When There Are No Words

togetherThis week a tragedy hit our community. A young man – a high school senior – lost his life in an automobile accident on the way to school. It appears the rain falling that morning caused him to lose control and hit an electric pole.

School was already in session for the day and the administrators had the heavy responsibility of sharing the news with the student body. I was called along with other pastors and counselors to be present at the school. Once the news was shared, there really wasn’t much left to say. I had a few brief conversations with a handful of students, but nothing that could really touch the shock and sadness they felt.

What I did observe was what happens when there are no words. Students huddled together and talked. Some simply sat and cried. It was unique to watch students support one another. I saw teenage boys, who might usually just give a quick head nod or a “what’s up?” in the hallway, ask each other how they were doing. They offered hugs. Pats on the back. I heard several times, “how are you doing?” and “are you ok?” One student simply walked around with a box of tissues offering them to fellow students.

It is an event that occurs too often in communities everywhere. Young lives are lost and peers are left to sort through their emotions. I was reminded again of what many people call “the ministry of presence.” Words are few, but simply being present begins the process of healing and provides support for those who are grieving.

I appreciated the way the school leadership handled the situation and continue to pray for the family and friends of the young man. Sometimes, in the midst of our hurt, there are no words. But in the midst of pain, God offers comfort and hope.

Tough Loss, but a Great Season

Massie SeniorsThe Clinton-Massie Lady Falcons season came to an end last night with a loss to Alter at Springfield High School in the Regional Semifinal. It was a tough way to end the season, but what a great season it was for the team.

Both teams entered the game undefeated and Alter couldn’t seem to miss, hitting 6 out of 9 three pointers in the first half. Massie had a tough time getting the ball in the bucket and that trend just carried on through the game. By the end of the game Massie didn’t make a three-point shot.

Syd came into the game with a dislocated index finger on her shooting. The injury occurred in the first quarter of the District Final game last Friday night. She played through the pain, even breaking open the stitches at some point in the first quarter. She led the team in scoring with ten points. She had tweeted that this was going to be a toughness test. I would say she definitely passed.

The Lady Falcons made school and county history by going through the regular season undefeated. They ended the season with a 26-1 record, three-peating as SCOL champions and repeating as District champs. They have much to be proud of.

Tough Loss on Saturday

The Lady Falcons faced a tough opponent on Saturday and came out on the losing end.  It was the girls first loss in the conference, but still leaves them in first place.

The Wilmington New-Journal ran a nice article which summarized the game pretty well.

By Chris Hoppes

OCM News Service

The Miami Trace Lady Panthers are not giving up the South Central Ohio League title easily.

Clinton-Massie, having already clinched at least a share of their first SCOL championship, was hoping to run the table, go 12-0 and win the “Gold Basketball.”

As determined as Clinton-Massie was to go undefeated in the league, that’s how committed Miami Trace was to not letting the Lady Falcons clinch the outright title on their floor.

It was a classic battle, befitting two very fine teams, as it played out Saturday afternoon at Miami Trace High School. On Senior Day, Miami Trace edged Clinton-Massie, 40-39, in overtime.

Clinton-Massie remains atop the SCOL standings with a record of 9-1. They are now 16-2 overall.

Miami Trace is currently alone in second at 8-3 (15-3 overall).

“At times, we didn’t play to our strengths,” Clinton-Massie head coach Allen Wilkinson said. “At times, I don’t know what we were doing. We had our opportunities; we had opportunities at the foul line. We had opportunities throughout the game.

“We have no one to blame but ourselves. We’ve never won here. I tried telling them that Trace still has a chance to tie for the league. They haven’t won the league eight years in a row for nothing.”

“They played us tough down at Massie. We were lucky to get out of there with the win. And you expect the same thing here.

“Coach Stutzman is an excellent coach. He does a super job. People need to understand what a great job he does. They are very fortunate to have coach Stutzman as their coach.”

The first quarter of Saturday’s game was the highest-scoring of the day. Miami Trace took a 17-12 lead after eight minutes of action. The game became more of a defensive struggle as it wore on.

Clinton-Massie, a team with no seniors, was led by Sydney Brackemyre, who paced all scorers with 18 points.

For the Lady Panthers, junior Deidre McKay led with 12 points and sophomore Josie Cobb had 10 points.

The lead changes hands four times in the first period. The game was tied three times in the second quarter, but Miami Trace never trailed. At the half, the Lady Panthers held a 25-23 lead.

