should have brought an avalanche of goals, they settled for one. Ugh. I hate it.

But do I do it? Do I call it quits on prayer, evangelism and giving far short of winning?

My son Hosea wins with Mar Vista Park soccer final

mar vista park soccer

Flynn Roe expertly turns in a cross to open scoring for Chelsea

Andres Barahona hoped to engineer his second upset in Mar Vista Park soccer finals Saturday with his nervy energy and treacherous left foot, but ultimately his team, Aston Villa, fell to the superior firepower of Chelsea.

Andres,15, blazed twice down the left with feints and burst of speed to pass four and five defenders to slot home. But he was playing a game of keep-up in the “sweepers division,” age 13 to 15, against an onslaught of goals. Chelsea took the championship 6-3.

“We played pretty hard,” Andres said. “The penalties weren’t penalties. I wanted to win, but we couldn’t win.”

Last week, 3rd-placed Aston Villa upset 2nd-place Norwich to bid for a surprise championship Saturday. But Chelsea, a team full of forwards, was too lethal in front of the net.

The Blues’ deadshot aim was unusual for parks leagues, where all kinds of clumsiness and lack of definition prevail among the lot of mostly beginners.

Some 650 kids aged 5-15 played in Mar Vista’s 9 divisions in spring league, said Soccer Director Kiswani Dumas, better known as simply “Kiwi.” With the largest park soccer program on the Westside, Mar Vista has produced stars for European soccer, he said. One kid has a contract for a Turkish team, he added.

“Our soccer program is growing every season,” Kiwi said. “We hope to have 1,000 kids next season.”

Sign ups, boys and girls, start on July 1 for fall soccer, which initiates Sept. 12. For $130, kids get a uniform, a trophy, training and a lot of competitive fun.

Mar Vista Park’s turf field, installed eight years ago, has been the field of dreams, where kids can learn soccer and soar. They learn teamwork, discipline and hard work. They can experience the exhilaration of victory and the crush of defeat.

In Saturday’s final, Chelsea, the highest scoring team among the older kids’ division, started what they do best early when Flynn Roe, 13, turned a free kick in past the goalie after only a few minutes after the starting whistle. It was a smart goal, uncharacteristically classy for parks soccer.

But Aston Villa responded quickly. Andres, of Honduran descent and with the Latino flair for el futbol, tore down the left flank, ghosting past four defenders, to fire home and tie up a game that promised to be highly competitive and highly entertaining.

youth soccer programs Los Angeles

Hosea Ashcraft fires from amid three defenders. From the outside of his foot to the inside of the net.

Then for Chelsea, Hosea Ashcraft, 13, fought off three defenders to shoot clinically past a hapless Aston Villa goalie.

Mar Vista park soccer

Aston Villa’s goalie is not going to block the shot.

Before the first half was over, referees cited a defender’s handball, and Daniel Garcia, 15, the league’s highest goal-scorer, blasted a blistering penalty kick for Chelsea, making it 3-1.

youth soccer Westside Los Angeles

Daniel Garcia rockets a penalty kick right past the goalie.

In the second half, it was Aston Villa who opened scoring. Again the always-dangerous Andres blazed down the left flank and slotted home.

Chelsea responded almost immediately. Midfielder Daniel, who was Andres’ equal in domination, whipped in a cross from the right that Samuel Mikhail, 15, turned smartly in. It was impossible for the keeper to bat away.

Down 4-2, Aston Villa refused to let this game slip out of hand. From the feet of Andres came a through-ball that Donovan Brizuela sprinted on to fire from the left for another score, keeping the game within reach at 4-3.

If only Chelsea could cancel out the constant threat of Andres, they could win. Seeing the need, Flynn offered himself to coach to track and defend against Andres. He promised coach that he wouldn’t be beat by the fleet-footed youth.

“Ok, go ahead,” Coach Mario Ortiz told him. Andres didn’t make any more key plays.

All season, Chelsea had been a scoring machine, and Saturday’s game proved no different. A through-ball left Samuel in a one-on-one face-off with the goalie. He fired low, a shot that shanked the goalie’s shins and glided into goal.

Another defensive handball in the area gave Chelsea its second penalty kick, which Daniel didn’t miss with a rocket fired from the spot. The game ended 6-3.

With about 15 goals this season, Daniel was named the most valuable player.

“He covers all the midfield,” Coach Ortiz said. “He can shoot. He can pass.”

After taking possession of the field, the boys — and girls — in blue retreated to the park picnic tables for their banquet. Coach Ortiz handed out medals and praised each player as they munched sub sandwiches, chips and cupcakes.

After clashing against the tiny titans of soccer, the kids fell to playing Clash of Clans on their phones, trading strategies.

As the sun fell, another soccer season receded into glorious memories.

*Reprinted from http://patch.com/california/santamonica/chelsea-confirms-its-dominance-mar-vista-soccer

Like fighting against God, it wasn’t even a fair match

Germany Soccer Champions League FinalJuventus put everything they had into the Champions League Final — which wasn’t enough. So the Impossible Dream was just that: impossible.

Barcelona surprised, breaking up its usual quick-passing game that dizzies defenders. It added counter-attacks and long-balls, perhaps to catch Juventus unprepared.

The first goal came when Lionel Messi whipped a cross-field ball surgically over to teammate Neymar, who combined with Iniesta and Rakitic before the Juve defense could reconfigure.

Juventus sought to force mistakes with high-field pressure, exploiting Barca’s penchant for launching attacks out of defense with slick passes (as opposed to most team’s approach of using clearances to get out of the danger zone). The strategy paid off with some clumsy turnovers, but Juve failed to capitalize with goals.

Messi was again the director of the orchestra with the second goal with lightning dribbling that confounded defenders. Though Buffon expertly batted away Messi’s shot, he could not scramble over to block Suarez’s rebound smash.

Thankfully, Luis Suarez didn’t bite anyone in this game (he has bitten someone in the Dutch League, the English League and the World Cup). But he was up to his usual controversial antics. He faked injury to kill time. With mock pain, he writhed on the ground as the seconds counted down of the last minute of extra time. Then, he limped off the field, waved at fans, took a selfie, got lost, consulted a map, asked for an autograph, answered his cell phone and cooked up whatever time-wasting shenanigan he could. The ref simply allowed another minute of play.

Juve attacked, looking for the tying goal that would force overtime — 30 minutes. But Barca parried their attack and launched a counter. Again Leo escorted the ball down the field, this time finding Neymar, who converted, 3-1.

Juve Goalie, Gianluigi Buffon said about him: “Messi is an extra-terrestrial who plays with us humans. So we hope that on June 6 he returns to earth and becomes a human too.”

It didn’t happen as Buffon wished.

But if you thought Barcelona, in sealing three championships this season (League, King’s Cup and European Champions), was impressive, just remember that God never loses.

More exhilarating was worship

Part of coming off 16 years of the mission field means I have been able to dedicate more time to my kids. My youngest son, made three goals in one-fourth of a park soccer game. He was unstoppable. Opponents didn’t know how to defend against him. He never failed a shot.

For some reason, coach has put him on defense in previous games. In the meantime, Hosea has been training with a club team, on which he just was accepted. He’s getting fitter and sharper. Coach missed Sunday’s game, so an assistant tried him up front, and he was quickly deadly.

This was a huge thrill for me. To be able to see my kids play and succeed, to be a dad, is exhilarating.

Still, worship at the evening service was even more exhilarating.

The value of “useless” people

When he beat two Real Madrid defenders.

When he beat two Real Madrid defenders.

My friend and I argue about Barcelona soccer. Namely, Alan says Luis Suarez was a costly and “useless” addition to the star-studded squad. While I have been critical of Suarez’s tendency to bite opponents previously, I endorsed his arrival at the Blaugrana. He brought a wickedly powerful kick, a weapon missing from Barca’s touch-sensitive arsenal. He also brought muscle.

