FOREWORD - Reflections from the Home Team... Go the Distance
The writer and theologian Frederick Buechner has said: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” My friend, Dave Welter, has found many ways to connect his “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger” while living out his callings as a husband, father, teacher, principal, and coach. It is this latter calling that looms largest in the pages that follow. Dave is the consummate coach and this book provides coaching for people who are facing difficult challenges and who are hungry for hope.
At their best, coaches instruct, encourage, challenge, and develop others in terms of a specific sport or skill set – they help people to envision the future, set goals, persevere through adversity, and succeed. While Dave speaks often of the value of having a “Home Team” and frequently uses baseball metaphors to make his points, his insights and encouragement transcend sports and speak to our greatest need as human beings: relationships – to be in relationship with God and others. As this book unfolds you will see this coaching point lifted up time and again as Dave speaks to the inestimable value and support of one’s “Home Team.” As the son of a coach and as a multi-sport athlete in high school and college, I learned early the value of a supportive “Home Team” especially when facing difficult obstacles or challenges.
As a sophomore in high school I participated in two varsity sports at once. On Friday nights I was the fullback for the football team and on Saturdays I would compete as the number four or five man on the Cross Country team. While the results early in the season were largely positive, by the time of the Conference Cross Country Championship, football injuries and inadequate distance conditioning had taken a toll on my running prowess. Having started too fast I found myself exhausted, defeated, and running in nearly last place on an isolated stretch of the course. Alone, with no other runners, coaches, or fans visible behind me, or in front of me, I seriously contemplated quitting – giving up. The pain was just too much, and the challenge of finishing the race ahead and “going the distance” seemed too daunting.
It was in that moment when I was most alone, vulnerable, and overwhelmed that a parent of one of my teammates – a member of my own “Home Team” - emerged from a grove of trees shouting words of encouragement and cheering me on. Immediately I discovered strength I didn’t know I had to run faster and farther than I thought I could.
In Hebrews 12:1 the author writes: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…”
As I first discovered on that difficult Saturday morning back in 1985 and as Dave affirmed early in his cancer fight, we can’t meet life’s greatest challenges alone. We all need our family, friends, and others to be part of our own “cloud of witnesses” as we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” or in Dave’s words, find the courage and strength needed to “battle through extra innings.”
Whatever challenge you may be facing, whatever race you may be running, whatever fight you may be fighting, I pray and trust that Dave’s words through this book will emerge at just the right point in your own journey to speak a word of hope and encouragement that allows you to discover strength you didn’t know you had so that you might “go the distance” toward healing, wholeness, and peace in your own life and circumstances.
FOREWORD - Reflections from the Home Team... STAYING POSITIVE When Life Throws You a Curve!
The American folk singer-songwriter, Pete Seeger, wrote perhaps his most famous song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in the late 1950s. The song was ultimately recorded by the American rock group, the Byrds, and shot to number one on the billboard charts in 1965. The lyrics – except for the title and the final two lines – consist mostly of the first eight verses of the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes. The Biblical text speaks of there being a time and place for all things: birth and death, laughter and sorrow, dancing and mourning, healing and killing, peace and war... Traditional wedding vows appear to channel similar juxtapositions as spouses pledge their lives to one another “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness, and in health.” Who among us does not celebrate birth, laughter, dancing, healing, and peace? Who among us doesn’t want to be better, richer, and healthier? However, it’s the dark sides of each of these blessings that confound and threaten us. And yet as the teacher wrote thousands of years ago in Ecclesiastes and we intuitively know today, life in all its fullness is forever changing, turning, and challenging us - yes, even throwing us “curve balls” at times we expect and times we don’t, in ways we embrace and in ways we won’t.
I first met Dave Welter in the spring of 2009 mere weeks after celebrating his fifty-fifth birthday and receiving the biggest “curve ball” of his life: an unexpected diagnosis of stage three throat cancer. I was a pastor in a neighboring community and Dave was a member of the call committee of the congregation where I now serve. Since then I have come to know and work with Dave in a variety of roles. I have witnessed the love and pride of a husband, father, grandfather, and son. I have seen the servant leadership of a committed school principal and church council president. I have benefited from the wisdom, insight, and positivity of a gifted teacher, coach, and writer. I have experienced the warmth and care of a genuine friend with a deep and abiding faith in God. In the pages that follow, Dave draws upon the rich reservoir of inspiring life lessons, positive insights, and encouraging wisdom he has gleaned from each of these callings and relationships. The reflection and instruction Dave “pitches” our way through this book addresses how we can stay positive through nearly all of life’s changes, turns, and curves.
Isaiah 50:4 says: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word…” Dave is a teacher and coach at heart who knows the power of a well-spoken and well-timed word. A voracious reader and lifelong learner himself, his own insights and musings are frequently spiced with the wisdom of theologians like Richard Rohr, pastors like Max Lucado, best-selling authors like Jon Gordon and, of course, baseball greats like Mariano Rivera. Dave is someone wired by God to look for the teachable moment in every situation, the winning approach to every challenge, and the deeper meaning in every experience.
As this book goes to print our world has been hit with the “curve ball” of the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected millions, cost hundreds of thousands of lives, ground travel to a standstill, and threatened the global economy unlike anything experienced in generations. It is a liminal moment where the world teeters on the threshold of hope or despair, winning or losing, great pain or great gain. People are looking for good coaching, sound advice, faithful counsel, and time-tested insights as they approach challenges they’ve never encountered before. For this reason, I am thankful that my friend, Dave Welter, has been given the tongue of a teacher. Even in this changing, turning, and challenging world Dave has a word to sustain the weary; a message for “STAYING POSITIVE when life throws you a curve!”
Pastor Brian King