Things began to really tighten up in the third quarter. The teams combined to score only six points. Miami Trace was 2 of 9 from the field and Clinton-Massie made just one of seven shots. The Lady Panthers led 29-25 after three.

Clinton-Massie scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to take a 30-29 lead. With Brackemyre carrying most of the offensive load, Massie took a 34-30 lead at the 2:28 mark. Ariana Mabra hit two free throws with 1:35 to play for Miami Trace.

The Falcons missed their next two shot attempts and McKay connected on a pair of free throws to tie the game, 34-34, with 41 seconds left in regulation.

The Falcons had a chance to win the game, in fact, two chances in the final moments. They missed a field goal attempt and then missed a pair of free throws with 21.6 seconds to play. Miami Trace missed its final shot, sending the game to overtime.

Senior Kristin Reisinger drove the lane for two points with 3:28 left in overtime. Miami Trace missed two field goal attempts and both teams missed the front end of a one-and-bonus at the line.

Uetrecht made one free throw, missed the next, but Massie got the rebound and Uetrecht was sent back to the line. She again made one of two, tying the game, 36-36 with 58.7 seconds remaining.

After running some precious time off the clock, Abby Schwenk banked in a shot. Massie missed their next two attempts and Miami Trace had the ball. Mabra was fouled and went to the line with nine seconds to play. She made both free throws for a 40-36 lead.

Uetrecht then hit a long three-point field goal (halfway between the top of the circle and the halfcourt line). Miami Trace was fouled, but missed both free throws with 2.2 seconds. Massie was not able to get a very good look at the basket and the Lady Panthers held on for the 40-39 win.

“Our entire game plan has been to play to our strengths,” Wilkinson said. “Make people try to adjust to our style. We don’t change from game to game.

“You can’t give good teams the ball on unforced turnovers. You can’t give them extra opportunities and we did that today.

“It’s so dag-gone hard to win the Gold Basketball. That was our goal. You’ve seen teams win the league in the past and somewhere along the line, somebody gets you. It’s a very good league, very competitive. There are a lot of very, very good coaches in our league. They put in a lot of time and effort.”

IU blows 11-point lead to Nebraska??

It was great when IU knocked off #1 Kentucky.  Then, to beat then #2 OSU, that was pretty sweet.  Since then, things have taken a little bit of a downturn.  The Big Ten Conference is one of the toughest in this country this year and there are no easy wins.  But a loss to Minnesota – at home no less – and then blowing an 11 point lead.  Yikes!  I wasn’t able to watch the game last night and after seeing the results, I wasn’t too sad to have missed it.  IU is still a good team and am I confident they will get things turned around.  Hopefully this “bump in the road” will prepare them for an end of season run and on into March.

Here’s what IndyStar had to say about last night’s game:

When Indiana lost to Minnesota last week, the Hoosiers simply didn’t shoot well. When IU fell to Ohio State on Sunday, it was a dismal first half that did in the Hoosiers.

This one was more of the gift-wrapped variety.

Trying to snap a two-game losing streak, No. 11 Indiana squandered an 11-point lead in the final 7 minutes Wednesday and dropped a 70-69 decision to struggling Nebraska at the Robert Devaney Sports Center.

All of a sudden, an Indiana (15-4, 3-4 Big Ten) team that once boasted victories over the then-Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the nation on its NCAA resume is now staring at a pair of nasty losses. Nebraska and Minnesota were a combined 1-9 in Big Ten play, and each was in last place going into its game with the Hoosiers.

“We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and make sure these losses don’t start piling up,” said sophomore guard Victor Oladipo. “We felt like we got our edge back tonight. Now we have to build on that.”

Two free throws by Brian Jorge Diaz with 11 seconds to play gave the Cornhuskers their first lead since the 14-minute mark of the first half at 70-69.

Jordan Hulls hurried the ball into the frontcourt, turned the corner and had a drive to the basket. When the defense shifted over, Hulls was forced to put up an off-balance shot in the lane that he missed. The rebound went to the floor and rolled toward the IU bench; Hulls picked it up and hoisted a desperation shot at the buzzer that missed the mark.

The last possession was tough for Hulls.

The one before it, however, was even worse.

Hulls, who came in shooting 89 percent from the free throw line for the season and 88 percent for his career, had a one-and-one free throw opportunity with 23.8 seconds to play and his team clinging to a 69-68 lead. Hulls had hit his first four free throws.

This one bounced hard off the right side of the rim and was rebounded by Nebraska.