His debut in the first clasico (against eternal rival Real Madrid) was, understandably, not an outright success. He whipped in some pin-perfect crosses but was otherwise somewhat sedate. It usually takes a while for a player to adapt to a new team, but of high-priced acquisitions, fans want immediate results. So Alan grew increasingly critical as games passed without too many goals from Suarez.

I kept believing in him even though the results weren’t terribly positive. Our banter reached a head in late March for the second derby of the season against the Merengues. Before the game started, Alan unbottled fresh venom for Suarez; I defended him. As it turns out, Suarez struck the goal of the victory — exquisitely controlling a long overhead pass with one touch, holding off two defenders with his speed and physicality, and a shooting low to far post to frustrate the goalie. For those who know soccer, it was sheer sublime grace.

This gave me ammo to unload on Alan. We were both overjoyed by the Barca victory, but I shot up my friend: I thought you said he was “useless?”

Suarez "nutmegs" one of the world's best defenders, David Luis, of PSG. (He puts the ball through his legs, a humiliating move).

Suarez “nutmegs” one of the world’s best defenders, David Luis, of PSG. (He puts the ball through his legs, a humiliating move).

On Wednesday, Suarez again won the game, this time to help Barca move forward in quarter finals of the UEFA’s Champion’s League against new powerhouse Paris Saint Germain. For one of the goals, Suarez threaded through three defenders single-handedly (or rather, single-footedly) to confound the opposition and the goalie. They don’t play soccer any better in Heaven.

So tonight I fired a fresh volley at my friend. “Useless” players like that, I’ll take any day.

Do you believe in the people on your team? It’s surprising (upsetting) to see church members criticize their fellows. They compete against each other (instead of competing against the devil). Maybe the person you view as “useless” will score the victory shot against the devil

Everybody is valuable in the Kingdom of God.

I’m proud of the kids

Lighthouse Church School

There was no one faster in the league than our midfielder and defender, Caleb.

We were down 0-2 at halftime, and the kids walked off the field dejected.

Hey! We’re only down two goals. It’s not over! Let’s go out there and win this! I gave specific instructions to the kids. We needed more longer balls, through balls that our forwards could run on and beat defenders.

When the whistle blew, my son Hosea and his partner, Garrett Lahood, zipped through the midfielders and defenders straight to goal with three crisp passes. Garrett smashed it home. Woohoo! Now let’s get some more!

Santa Monica Christian school

Garrett’s quickness and ball-handling skills made coach move him from defender to forward.

But we didn’t win. Our inexperience began to show more. Errors were made, and our opponents, Westside Neighborhood School, beat Lighthouse Church School 7-1.

I’m not upset. Winning would have been almost impossible. For our small school with a co-ed team, to have made it to round 2 of playoffs was already an impossible dream. I’m proud of the kids.

It was a fun season. Kids learned about soccer, teamwork, effort. These are lessons they must apply to life.

Saints win 5-0 in middle school soccer

LCS Middle School SoccerMAR VISTA PARK – Lighthouse co-ed’s team resoundingly defeated Windward 5-0 to advance in middle school playoffs to round 2 on Monday.

They gelled when it counted most. Here was a team that during the league season would lose 8-0 and 7-0. The story of their turnaround is one of not growing frustrated, of learning from mistakes and of combining slow kids with fast kids, talented kids with not-so-talented kids into optimal formation.

Many middle schools have an A-team, a B-team and even a C-team. With less than 50 students, Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica has only one team, combined with all sorts of players. To say all candidates make the cut is an understatement. Sometimes, the school begs kids to play.

With teams like that, the wrong thing to do is to let that one star do everything. Just give him the ball and get out of his way. Instead, the Saints focused on building a team around the stars.

A critical moment came when the Saints showed poor sportsmanship. In a pre-league scrimmage against Westside Neighborhood School, the Saints behaved very… um,unsaintly. After losing 4-1, some of the kids spat into their hands at the end-of-the-game high five, smearing it on their unwitting opponents’ hands.

Ugh! How despicable can you get?

While the opposing kids may not have realized they were the victims of an ugly prank, the opposing parents had seen it all.

Understandably incensed, the WNS coach spoke to Lighthouse coach. He couldn’t believe his ears (he had been herding stragglers to form part of the line when the offenders committed their crime).

LCS coach scrambled a quick investigation, which more or less confirmed the worse. A photographer produced incriminating photos. Kids broke down under interrogation and confessed.

It is sad to see top clubs and national teams defend their players – no matter how repugnant their behavior. Whether it is racial epithets uttered on the field or biting incidents, it’s shameful to see teams try to confuse the facts just so their players won’t be suspended.

LCS, a Christian ministry of the Lighthouse Church, decidedly reacted against self-defense. The athletics director and the coach immediately sent profuse apologies to the league organizers and offended school. They requested to NOT be excused; they asked for a sanction from the league.

Ultimately, league officials opted against punishment, acting on WNS’s gracious forgiveness. But Lighthouse benched for one game each of the offenders anyway. It was a matter of character – what Lighthouse most is trying to teach.

More important than winning league games was winning the souls of men. Since at least three players fessed up, three players sat out – and the team suffered on the field.

Read the rest of the story.

The team star can’t shine without the support of the team

Virtually a one-man team, O.J. Simpson always praised his blockers.

A leader is measured not by his individual talent but by his ability to “rub off” on others. There’s no use bragging about how good you are if you don’t make others good around you.

Even Jesus “rubbed off” on his followers. In Christianity, this is called “discipleship,” and due to an excellent process of discipleship, Jesus could leave the entire ship in capable hands when he resurrected and handed off responsibility to his disciples.

Will we learn this in high school soccer?

You have to lose in order to win

Christian school Santa MonicaOur first game was against a C-team. We won 2-0. Our kids didn’t learn anything from the win.

But when we started playing B- and A-teams, we lost 0-8. Then the kids realized they didn’t know squat about soccer and would need to really learn. We have lost every league game (the win was a scrimmage) — except yesterday.

In the last game of the regular season, we tied 2-2. Now the kids are learning how to play.

Losses are valuable. You tend to learn more from a loss — if you don’t cast yourself in the pit of self-pity. A lot of people learn nothing from a win — in the self-congratulation there is no self-study, no refining, no fixing.

If you are currently losing, rejoice. Study, work and improve. The win is ahead. You can’t get to win except by losses.

I’m proud of the progress of my co-ed team (playing against all boys teams) at Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.

A happier coach

soccer girls | Santa MonicaI ran into two soccer coach friends at Wednesday’s game. They command winning teams and winning salaries. They were winning players.

I have a winninger attitude. I’m the happier coach. I coach for free, and I’m seeing the fruits of my labor, most importantly kids drawn to Christ at a Westside Christian school.

So far we have lost every league game of Middle School soccer in CIF Pacific League Basin. Monday will see if we finally win one.

Despite the dismal outlook, I’m enjoying the positives:

  • Our goalie, an adapted basketball player, won the opposing coach’s praise with “five first-rate saves.” “We thought we weren’t going to be able to score on you,” he said.
  • We limited an A-team to four goals.
  • My son scored a goal.
  • My son juked four defenders to get to goal and almost scored an individual effort.

More important than game highlights are kid highlights:

  • Kids are really enjoying soccer.
  • One kid told me he used to not like soccer; now he really likes it.
  • Beginners are scoring (at practice), and that’s  a thrill for them.
  • There’s such a good feeling of Christian good attitude and fun.

So I wouldn’t take the paid coaching position. The unpaid is better because the rewards outweigh financial compensation.

Soccer saves souls

soccer | soulsWhen Mario and Banner first met these guys, the noticed how much their buddies acted like gang-bangers: trash talking, threatening, being disrespectful and boasting about alcohol and drug abuse.

