I have the honor and privilege to parent five amazing children: Vincent (14), Caleb (12), Marcus (10), Candace (9), and Cassandra (7). My wife, Regina, and I have chosen to structure our lives so that these five people become our investment in the kingdom. My wife is a National Merit scholar who earned her B.S in Nursing from Tulsa University and was named their number one nursing student. She could be pursuing a lucrative and fulfilling career in a booming medical field. Instead, she is pouring all of her intellect and education into these young minds. To put it simply, she is knocking it out of the park. That is not just a biased husband’s opinion–the test scores are through the roof. But that is for another time.
I am privileged to serve an amazing congregation, Newark United Pentecostal Church, as senior pastor. This congregation believes in me and my family. They fairly compensate me and treat me with kindness and respect. I am so thankful for them. So understand when I make this statement that I am not complaining nor am I in any way hurting: these five children are the most expensive part of our budget. It is not because we buy them things like clothes. It is because we are dedicated to building them through experiences, exposure, education and excellence. We could be doing things for ourselves. We could be traveling together (and thankfully we are able to do that more than in the past). Instead, on our recent Wedding Anniversary, August 3, Regina and I found ourselves on an airplane with Vincent, Caleb, and Candace (because of her skin and food allergies she still travels with Mommy) headed to the most important activity of our life–Bible Quizzing!
Regina and I spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in educating our children. Our house, our wardrobe, our time, and our wishes all take back seats to educating these five children. But nothing, and I mean nothing, trumps Bible Quizzing. Our lives are structured around Bible Quizzing. Every year we take a two-week vacation from pastoring Newark UPC, homeschooling at Veritas Academy, teaching at Urshan Graduate School of Theology, but even during that two-week vacation we do Bible Quizzing.
Bible Quizzing is an activity that allows our children to each memorize about 500 verses of Scripture every year. They learn to handle the pressure of competition while worshiping God by quizzing the question, not the other team. They travel, they struggle, they strive, and they grow. I am watching my children grow, as Jesus did, “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.”
In my earlier blog posts I have shared the results of our competition at the North American Bible Quiz Tournament. These results were decidedly less than I had hoped for. I had hoped for at least two wins. In the middle of our first game, against Oregon, I had hoped we would win. I was thankful for the excellence we demonstrated as we won against Missouri, but was again disappointed when Charles took back the game we were dominating against Michigan. You see, Regina and I had poured out ourselves into these boys. I wanted to see success. I wanted to win more games. And, frankly, I was quite down at the conclusion of our year.
But I was wrong.
Last night the officials of the NABQT told me I was wrong. Despite two losses and only one win, despite missed questions, despite a tough bracket, despite unrealized ambition, they told me I had succeeded when I was awarded second runner-up Coach of the Year.
The unique thing about Coach of the Year is that it is dependent not just on you as the coach, but upon your quizzers. This award is really about how well you have done what you should be doing in the lives of your young people, with or without recognition. These officials recognized something I was missing–my boys had succeeded. They had quizzed with passion, yet lost with dignity. They had failed in game one, yet refocused to try again in game two. They had come to win, yet in losing they honored me as their coach by being a Christian. They demonstrated they had studied, even when coming up short in the quiz. Their spirits were pure while pursuing the win. And they kept their spirits pure when they lost.
I am honored by the award I received last night. I am honored by my boys. But my prayer is that this next year I will do what I should, with or without the recognition that trophies bring.