“He’s a human being and nobody is more disappointed that he is,” said IU coach Tom Crean. “But we wouldn’t trade having him at the line again. You all know that he has been phenomenal at the line. He just missed a free throw.

“I hope he gets that same opportunity here again in the near future.”

When Hulls hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:37 to play, Indiana led 63-52 and appeared on its way to its second true road victory in Big Ten play.

But a combination of Indiana getting careless with the ball and Nebraska getting too many second-chance opportunities proved to be IU’s undoing. The Huskers had a 10-2 edge in second-chance points and scored 16 points off of IU’s 15 turnovers. Ten of those miscues came in the second half.

“We’ve got to take care of the ball better,” Crean said.

“I think we’re going to go back and look at the film and we’re going to look at the turnovers in the second half and just see how excruciatingly painful those were for us. They turned into easy baskets for Nebraska.”

Cody Zeller led IU with 18 points but didn’t score a field goal in the final 14 minutes. Hulls was the only other Indiana player in double figures with 12.

The Hoosiers shot 51 percent from the field and hit eight 3-point baskets. They limited Nebraska (10-8, 2-5) to 37 percent shooting.

But the Cornhuskers simply hit the big shots when they needed them down the stretch. Bo Spencer led Nebraska with 23 points.

What A Difference A Week Makes

On occasion I have the opportunity to perform a wedding or am asked to participate in a funeral service. The first weekend of October I performed the wedding of a young lady from our church. At the rehearsal dinner it was obvious that both sides of the family were excited about the upcoming marriage. Many friends were there to help celebrate and it was a great time for the family.

Then, four days later we received word that a young man who had grown up in our church passed away unexpectedly. He was just 19. It was an incredible shock to the family and to his friends. This young man graduated high school the same year my son did.

On Sunday, we had the visitation and service at our church. The visitation was scheduled to begin at 1:00 pm, but many people were here at 12:30 pm and the line continued non-stop until 4:00 pm. It was a sad day for the family as they had to say goodbye to this young man while at the same time preparing for his older brother’s wedding that will take place 6 days after the funeral.

What a difference a week makes.

In four days I went from celebrating a wedding to trying to sort through the emotions of a 19 year old’s sudden passing.

What a difference a week makes.

On Sunday, a family says goodbye to their son/brother/nephew/cousin. Six days later, they will celebrate the wedding of his brother.

What a difference a week makes.

What a comfort to know that God is present for both. He smiles at the wedding…after all, marriage was His idea. He is saddened at the funeral….after all, His Son came to finally defeat death. He rejoices with those who rejoice and He mourns with those who mourn.

Whatever your week looks like, or whatever your week becomes, it makes all the difference to know that God is there, whatever the week may bring.

Youth Ministry….what an honor! (a repost)

One of the blogs I subscribe to from Doug Fields. He has been involved in youth ministry for many years and has a lot of wisdom to share.

One of the great things about him is that he is relational and really connects with others in youth ministry. His blog post today is a story shared by another guy in youth ministry. Thought is was a great example of why serving in the church is both a challenge and rewarding.

You can see the original post at Doug Field’s blog.

Every once in a while someone will send in an email into our podcast that grips my heart. This one came from Craig Piefer from Walla Walla, WA. I hope it does your heart well like it did mine.

Best moment and worst moment in youth ministry happened last week. Dominic a senior, his sister Elizabeth (a junior) and their little brother Benjamin (8th grade) lost their mom, Peggy, to breast cancer. Elizabeth was home when she passed, but the boys where at school. Their dad Tim, called me directly after calling the paramedics. Tim and I had planned days earlier for me to come and get the kids so they didn’t have to be there as they transferred their mother’s body, but now my task was to pick up Dominic from school and tell him about his mom. I won’t describe that moment, but I will hold it close to my heart forever. The day went on with lots of hugs and crying. Their small group leaders joined me at the kids’ home for more hugging and crying. It was tough. It was beautiful.

Now after that day, after the funeral, after the crying, I have a little time to reflect, and all I can think is this: What an honor. What an honor to have the love and respect of their father. What an honor to be drenched in the tears of students I love so dearly. What an honor to partner with Tim and Peggy in raising whole hearted followers of Christ. What an honor to look into the eyes of Dominic, who in the six years that I have known him has grown into a man, and deliver the worst news possible for a teen to hear. What an honor to be that families pastor. It’s more than words can describe, and I’m sure it sounds weird to many. But for those who have walked this road you know what I mean.

I praise God and even thank Him for calling me to this work, as much as it stresses and frustrates me, it is a blessing to be a pastor to students.