Then Mario and Banner, skilled streetballers from the church, played soccer with them and shared their testimonies. Today these guys no longer hang with the downwardly-spiraling crowd. They haven’t exactly come to Jesus yet, but they ask questions, and their choices in pastimes are positive, not negative.

Soccer saves souls.

Actually one these guys never hung out with a rowdy group. He was shy, quiet, and mostly watched T.V. He didn’t even know how to play soccer. After Mario and Banner with done with, he became an expert.

I had the chance to play. We won, and we are winning.

Tim Howard: soccer star for God

tim howardAfter Tim Howard stopped a record 16 shots during the World Cup game against Belgium, an overly exuberant American edited Wikipedia’s listing of the U.S. Secretary of Defense and inserted the goalie’s name.

It was quickly changed back to Chuck Hagel, who actually called to congratulate Howard for the respectable USA soccer showing in the July 1st match. Team USA lost 1-2.

Howard’s moment of earthly glory proved fleeting – which is fine with him because he likes to direct his praise elsewhere. “Some people bask in that glory,” Howard, 35, told Campus Crusade for Christ. “For me, it is a burden.”

“I am blessed to be living a dream. And yet, if it all went away tomorrow, I know I would still have peace. That probably sounds crazy to most people, but that’s the kind of peace Christ gives. It is rooted in His love, and it surpasses all understanding,” he told the Huffington Post in a separate interview. The rest of the article here: Tim Howard.

Photo: nypost. I don’t own rights to it, and I’m not making any money on it.

Just drop your work and play soccer

photo (7)I had things to do, but my oldest son suggested we play soccer. He’s almost 17, almost off to college where I won’t be seeing him.

When we were missionaries in Guatemala, I was almost always too busy to spend much time with him. The tyranny of the urgent destroys what’s truly important.

Sons and daughters need dad more than money. God wants me to win my family to Christ before winning others. If I am so busy winning others to Christ, if I am something of an absentee father, I will have failed in my mission in life.

So I closed my laptop and changed for a quick-moving game of futsal. In soccer there are piano players — those who have delicate touch and quickness — and piano movers — hulking player who bust through defenses. Rob’s both.

The teams are always my younger son and I against Rob. Even though we are two against one, Rob always wins.

Then a friend, Lisa, came along. Since we were losing, she came on our team. Still Rob was winning. But we kept fighting. My recent trips to the gym have helped me develop more leg muscles and I can keep up with Rob’s starts and stops, his spins, the jukes. Just stay goalside and block the shot. Don’t try to take the ball from him.

Hosea and I are playing better than usual. We are actually passing and combining nicely with Lisa. Oddly, we conjure some decent finishing. It is tied 8-8. It is growing dark.

Finally, another quick one-two pass and the ball slides through the chair legs (our goal). We are winning 9-8.

“It’s too dark to keep playing, Rob,” I say. “Let’s get dinner.”

Ha! This is how I win! I call the game off right when we are in the rare moment of being up one point! I take a shower and get ready for Spanish service. I am exuberant. I can’t remember the last time Hosea and I beat Rob.

Sons need a dad. Drop your work.

Pass the ball

Lighthouse Church School

Some of my beginning players at Lighthouse Church School

My star soccer player lost the ball eight times in Lighthouse Church School‘s middle school loss against Crossroads B. His repeated futile attempts to penetrate towards goal with individual juking runs had me rolling my eyes. If something’s not work, try something else. There were other players open, ready for a pass.

Maybe he didn’t trust the other players. Since he’s the best, his instinct is to keep trying what has worked before. Unconsciously, he’s afraid if he passes, they’ll lose the ball. But Crossroads’ stout defense stopped him every time.

I’m not a demure coach. I yelled for him to pass. And he did pass finally — straight to the opposing goalie. No one was near to make a run on it. I don’t like sarcastic soccer.

Previously, we lost 0-7, but I was happy because everybody tried their best. Yesterday, we lost 0-4, and I was livid because we self-destructed — namely, the best player played the worst.

There is lesson here for the church. You must trust others, depend on others. I don’t care if you are the star player. The church doesn’t work without delegation. If the person fails, keep trusting and passing them the ball. They will learn eventually, and the team will convert into a winning team.

If you’re not going to ever pass me the ball, I’ll stop making runs.

The thrill of defeat

Lighthouse Church School My middle school soccer team got spanked 0-7 yesterday. It was so incredibly satisfying.

Why? Because forming soccer players disciples of Christ makes my heart hum. Because challenges make you grow. Because you have to lose in order to learn how to win.

The Lighthouse Church School players hemorrhaged goals because they were out of position over and over again. With a gaggle of beginners, with little guys, what else can you expect? I told them where to be and what to do, but did they get it?

They got it yesterday — by losing.

So now, we are expecting better results.

Hopefully more kids will be “in the zone” too. Some of the kids appeared to spend parts of the game thinking about the snack at the end. Other kids looked like roots were growing out of the soles of their feet and into the ground. They were stationary.

And if we can find at least one player who can handle our goal kicks (and not pass it directly to the opponents at 15 yards from goal), that would be most helpful.

As for the Brentwood School’s B team, they positioned themselves well enough and passed the ball proficiently. Thankfully, the “B” team’s finishing was “B” in quality. Otherwise the score might have been 14-0.

I love it.

Finishing strong

In the video above, my son makes the tying goal in the last minutes of the game against the first place team. It was the last game of the Fall 2014 season. The fact that they could come from behind 0-3 and equal the best team was significant.

It is important as a Christian to finish strong. Too many of my friends have been meteoric, a bright light for Christ that burns out. He who perseveres to the end shall be saved, Christ warns in Matt. 24:13. It’s only a 15-second video.

Prepare the way for another

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

If you ponder who is the greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi would be a contender for the title. Thanks to Messi, FC Barcelona are the team to beat, the standard-bearers of magic on the pitch, a distinction formerly held by nemesis Real Madrid.

But there would have been no Messi, and Barcelona would have remained always in the shadows of white uniforms of Spain’s capitol city, had it not been for a legend from the past. Johann Cruyff is almost forgotten in the radiance of today’s stars. But it was Cruyff who made the way for Messi.


Johann Cruyff

Wanted at Real Madrid, the Dutch dazzler opted to move to then-underdog Barca. Immediately he won the championship and two Ballons d’Or. Later as coach, he won four consecutive titles and one European Cup. He devised the farm training team for future stars to rise in. It was there that Messi discovered his own greatness.

Today, Cruyff fades into the background as the steamroller Messi continues to smash records. Who is greater? The one who became great or the one who forged the path for him to find destiny.

Maybe your ministry is waning, your influence declining. Fret not. What you have done for God has brought others into their own destiny and greatness.

Another Argentina showed up

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

What I saw previously of Argentina in World Cup rounds left me doubting. They were flat. They struggled to beat easy opponents. They lacked the flair that carries teams from the Americas in the Americas to lift the gold trophy.

But fizzless Argentina showed up to play today against Holland and shattered my predictions. (After witnessing the Orange Machine demolish former champ Spain with aggressive defending and laser-sharp passes with unthinkable finishes, I speculated they’d win their first ever).

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

It was a different Argentina. They looked like electrons shooting around the midfield, dominating most of the game. Unstoppable Arjen Robben met his match in the superb defender Javier Mascherano, whose millisecond-pinpoint tackle deprived Robben of his best chance. Argentina just couldn’t pick the lock of the Dutch defense, and so the game had to go to penalties.

Incredibly, Argentine Goalie Sergio Rojas stopped two shots and thus stifled Holland’s hopes.

It reminded of Samson. Ever flubbing, Samson showed up strong on game day. We live under grace to forgive our sins. When we are needed to step up to the plate, let it be a different us — a Holy Spirit empowered us — that shows up.

Poetic justice at World Cup

I don't own the rights for this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights for this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Algeria scared expected-winner Germany in extra time of octavos knockout stage of the World Cup 2014. Had the northern African nation upset Germany, it would have been justice.

