Sunday, January 26, 2014

Change of Blog Sites

The First Road Tennis Blogsite has been upgraded to

Harold H Comings - First Road

Check the Label Option on the sidebar to access Tennis Thoughts

Monday, April 18, 2011

I Can't Pronounce His Name But I Can Applaud His Character

As I staggered out to my cafĂ©-com-leite maker this morning I found a magazine conspicuously placed in front of it. My wife, a Binghamton University graduate, wanted me to be sure to see an article entitled “Advantage, Sven.”

Wow! An athlete with character!

Katherine Karlson highlights Sven Vloedgraven as a “nationally ranked tennis player,” and quotes Binghamton’s head coach for men’s tennis assessment of his college career as, “back-to-back championships in a region that has almost 40 different schools in it.”

Four things stood out as I read the article.

He is focused. Karlson quotes him – “A busy schedule keeps me on top of things, so I use my time well. I don’t have a TV.”

He is competitive and considerate. He has been called “the fairest competitor” who “constantly gives away his line calls, as well as applauds his opponent’s success.” Nevertheless, he is “a tiger between the white lines,” making his opponents “earn every point.”

He is, as a tennis player, an example of what I understand as a man of noble character. As one Columbia University competitor put it, “He’s also a terrific role model who is nice both on and off court.

He is others oriented. Although a singles player, Sven Vloedgraven is very much a part of the University’s team of eight players all from different countries. Their team is described as “a tight knot of friends who also relax by hanging out together.” Concerning the team relationship, Sven says, “Team victories are always more special than individual victories because you can celebrate together.”

I strongly urge you to read this article. I know nothing of where the young man is in terms of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but the impression he makes on others as an athlete is worth a long, hard look.

You can check out his career biography here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

If Tennis Balls Could Talk

If tennis balls could talk, they would scream. So would we. In fact, we do. Like the fuzzy little orbs, we feel ourselves hurtle helplessly through the air of life’s circumstances, get whacked solidly by some unexpected crisis and careen toward the next calamity. Charlotte Elliott spoke of being, “tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt.”

Tennis balls cannot talk, of course. That’s important to remember. Unlike the gladiatorial theater of old, a tennis match is not about the ball being pummeled. Although hundreds of eyes follow it back and forth across the net, they are not really interested in it. What everyone wants to know is what the player on the receiving end will do with it; and when he does what he does, he, not the ball, receives the cheers, gasps or groans. 

It is important to remember because, in the situations of life, we are not the ball. We are the player. Our helplessness is not that of hurtling through the air, but of receiving an oncoming challenge. We cannot control its approach, but we can adjust ourselves to meet it. Recognizing this distinction demands a decision. Be a ball – be a victim of circumstances. Be a player – become skilled in life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons From a Tennis (Soccer, Baseball, Football...) Ball

Back in '01 a friend and I had the opportunity to go to the US Open Tennis Grand Slam Tournament at Flushing Meadows, New York. It was a delightful experience. I had thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Then, the next year, having been offered the privilege to go again, my youngest son and a couple of our friends returned to the USTA National Tennis Center for a day of Grand Slam tennis.

That having been said, some of you may be wondering what is so exciting about watching men and women whack a fuzzy little ball back and forth across a net. For that matter, consider all of the excitement that people feel when they watch men hit a white ball with a bat and hope that none of the nine guys on the opposing team will catch it. Then, too, there are the fellows who carry a whole bag of clubs for the express purpose of hitting a little white ball over acres of nicely manicured lawn. Or, how about groups of men or women who try to kick a ball away from each other and down a field toward a goal. Or, after changing the size of the ball and stretching it out, they make it into something to be kicked and carried by one guy while several other players try to jump on him. The varieties of ball-like games are amazing. Flatten the thing and you have a "puck" to be knocked around on ice. Put a net on the end of a long stick and you have a game called "lacrosse." Indeed, what is so fascinating about knocking a ball around? It is a valid question. And, like Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," I'll tell you why - I don't know.

There seems to be some question as to the origin of our word "ball" as applied to the thing we throw, hit, carry and kick in the name of a sport. My sources tend to look for the origin in a prehistoric Germanic root. While I am by no means an etymologist, I would like to suggest that the German may have been influenced by the Greek. In the New Testament there is a word - "ballo" - that means to throw or cast. It is a significant word. Let me tell you about it.

"Ballo" is a very intense and often a harsh word. In some texts it is used of putting something somewhere. While, in Mark 7:33, where Jesus placed His fingers in a deaf man's ears, there is the character of sensitivity, generally, the passion and resolve of throwing something is involved. The disciples "cast" their nets into the sea (Matthew 4:18). Worthless salt was "cast" out onto the highway (Matthew 5:13). The soldiers "cast" lots for Jesus' garments at His crucifixion (Matthew 27:35). The unsaved will be "cast" into the lake of fire (Matthew 13:42; Revelation 20:14-15).

With that in mind, "ballo" is a word that may speak to the way we feel about our lives from time to time. There are those days (weeks, months) when we feel pretty much like a ball in someone's game. We hurtle helplessly through the air of life's circumstances, get whacked solidly by some unexpected crisis only to find ourselves racing toward the next calamity. Charlotte Elliott described it as, "Tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without."

However, the word, "ballo," occurs in a significant text that lets us know that this ball-in-the-air feeling is not an accurate understanding of our days of turmoil. The text is 1 John 4:18 - "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts (ballo) out fear: because fear has torment. He who fears is not made perfect in love."

This passage is speaking of our relationship to God through the circumstances of this life. Its point is that, having embraced Jesus Christ by faith and understanding ourselves as objects of God's love by grace (Romans 5:8), we may know beyond all doubt that we are not a ball in some divine tennis match. We have not been given a "spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Satan would like us to think of ourselves as hapless balls being battered back and forth. God, on the other hand, tells us that it is Satan and his lackeys who are giving us grief and then taunting us with their lies (Ephesians 6:12). God does not take us out of this world when we trust Christ (John 17:15). He has a purpose for us here (Romans 8:28-29). Instead, He goes with us through this world (Psalm 23:4) and urges us to lay hold of His promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Christians are not exempt from the pummeling of life in a fallen world. But we are assured that, because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:31:39), we are not balls, we are players - we are not victims, we are victors.

If, today, you are feeling like you are getting hit back-and-forth by some pretty mean racquettes, please consider two things. First, have you personally received God's love in Jesus Christ (John 3:16)? The full third and fifth stanzas of Charlotte Elliott's poem are intended to encourage you to take this step.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am! Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Secondly, if you have received Christ, are you becoming more and more firmly acquainted with the character and confidence of that love and how it functions in a hostile world?

Both of these questions are vital.