I have the pleasure of working as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes "Character Coach" for the softball teams at Duncanville High School. Each week I get the attention of 40 high school girls for 10 minutes at the end of one of their practices. I talk to them to about different aspects of leadership and responsibility as athletes, etc.
This week was particularly significant because it was a lesson that I walked away from asking myself, "Well, Josh... now that you've told them all about it, how well are YOU practicing it yourself?"
I had each girl take a piece of bubble gum, as I announced that the first person to blow a bubble was the winner. They all immediately went into a fury of chewing as their jaws worked as quickly as possible to soften the hard piece of gum. Many of them began to try blowing bubbles before their gum was soft enough to actually form one, resulting instead in a chewed-up mess leaving their mouth for two seconds before returning to be chewed even further and softened even more.
After someone finally blew a successful bubble, I asked them if it was easy to blow a bubble under the pressure of time, to which they all agreed that it was not. This opened the door to talk about how we try to do so many things, at such a rapid pace, that we actually end up doing nothing really well at all. After encouraging them to slow down in life, I gave them my full "youth pastor permission" to really enjoy their upcoming Christmas breaks by sleeping in and being OK with being bored (for a bit!).
I then asked them all to chew the gum as quickly as they could. And again, their jaws started working like crazy. I stopped them and told them, "Ok, now try to chew in slow motion--on the open as well as on the close." And they all kind of giggled as they began to chew their gum slowly.
I told the story of a tennis coach I once had who told us that when we were all worked up and nervous on the tennis court we should pop a piece of bubble gum in our mouths and chew it in slow motion. You can't help but focus and concentrate on what you're doing when you intentionally chew your gum slowly. Try it!
As we make our way through Mike Slaughter's "A Different Kind of Christmas" this year at FUMC Duncanville, I catch myself asking, "Am I really taking this to heart?" If I truly am, then I need to chew some bubble gum in slow motion this Christmas season and breathe, focusing on what is truly important during this incredible holiday.
If you've made it through this entire blog post without putting a piece of gum in your mouth, then you have my full "youth pastor permission" to stop everything you're doing and go get that piece of bubble gum! Try it. I dare you. And give yourself permission to enjoy the results.