In the 1982 World Cup, over-confident, prideful, and racist West Germany players trash-talked the upstart Algeria team. The Algerians were nomads out of the desert. The Germans would dedicate their seventh goal to their wives, their eighth to their dogs. One player boasted the game would be so easy to win, he would smoke a cigar while playing.

But the Algerians won 2-1.

The West Germans were shocked. In their subsequent game, they colluded with Austria to play a game of 1-goal difference, which was the only option to send Algeria back home and allow both Germany and Austria to move on to the next round. After the first German goal, both teams essentially dilly-dallied with the ball for 80 minutes and never tried to score. Fans, who had paid their tickets to see a great game, were outraged. West German soccer officials recognized it was a “tactical game” and unleashed more racist comments.

I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

I was rooting for Algeria this time. It would have been payback for the evil, the corruption, the arrogance. Unfortunately, not every score will be settled in this imperfect world.

At least this time, the Germans stayed mum before the game. They respected their opponents.

Not until extra time could Germany break through a well-organized and determined squad this World Cup. They scored two goals, but Algeria struck back with minutes of play. It ended a reverse of the 1982 score line: 2-1 in favor of Germany. Algeria did respectably. We ought to respect our adversaries always.


Please don’t tarnish your memory as a hero

donovan lashes out

Pic from Yahoo Sports. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

Landon Donovan came off bitter.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann omitted the notable U.S. star. Up until the U.S. loss, Donovan, who was my hero, was mum about the snub. He was supportive of the team.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann hasn't lowered himself to the level of defending himself against a bitter player.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t lowered himself to the level of defending himself against a bitter player.

No sooner did the outgunned U.S. squad get booted (logically) by a Belgium team glutted with top club stars than Donovan unleashed a rant against the coach. According to Donovan, he mismanaged the team.

Landon, please, don’t do this…


Julian Green wowed everyone with an extremely difficult lobbed ball over his shoulder that he hit squarely into the net, foiling the competent German goalie. This pic belongs to USMNT (I think). Thanks for letting me use it! I’m not making any money on it.

As the top goal-scorer for the U.S., you are an icon, an inspiration. You’re huge, but when you lash out, you make yourself small, immature, full of yourself, etc. It’s not pretty. Many of your followers will give you credence. But a whole other slew of us are going to leave you alone, a blathering brat.

If Donovan’s omission was the demise of the U.S team is material for lambasting comment threads. Klinsmann marshaled the U.S. team to success out of the very difficult “Group of Death.” He limited the German victory to one goal.

He’s locked down talented stars for the future. His recruit, 18-year-old Julian Green smashed home his first World Cup goal after only a two minutes of play. A coach can only bring so many players on his squad. Had he not brought Green, the dual-citizen starlet might have opted for Germany permanently.

Donovan, you’re not young anymore. We’re sorry. We love you. But go in grace. Don’t pile shame upon yourself. We want to hear your expert analysis, not your vented bitterness.


Julian Green's late strike

Julian Green’s sensational strike sparked a rally that had people believing. (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Don’t go glum over the U.S. elimination from World Cup. The run was the impossible dream. Just to make it out of the group stage showed prowess.

Amid the tears, there is one glimmer of hope. That was a 19-year-old kid who only played a few minutes of World Cup soccer and scored a sensational neck-stretcher wild-sideways-kick goal that sparked an emotional U.S. rally in their 2-1 loss to Belgium.

A resident of Germany since age 2, Julian Green only recently defined his desire to serve the red, white and blue. He was recruited also by Germany.

sensational Tim Howard

U.S. Goalie Tim Howard made scintillating save after save to keep the U.S. in the game. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was wise to sacrifice Landon Donovan for Julian Green. Recognizing that USA’s chances were unrealistic in 2014, Klinsmann’s taking the long-term approach to build U.S. soccer. Build, don’t burn, your program. Come back stronger. Make a squad with a realistic chance at winning a World Cup. Until now, our only flourish was a 2nd-place finish in the Confederations Cup in 2009.

Julian Green over shoulder kick

An astonishing over-the-shoulder one-touch fires home to spark U.S. hopes. (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

If you are church leader, it matters little how badly you’re getting beaten (by lack of finances, by apathy, by attacks on your health). The only thing that matters is how you marshal your resources to build God’s kingdom. If this doesn’t appear to be the year of revival, maybe next year.

The impossible dream is not over. It’s just extended.

Need for a finisher

Clint Dempsey. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Clint Dempsey. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Part of the weakness of the U.S. Men’s National Team is the lack of a true finisher. Clint Dempsey finished a 34-second goal against Ghana that was nice, but he’s not like the finishers who given half a chance bury it in the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a great finisher, but he was injured, so he played poorly. Luis Suarez is deadly as a striker; too bad he likes to bite opponents. Wesley Sneijder took a back-header bouncing ball and rocketed it low into the net to sink Mexico’s hopes for their first-ever World Cup.

Impossible to stop, Sneijder's goal was part of Holland overturning a 1-goal deficit to win. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Impossible to stop, Sneijder’s goal was part of Holland overturning a 1-goal deficit to win. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

As the name suggests, a finisher may NOT be good at passing, possession, bodying, defending, imagination or creation. His job is only one: If teammates get him the ball near or in the area, he smashes it home. (He doesn’t kick it wide or high, as you so often see.)

The U.S. has an awesome goalie, competent defenders, a sensational midfielder, speeding wingers. Dempsey has played forward successfully in the English Premier League, so he’s the best thing we’ve got (if Jozy Altidore doesn’t recover from injury) for Tuesday’s game against Belgium. He’s hardworking, but he’s not a natural finisher.

Mexico World Cup loss

After barely qualifying, Mexico produced some spectacular football but lost because an exquisite finisher. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it..

Every team needs a finisher. Team U.S.A. doesn’t have one.

“It is finished,” Jesus said from the cross. No one else could earn us salvation. We can’t earn our own salvation. When He took our sins to the cross, the Sinless Savior finished off a game that the devil was winning. Death, empowered by the fall, was consuming ravenously all humanity, until Jesus finished Death off. “It is finished.”

By Picketty on redbubble. I don't own the rights to this art, and I'm not making any money on it.

By Picketty on redbubble. I don’t own the rights to this art, and I’m not making any money on it.

Jesus is our finisher.

The hero of the World Cup

ronaldo haircut

With his World Cup buzz. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Forget about U.S. sharp shooter Clint Dempsey. Never mind the incredible saves by Tim Howard. The U.S. men’s national team advances, while Portugal limps embarrassed back home.

Kyle Beckerman's wild hair. (I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.)

Kyle Beckerman’s wild hair. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

The hero of the World Cup is Cristiano Ronaldo. This is the Hollywood-ready pretty boy I’ve sent to the itamae often for diving, cry-babying and basking in his own image on the replay screen at the stadium.

No longer.

I’m now his enthusiastic admirer. I’m not being sarcastic either. I’m not thinking about how his injury-induced tepid play helped the U.S advance out of the Group of Death, nor how his timely goal ensured Ghana’s defeat (that also helped us).

The pretty boy image.

The pretty boy image. (I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.)

I’m talking about his haircut.

Football players are famous for crazy cuts. You’ve got Kyle Beckerman’s shock of dreadlocks. You’ve got mohawks and numbers buzzed into the side and all kinds of things. When Cristiano Ronaldo showed up with a zig-zag pattern, fashionistas groaned.

Then people found out it was more than just a racing stripe. CR7 mimicked a scar on the head of Erik Ortiz Cruz, a Spanish boy whose $83,000 brain surgery he paid for.  It was tribute and solidarity.

Sadly, people are tolerant of bad boys who score goals and win cups. But when an act of charity is performed, they become cynical and cry foul. "He's just trying to get attention," they say.

