I hope you have enjoyed the World Cup as much as I have. It doesn’t seem to matter who’s playing, the excitement is terrific.  I found myself yelling at the TV for Croatia in the penalty kick overtime game versus Russia.  By the way, 6.6 million watched it on TV in America.

I especially like soccer now because my daughter, Natalie, is playing in high school.  She started early liking the sport as a four-year-old.  Watching her play then, not knowing which direction to run, is a far cry from watching the level of play in the World Cup.

When we signed her up as a four-year-old we got a letter from the Recreation Department to the parents.  The instructional letter from the Recreation Department to the parents emphasized that we are playing for fun and no score will be kept.  Yeah right.  The score will be kept in my head and in all the kid’s heads.

On the morning of Natalie’s first practice, her first words, before “Good morning dad,” were “Do you think my team will win some games?”  I wonder where she got that competitive spirit?  I mean, just because we temporarily suspended the reading of children’s books at night, and replaced them with Pele’s life story, so what’s the big deal about that?

The Recreation Department also told the parents not to yell “kick it” to the kids during the game.  I’ve signed up for some language classes to learn how to say “kick it” in Spanish, French and Russian.  Don’t get me wrong.  The Rec. Department has it right and they should discourage parents from getting too involved, and they should stress that winning isn’t everything.  The problem is not with the Rec. Department, the problem is with me.

Sheri and I were both very competitive, and I guess we have passed that along to our kids.  Sheri said a couple of summers ago, “I’m going to kick your tail.”  I’m glad she didn’t mean it literally. What she was talking about was our annual Putt-Putt contest.  We played Putt-Putt once a year on vacation, and it was serious. Tyler usually joined us and the winner gloated for a year. We were unable to play one summer because Sheri did not feel up to it due to the chemo. She recovered by the next summer and thus the comment, “I’m going to kick your tail.” She did not, by the way, but you get the spirit of competition in our family. All four of us have it, whether nature or nurture, I don’t know, but we have it.

Many of us, men and women, are wired for competition. We never stop competing.  Whether it’s not letting the Porsche behind us pass, or tossing crumpled paper into the trash can, or getting the promotion—we’re trying to beat the other guy.  So, if we lose at HORSE and don’t speak till Tuesday, now you know why.  I was a good athlete, by the way, but the older I get, the better I was.

I know.  I know.  I know.  Jesus said that the “first shall be last and the last shall be first” in the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:31).   I know that unbridled competition leads to conflict.  I also know that our worth shouldn’t be measured against the performance of others.  I know.

But, how do you say “kick it” in Croatian?

~Pastor Steve

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