Sadly, people are tolerant of bad boys who score goals and win cups. But when an act of charity is performed, they become cynical and cry foul. “He’s just trying to get attention,” they say. (I don’t own the rights to this picture, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Forget about who ultimately lifts the gold trophy. The Real Madrid superstar is the biggest winner of all those brats who disgust with their entitlement and unthinkable salaries. Once and for all, the 2013 Ballon d’Or winner shatters his image as Narcissus.

I can just turn my computer screen off now. I’ve seen the best the World Cup has to offer.

German Giants

usmntPundits predicted that America OUGHT to win against Ghana, MIGHT tie with Portugal, but STOOD NO CHANCE against Germany. Tomorrow we shall see in the USA´s last World Cup group stage game if the red, white and blue can pass to the next round.

Germany´s football was like their engineering: precise, inerrant, mechanical. America on the other hand had scrapped together what it could, a ragtag band of players, only a few of which were from top leagues around the world.

Clint Dempsey's 34-second goal against Ghana. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Clint Dempsey’s 34-second goal against Ghana. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Against Ghana, the USA scored an early goal and weathered a storm of shots for 90 minutes. They were sloppy, lethargic, unambitious. They couldn´t maintain possession. By a miracle of God, they won 2-1.

Against Portugal, America improved greatly. They played open football (that’s soccer, for the uninitiated), maintained possession and set up goals with creative passing. Unfortunately, Michael Bradley gave up the ball to Portugal and a U.S. defender failed to track back with his mark, and that’s how Portugal tied in the last minute.

Germany's goal against Ghana. I don't own the rights to his photo, and I'm not making any money on it

Germany’s goal against Ghana. I don’t own the rights to his photo, and I’m not making any money on it

It was a disappointing end to what would have been an upset (led by Christiano Ronaldo, Portugal is a football powerhouse). But I was happy because the U.S. did much better.

Germany dismantled Portugal but struggled to eke out victory against Ghana. Their mythic precision was off.

Will the Yankee Doodle dudes beat Goliath? Part of the answer lies with belief. They mustn’t cower in fear but like David defy their opponents’ depth of experience, speed and accuracy. They must concentrate without a millisecond of slip-up.

That’s how we Christians should face everyday in God too.

What are YOU doing with the ball? Pass it to…

luis suarez 2

Defeating England, Luis Suarez hammers a ball in. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Give him a ball in front of the net, and Luis Suarez makes the goal.

Actually, two of them. The Uruguayan ace headed one goal and slammed home a second to oust England, the vaunted authors of modern soccer, out of the World Cup this past week. The highest goal-scorer in the English Premier League this season, seemingly doesn’t fail.


What a smile! I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Not every forward is a sharp-shooter of this caliber. Most are about 50%. Suarez does it all. He’s fast. He possesses a potent kick. He’s physical. He utilizes creative play. He maintains possession. He’s got my vote for best striker worldwide. Get a ball to him anywhere near the area, and it’s an assured goal.

If you like winning, you’ll want to have Suarez Jesus on your team. In fact, many Christians are losing the game. Why? Because they have possession of the ball.


Passing the ball to Jesus is called prayer.

Adiós España and the need for renewal

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas made two mistakes to gift two goals. Pic from Yahoo News. I don't own the rights to this, and I'm not making any money on it.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas made two mistakes to gift two goals. Pic from Yahoo News. I don’t own the rights to this, and I’m not making any money on it.

Sixteen of the Spanish squad raised the world cup four years ago, and that was the problem with the Red Fizzle. A gaggle were from FC Barcelona, which won nothing this season. Call them the geriatric team, Spain lost 2-0 today to Chile. They got walloped previously by Holland 5-1. With no chance to advance from the group stage, they’re packing their bags.

What happened to the team that made opponents wet their pants? What happened to Spain must not happen in the church. Maybe Coach Vicente Bosque thought to stick with what’s tried and true — he got what was tired and through.

For Christians, it’s easy to employ yesterday’s successes, to trust yesterday’s victories. It’s easy to NOT seek Jesus for fresh manna today.

Sensing their demise after the second Chile goal, Spanish players reform to kickoff positions. Pic from Yahoo News. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Sensing their demise after the second Chile goal, Spanish players reform to kickoff positions. Pic from Yahoo News. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Actually, I love Spain as a team. I learned futbol as a missionary in Guatemala, with its affinity to its Mother Country. All of my friends are gasping and fainting and asking themselves: How can it be?

As much as I love Spain, I saw it coming. Spain revealed a blunted edge in the Confederations Cup, a preliminary competition one year before the World Cup. Coach Bosque failed to see the writing on the wall, feared to shake up the status quo and jettison the old guys whose output would be less.

Let the Christian take heed and worry about renewal. Renew or fail.


Shaky, ill-advised, U.S. still wins

Clint Dempsey after his amazing goal.

Clint Dempsey after his amazing goal. This pic is from yahoo! I don’t owe the rights, and I’m not making $ on it.

Soccer games are won by a small difference (often just one goal), so after Clint Dempsey skated through an ill-prepared Ghana defense to score after 34 seconds of playing time, it looked like the U.S. settled back into defensive positions and tried to hold on to their slim lead — for another 90 minutes.

It was a formula for disaster. Onslaught after Ghana onslaught came at them. The U.S. scrambled and batted away every ball tenaciously until late in the second half, they could hold Fort Apache no more. With some tricky maneuvers, Ghana unlocked the back line and drilled home to tie.

John Brooks celebrates his first goal as a U.S. international.

John Brooks celebrates his first goal as a U.S. international. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making money on it.

U.S. fans groaned. Now we would probably settle for a draw, worth only 1 point in FIFA’s scheme for figuring who advances out of the group stage. With powerhouses Germany and Portugal looming ahead, U.S. was pretty much packing its bags up.

Then the unthinkable happened. A SUBSTITUTE came on and scored a header off a corner with four minutes from time. Ghana’s defensive line probably didn’t even bother to mark him. Why worry? He was only a reserve in case someone got hurt. John Brooks breathed new life into U.S. chances of proceeding forward in World Cup rounds.

Jermaine Jones performed powerfully to shut down the Ghana attack. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Jermaine Jones performed powerfully to shut down the Ghana attack. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

Too often the U.S. strategy resembles the church’s: just barely try to win. Just barely try to make it to Heaven. Just maintain what the church has gained in previous years. Don’t try too hard. How much sin can I get away with and still make it to Heaven?

We need to press ahead for another goal. Pray. Outreach. Study the Bible. You can relax when you get to Heaven.



The Red Fury flickers: the cycles of soccer

My Guatemalan buddies are wailing unconsoled over Spain’s loss humiliation at by Netherlands, a 5-1 spanking that upended the Red Fury’s hegemony. Actually, Spain hasn’t been overlords for long. Until they won the EuroCup six years ago, they were the world’s historic underachievers. But then the won the World Cup and another Euro Cup and imposed superior football wherever they pleased.

They were gracious overlords. Once when thumping Italy, Spain goalie Iker Casillas asked the ref to end the game earlier to mitigate the damage done to such formidable rivals. Gracious, but unbeatable.

No more. At last year’s World Cup warmup tournament (called the Confederations Cup), they looked worn-out against Brasil. Fans laughed them off the field.

They looked spent again yesterday. Netherlands, which fell to Spain in the World Cup final last time, exorcised the spirit of football from them yesterday. The Orange Machine played fast and tight defense in the mid-field (where Spain is usually master). They shut down passing lanes. They played brilliant counter-attack. They pulled off mouth-watering goals that will contend for best-ever in the highlights videos for decades to come.

spainsdownfallSpain withered. Midfielder Xavi Hernandez — usually an incomparable play-maker with pinpoint passes that penetrate — was a non-presence. Impeccable Iker Casillas flubbed a backpass which gifted Van Persie a goal. Starlet Diego Costa probed he’s better at diving than scoring in open play.

“Let’s go, Spain!” my former student posted on Facebook. “Let’s go back to Spain,” I wrote in the msg. It’s not that I have anything against Spain. Actually, I love the team.

But I recognize that the cycle has ended, as it does for all teams. As aces grow older, they lose quickness and hunger. They become over-confident. They lose. At this point, it appears clear that the world of soccer is ready for a new king. Spain will have to reinvent itself, shed its fading stars and cultivate an entirely new crop. Only Andres Iniesta played like a star yesterday.

All this is good for me. It’s been four years since I have actively pastored. Right now, I’m one of 20 assistant pastors at my mother church. I’m champing at the bit to pioneer again. If I’m not announced at this conference, I’ll have to see what I can do because as Jeremiah said: “the fire is burning in my bones and I can’t keep quiet.”

It’s important to stay humble when you have wild success as a Christian or as person. It’s also important to know how to reconfigure when you are in a low or a failure. Will Spain ever be back to the peak? I’m more concerned about my own cycles of life.

Revenge! Netherlands trounces Spain

van persie goal

pic from Business Insider. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

Netherlands tore up World Cup favorite Spain in a 5-1 humiliation on the second day of the tournament. Robin Van Persie flew like Superman to header the ball into Spain’s net over the head a hapless Iker Kasillas evening the score to 1-1 in the first half.

Then, hothead Arjen Robben coolly showed surgeons how to do a triple bypass in one second. He deftly caught a long ball on his FOOT that make NFL one-HANDed catches look like a piece of cake.

Arjen Robben

Arjen Robbin celebrates after goal. Pic from Dirty Tackle. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

Settling the ball, he cut contrary to two rushing defenders and fired on goal contrary to a leaning goalie. He bypassed three players single-footedly with surgical precision.

Spain — which dominated the game in the first part of the first half, looking as if they wanted to retain the golden trophy — looked stale, ineffective, slow, discouraged. Only Andres Iniesta showed life.

How did he do it? Van Persie makes an improbable connection with the ball and bounces it perfectly over the goalie and under the bar. Pic from Dirty Tackle.  I don't own the rights to this pic, and I'm not making any money on it.

How did he do it? Van Persie makes an improbable connection with the ball and bounces it perfectly over the goalie and under the bar. Pic from Dirty Tackle. I don’t own the rights to this pic, and I’m not making any money on it.

At risk of sounding off prematurely, I declare this game the most exciting of the World Cup. If Netherlands plays every game like this, they’ll carry home the gold.

Being the unfavored, defying the odds, playing hard, believing in the impossible — these are all things of the Christian heart. Play your day for Christ to take the trophy home… to Heaven. Don’t resign yourself to losing just because the odds-makers are against you.

Netherlands lost the final to Spain in the last World Cup. Now, they can savor revenge.

Racism is sin: the NBA, soccer and the church

No room for racism in church

Clippers owner Donald Sterling (tarnished sterling). Ironically, his girlfriend is part black. Apparently, it was she who recorded his racial comments and leaked it to news agencies.

Hooray for the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver fined Clipper owner Donald Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from the NBA for life after the real estate mogul was recorded making racist remarks against blacks to his girlfriend.

Dani Alves fights back against racism

Dani Alves shows Villareal fans that he won’t be thrown off his game by racial taunts. Barcelona came from behind to win 3-2.

Hooray for Dani Alves. The left defender from FC Barcelona mocked racial taunts. When a fan from the other team attempted to provoke the Brazilian by throwing a banana at him during a game (message: you are a monkey), he picked up the banana, took a bite and kept playing. Footballers in support took pictures of themselves eating bananas and posted them on Instagram. The fan has been banned for life from attending soccer stadiums.

no racism in church

NO racism in church!

Church, take heed! I have been mortified by brothers who, thinking they talk in confidence with me because I’m as wait as a freshly bleached sheet, share their evil racism with me. There is no room for racism in the church. It is a sin. For too many years, “apologists” accommodated and justified slavery with a wicked twisting of the scriptures.

I’ve got news for you. In Heaven, all the races live together in harmony. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. — Rev. 5:9.

no racism in Heaven

There’s no racism in Heaven

If you secretly harbor thoughts of the superiority of one race, repent of your sin before God and convert in a truly loving Christian.

God forbid that the NBA and a Spanish soccer club be more loving towards rejected people than the church.

Sterling may fight back. He can dicker over due process. He can prosecute whoever illegally recorded his conversation (presumably his girlfriend). But his doom has been decreed. He’s not going to make much headway.

Here comes the World Cup! Aspiring is inspiring.

Nike’s pre-World Cup commercial is a genre all by itself. Combining stars, incredible moves and hilarity, these commercials have come to be the groundhog announcing the coming of soccer’s pre-eminent contest, awaited for soccer-lovers around the world for four long years. This year, Nike takes a very real situation, kids imagining themselves their favorite player, and they become them. One kid mispronounces a player’s name and becomes a mailman named Iniesto. The Hulk, a Brazilian star, moves into goal, which is not his position. So a friend tells him he can’t be Hulk, so he becomes the U.S. goalie, retaining the green color with his uniform.

The road to greatness is when you imagine yourself like a Biblical hero (I don’t think the Christian short will ever be produced). Aspiring is inspiring. And it brings about incredible things for God. That is the basic meaning of: Elijah was a man just like us. — James 5:17. Dreaming is seeming.

I love futbol. Even more, I love God. I think I’ll work more at becoming a Biblical hero rather than a soccer hero.


Don’t be too busy: how to pray?

Don't be too busy: how to pray?

Effective prayer: Iker Casillas teaches

  • Effective prayer
  • Powerful prayer
  • Praying the Bible

Iker CasillasIker Casillas didn’t have to do anything to win! In the boring Italy-Spain Confederations Cup semi-final, Casillas just stood there on the penalty shoot-out that settled a sluggish 0-0 into overtime match. As a matter of fact, Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon didn’t stop a single shot either.

Buffon Casillas

It could have been a spectacular show of goalkeeping prowess, but neither could stop any PK.

On a few penalty shots, Casillas dove. But after one cheeky Italian chipped it straight and center, he apparently decided to stop diving. He just stood there uselessly. The dives were pretty much pointless anyway because both teams drilled home unstoppable PKs. So Spain won 7-6 because Leonardo Bonucci launched his to the moon instead of the net. Here were the world’s two best goalies, and neither made a single save.

The penalty shoot-out reminded me of prayer. We can try. We can dive. But ultimately, the victory has nothing to do with us. Victory comes from above. Effective prayer does more than doing more.

Casillas Confederations CupThat’s why the overworked minister who neglects prayer commits a fatal mistake. He spins his wheels. The lion’s share of the work belongs to God Almighty, and the minister (not almighty) tries to do it.

If you yearn for greater effectiveness, pray more and work less! Pray effective prayers.

Why do people hate the good guy?

*** BESTPIX ***  Spain v Tahiti: Group B - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013El Niño Torres scored an unheard-of four goals against Tahiti in the Confederations Cup, and I was happy. Lately he’s been underperforming, and lynchmob of critics has persecuted him. They’ve even mocked him for being a nice guy, a decent human being (Maybe they Luis Suarez better, the Uruguayan racist who also bites opponents.)

imagesJames Lebron led the Heat to the NBA comeback final victory, and I was happy. He has been unjustly criticized for choking in finals, for betraying his first team, even for his skinny teams. They trash-talk him.

images-1Tim Tebow talks Christianity, and they shut him up. Collins talks homosexuality, and it´s national news. He’s a hero.

I think people despise the nice guy because the nice guy makes them feel like bad guys — by comparison. Thus, the rant, the hate, the cackling of “good guys finish last.”

So… I love it when good guys finish first. I’m trying to be a good guy too! And, yeah, good guys DO finish first. If you don’t believe me, just show up on Heaven’s Judgment Day. (Everybody will show up, even those who don’t believe in God.)

If it’s over, where’s the elation?

  • How do I pray?
  • Faith in prayer
  • Prayers of the Bible

imagesBarcelona won the 2012-13 Spanish league when it wasn’t even playing. It’s nearest competitor, Real Madrid, tied, and, with only  a few games left in the season, no one can reach Barca’s points.

images-1Winning by NOT playing (when your rival ties) is a very undramatic way to seize a crown. But that’s the way the European leagues work: no flourish of playoffs. It’s boring mathematics: whoever has the most points, wins. Now whatever FCB does — even it loses every game 0-20 — it cannot lose the league.

images-2Despite being an avid fan, I’m disappointed. Where’s the flush of excitement of a memorable finale? Where’s the high fives in front of the big screen with pizza with my buddy Adan? In the essence of anti-climax, I read it on Yahoo soccer news. It was over, and I wasn’t even watching the game to relish it (why would I? It wasn’t even my team’s game).

images-3Instead of seeming happy, it’s a let-down. No more tension as a rival threatens a comeback. No more discussing injuries and speculating who will cover what position. No more guessing outcomes, despairing over setbacks.

images-4Christianity is like this: it’s over. Christ won — a long time ago, at the cross. What remains is an unavoidable and boring march towards victory. We can lose the excitement of God’s crushing championship, but we should never forget that He has won. The fact that secularists appear to be winning our nation is much like Iran’s president denying the Holocaust: ludicrous brouhaha.

Go to prayer today with:

  • the sensation of the thrill of victory
  • certainty of the positive outcome for your petitions
  • persistence in securing wins (Barca still wins games, even though they can’t lose the championship losing games). Show our stuff!

But first you must invest

goal_1690382aLike other mortals, I was stunned by Barcelona’s 4-0 snuffing of AC Milan to blaze with canons firing into Champions League quarter finals.

d1cf09c4846b44ae9efbcf1b1e9ce6bb-e5cac050bd644db6b32f1d3af7fa3e1c-8With confounding feet, Leonel Messi fired out of a throng of Milan defenders high into left corner at minute 5, leaving Goalie Christian Abbiati looking like a tree planted in the ground, his vision blocked by his own defenders.

article-2292371-189C5EF3000005DC-744_634x414Just before the half, Messi again caught Abbiati wrong-footed with a low torpedo through defender’s legs that sank Italian hearts. A third curling goal from David Villa marked victory, and a lung-bursting sprint from Jordi Alba, picking up a cross from Dani Alves, made it four.

201303121615585444821-p2The Barcelona Symphony, directed by Messi, played a command performance, overcoming a 2-0 deficit on the away game — a feat never before seen in the Champions League.

With brimming reason, Messi has been named an unprecedented four times best world player. But first, Barcelona had to invest in him.

messi-began-playing-soccer-at-the-age-of-fiveAt 11 years of age, the Argentine showed early promise but suffered from growth hormone deficiency. His dad, a poor steelworker, could not afford it. The legendary Argentine team River Plate recruited Messi but balked at the $900/month treatment.

article-1382260-0BCCEDFD00000578-821_634x516Investment-risking on a potential starlet, FC Barcelona forked over for his treatment and moved him to Spain, where he rose through the ranks of their youth academy.

With consistent admiration from coaches, players and commentators around the world, Messi is perched atop the pyramid of soccer prowess. Any team would love to contract him. They would be willing to pay multiple millions of dollars. But Messi remains loyal to the Catalan kings because he’s grateful: when he was needy, they were there for him.

First you must invest to reap a harvest of blessing. Invest your most precious commodity: time. Pray.

Formerly scavengers, rising up the food chain

Surrounded by opponents, forward Rob Ashcraft dribbles toward goal

Surrounded by opponents, forward Rob Ashcraft dribbles toward goal

Untiringly aggressive, Tex Hagoski shut them down in the field.

Untiringly aggressive, Tex Hagoski shut them down in the field.

They played their hearts out — and at the final whistle Lighthouse Christian Academy had executed the most improbable upset in the league, defeating touch-perfect New Roads 3-2 in varsity soccer.

With girls, freshmen, and inexperienced players on the team, LCA Saints are

Only our team has girls on the team in our league, but with Tori Scribner it doesn't make a difference.

Only our team has girls in our league, but with Tori Scribner it doesn’t make a difference.

understandably bottom-dwelling fish. But somehow this season, they believed in themselves, winning four and tying one. Friday’s game was the crown jewel of the season. New Roads left the field in despair.

These kids who played with unaccustomed verve teach us a lesson in life.

Robert Ashcraft was unstoppable.

Robert Ashcraft was unstoppable.

No matter how many failures, no matter what the man-to-man analysis, you can prevail with spunk and belief.

When you go to prayer today, when you minister, expect the victory. Whatever your shortcomings, whatever your handicaps, remember God grants triumph. Faith is key. Last year, we lost every single game.

For the full story, read http://www.thelighthousechristianacademy.com/saints-embarrass-in-big-upset/

Small victories

Rob Ashcraft poses with Elijah Symonds, who provided the assist.

Rob Ashcraft poses after the game with Elijah Symonds, who provided the assist.

Saints soccer continues to rock and roll.

The Lighthouse Christian Academy entered the Christmas break with its third victory – a scrappy 1-0 win against Wildwood. A handy piece of footwork by Junior Luis Secaira confounded defenders and stunned the goalie, who watched woefully as the ball slotted on the near post.

After the vacation, the Saints have simply been outgunned by vastly superior teams. They lost to league leaders Lennox 0-8 and to New Roads 0-7. To the uninitiated, the defeats appear to spell out an uncommon nosedive.

In reality, the team keeps improving. It’s just hard to take on varsity teams with mostly senior and club players when you have half a team of girls and players from all grades. How are freshman girls going to beat senior boys?

On Monday, the Saints put a thump on the slump. Facing the impeccable Vistamar, the Saints scored in the last minute. Midfielder Elijah “Taz” Symonds chipped from the corner to Freshman Rob Ashcraft, who didn’t err with an unusual karate kick in front of goal.

It was the first time in the history of LCA soccer that the Saints scored against Vistamar, whose players are groomed for soccer from the cradle. With that goal, Lighthouse sent a message that it will not succumb to defeatism. It is no longer the whipping boy of the league.

Though much progress needs to be made, LCA can revel in solid – though incremental — improvement and press on to a glorious future.

“We won!” quipped Junior Tori Scribner, comprehending the significance of the goal, in spite of losing 1-8.

Remaining for the Saints are only four games, and Coach Mike Ashcraft thinks we stand a good chance to win against Rolling Hills in Palos Verdes on Wednesday.

Whatever your stage in life, celebrate the small victories. They lead to big ones!

Handling losing

From Smashing Photo

From Smashing Photo

That's me with the kids!

That’s me with the kids!

We lost Tuesday 8-0. We lost today 8-0. We are facing tougher teams; ours is absorbing injuries. Kids have skipped practices, and the results are manifest on the field. When Lighthouse Christian Academy tied our first soccer game, when won our second 9-2, when we won a

From Via Vigevano

From Via Vigevano: Read closely!

couple more, it was exciting, easy to want to play and put in the effort.

Now it is hard. Kids might want to bail out. But now is exactly the moment of character, the foundation of excellence. If we allow ourselves to become “losers” in our minds, then we will. If not, we will win again this season, and we will win next year!

The reality of life is that everyone loses more than wins. What you do when you lose makes you win.

Faith does not drag down with discouragement. It remains buoyant, hopeful, expectant of good. It persists. It constantly looks for the victory just around the corner.

We pray, then play


Before the game, prayer in the circle

Before the game, prayer in the circle

MAR VISTA PARK – The origin of Lighthouse Christian Academy’s hard-fought soccer victory Friday was in the small Central American nation of Guatemala.

Sophomore Luis Secaira opened scoring in the 43rd minute, and Freshman Robert DSC_0793Ashcraft finished off the game in the 76th minute. Both were born in Guatemala.

At game three in the 2012-13 season, the varsity Saints are 2-0-1.

DSC_0684After both teams stale-mated in the first half, fleet-footed Secaira put Lighthouse ahead early in the second half. Chasing an audacious through-ball from Stopper Tori Scribner, he bolted past Wildwood defense, rounded the goalie, slotted gently into the net — and fell down, the wind knocked out of him by an opponent’s elbow at the start of the 40-yard dash.

Lighthouse fans — out in force for the proximity of the playing field — erupted in cheers. They were already savoring a second DSC_0717victory, after a dismal season with no wins last year.

But the elation turned to anxiety 13 minutes later as Wildwood struck on a free kick just outside of the area, and the ball was headed into the Saints’ net.

DSC_0770Tied at 1-1, both teams fought an exhausting battle to move forward into striking range. Wildwood was unlucky to see hard-won penetration frustrated as a low shot on the far post bounced out and was cleared.

DSC_0742Meanwhile, the Saints relied mostly on counter-attack with the mind-boggling speed of forward Wyatt Hodgson, a tenacious competitor and natural athlete.

With four minutes to the final whistle, midfield magician Elijah Symonds – a.k.a. the human catapult – hurled a throw-in into the area. Surrounded by three defenders, Rob headed the ball backwards and into the net.

Wildwood players scrambled frantically for DSC_0737the equalizer. When the ref called the game, the Saints broke out in celebration. “We’re undefeated,” chimed Tori, who played nearly faultlessly.

While the Guatemalans scored the goals, at the DSC_0720other end of the field a Mexican American was ensuring the victory. Ace Goal-Keeper Adrian Brizuela blunted Wildwood attacking weapons with intelligent, hair-raising saves.

DSC_0655The freshman threw himself time after time with nervy kamikaze dives that only the most fearless goalies pull off.  While saves at both ends of the field were almost equal (Saints 7, Wildwood 6), the types executed by Adrian were technically more difficult — and gutsy.

Playing co-ed against all boys, the Saints gave a lesson in mental fortitude and doggedness. Refusing to tire, they dug deep to find the inner resources to grab the victory in what was their sternest test to DSC_0757date. With every match, improvement can be seen.

Looming ahead on Tuesday is the biggest challenge yet: the speed demons and master-class passers of Vista Mar. Can Lighthouse with half a team of beginners muster enough grit, concentration and determination to wrangle out a satisfying result?

**** Pictures thanks to Susie and Jennifer Scribner!

Scheduled victory

Enjoying In-N-Out afterwards is a Lighthouse sports tradition. Nate (rt) proved his Fall injury has not hampered his bursts of speed on defense.

Enjoying In-N-Out afterwards is a Lighthouse sports tradition. Nate (rt) proved his Fall injury has not hampered his bursts of speed on defense.

Rob and Adrian were decisive

Adrian and Rob were decisive

Tex cut surgically through their defense.

Tex cut surgically through their defense.

People are congratulating “my” 9-2 win last night. I just shrug. The truth is that “I” didn’t win with Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer.

The AD did.

The AD — Athletics Director, for those who don’t know the lingo — won the game. She scheduled it.

Pretty much all I did was shuffle our lineup so as to NOT score any more goals. In the first 20 minutes — one-fourth of the game — we had made 7 goals. So to lessen the humiliation for the other team, I pulled off good players and threw on beginners. I pulled attackers back into defense.

The lopsided victory was no coaching genius. It was guaranteed even before we started simply because we had superior players.

It felt like the gospel. God as AD schedules us trials that we are destined to win. We may celebrate on the field, but it was God who ordained everything to begin with.

To be sure, God schedules defeats for us too. To teach us humility, patience, effort, dependence on Him, etc.

You can have your cosmovision of universal randomness. I like being a Christian.

Hey, Coach!

Lighthouse Christian Academy lost every single soccer game last year. This year, it took us one minute to score our first goal, and we finished tied 2-2 against a team that won 8 last year. I’m ecstatic because I’m the coach now.

The kids can’t contain their happiness after the game

I have coached before, first on middle school team, then park league. Then I stepped back from coaching for six months. My kids were on other teams, and I observed the other coaches, who are better than I. One is a Scot with the highest level accreditation for coaching. I’ve eavesdropped and spied.

No use thinking I know it all. I can always pick up something new from others, even if it’s what NOT to do (like cuss).

I see that life coaching is in

We prayed with the other team before the game

vogue. I’ve always enjoyed having a FREE life coach: he’s called “my pastor.” As a generation has distanced itself from the church, people look down their noses upon the pastor and his unwanted advice. As a result, divorce has skyrocketed; kids are cutting themselves in unheard-of numbers as the home disintegrates.

Because we are a small Christian school, we have great players and total beginners.

I’m not saying I’m better than anyone; I just enjoy the benefits of being among the dwindling number of Americans who still go to church. A coach — a pastor — is there to bring out the best in you.

Piano movers and piano players

Tex and Luis, after the blow to the nose.

A complete soccer team has its burly bruisers and its exquisite finesse players who can deliver a ball directly to the feet of a goal-scorer through a forest of opponents.

So Tex smashed Luis at high school practice today so hard that his nose bled out of both nostrils. I had to remind him to take out competitors, not teammates. Of course he did it unconsciously; without thinking the football player manifests.

A good soccer team is like the church. Everybody’s talents compliment and complete ministry in the church. No one’s is superior, nor inferior. We need people. Reaching out over the blogosphere is fabulous, but sometimes you need flesh and blood right nearby. I have prayed for other bloggers, but sometimes I need a church member to fix my washer. It is the combined effort that wins games.

It is the combination of so many different people that makes the church triumph over Satan. Surely, the church is guilty of so many crimes (judging others, drama, for example). I don’t like its ugly moments, but there’s nothing to take its place. Church is like marriage: detractors abound, but nothing better has every replaced it.

Need a confidence booster?

Midfielder Gerrard

Comeback king Steven Gerrard rated himself a modest 6 out of 10 before facing Sweden in a friendly. He was lauded for humility.

By contrast, Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic boasted he’s a 10 and then backed it up with a mind-boggling overhead kick from an acute angle that has gawkers jabbering about “best ever in history.”

from 30 yards

Nobody downgrades Gerrard, who got his 100th cap for England, but his performance was lackluster. And nobody is criticizing Ibrahimovic’s behemoth ego after his astonishing performance.

I never believed in myself because there wasn’t really anybody around me as a kid who believed in me. My self confidence bloomed late, starting in college. Just for me to accept the challenge to pioneer a church in Guatemala was a huge step of self confidence/ confidence in God.

Get around people who will build you up, not tear you down. Hopefully, you can find such people at a church. People who tear others down are insecure themselves; they feel better about themselves cutting you down.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another — Pr. 27:17 NIV.

This is one of the uses of the church, that like-minded believers would encourage you and share talents and attitudes with you to make you better. Ideally this support network is a far cry from the hypocritical society painted by many.

We live in an age when growing droves are leaving the church. Has it lost its relevancy? Pundits may prattle, but reform, not replacement, may be the order of the day.

Soccer’s scarface

When Frank Ribery was two, his dad got into a car accident. Hundreds of stitches patched his face back up. He was lucky to be alive.

At no time did he let discouragements hold him down. He is a topflight footballer, now playing at Bayern Munich. He’s a delight to watch play. His trademark stutter-step and cutting in with the ball at his feet has made him a leader of the French national team. “This is my face; it is the one people know me by. I am happy with my face. Why shouldn’’t I be happy?” he was quoted by the Sun.

He is an example of overcoming difficulties, of moving on after tragedy.