Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Some one sent his to me in an email…I thought it was worth passing along.It is long but worth the read. Enjoy!

Twenty years ago, in Nashville , Tennessee , during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s (American Baseball Coaches Assoc) convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter; I was just happy to be there. I learned  in 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy? After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage. Then, finally … “You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than answer. “That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?” Another long pause. “Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach. “That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?” “Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident. “You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?” “Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison. “Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”…………“Seventeen inches!” “RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues? “Seventeen inches!” “SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him down to the minor leagues; to Pocatello !” he hollered. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”


“Coaches… what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice? or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate? ” The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.

He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We let them slide and just widen the plate!”


Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”


He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: “If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools & churches & our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …” With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside, “…We have dark days ahead!.”

Note: Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91.

“Don’t widen the plate.”

After days of heavy rain the sunshine has arrived! I feel like  a mole coming out form its hole and blinking at the brightness he finds above ground. (But I think moles are blind…)

But I am not blind and what I was living with so blithely in the dark, gray, rain and fog I now see so plainly in the sunlight. Yikes! My dust bunnies had babies! My dust is casting shadows in the sun. I had no idea I was tolerating so much dirt! And dust bunnies collect stuff like hair – my gray curly hair, my cat’s ever-shedding fur and no telling how many dead skin cells not to mention the grass clippings. Yuck.

How much my life is like that. I let stuff grow in the dark of neglect, self, worry, fear – stuff that isn’t pretty. Downright disgusting. I gathers like those dust bunnies on my floor. And ugly stuff attaches to it – pretty soon it is not only visible to me but to others.

Last week I had the exterminator came – I was invaded by little, as in tiny, black ants. Usually they show up in Spring and I spray for them but someone told me they could cause wood damage. That was news to me so to be doubly sure I had my exterminator come out. He came promptly and began to examine around the edges of my floors, counters and behind the curtains…with a big, bright spotlight! Oh my! That was an eye-opener! It was all exposed. Unpleasant.

Remember when I told you what I thought God looked like – a brilliant, dazzling light? Well, just imagine His light shinning into all the dark, hidden places of your life and mine. It won’t be pretty. We many try to hide but it won’t work. And there is no amount of spring cleaning I can do to get myself clean enough to stand in God’s light. Nothing. I am doomed. We all are.

But hold on! We just celebrated Good Friday and Easter. God has provided the perfect cleaning agent. The blood of Jesus. And then He has  provided a perfect robe of righteousness  – His righteousness – for us to wear.

It’s not up to us. What a great God and Savior we have!


This story is told in Nikolai Arsenic’s book, Mysticism in the East:

Comrade Lunachatsky was lecturing in Moscow’s largest assembly hall shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. His theme was, “Religion: Opium of the People.” All the Christian mysteries are but myths, he said, supplanted by the light of science, Marxist science is the light that more than substitutes for the legends of Christianity. Lunachatsky spoke at great length. When he finished, he was so pleased with himself that he asked if anyone in the audience of some seven thousand had anything to add. A twenty-six-year-old Russian Orthodox priest, just ordained, stepped forward. First he apologized to the commissar for his ignorance and awkwardness. The commissar looked at him scornfully: “I’ll give you two minutes, no more.” “I won’t take very long,” the priest assured him. He mounted the platform, turned to the audience, and in a loud voice declared, “Christ is risen!” As one man the vast audience roared in response, “He is truly risen!”.

May your heart and mine rejoice in the fact of His glorious resurrection!

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!


I noticed a message on my cell phone asking the question, “What’s so good about Good Friday?”

That’s a great question!

We live on this side of the resurrection so we know “the rest of the story”. The disciples didn’t. When they witnessed the brutality of the crucifixion and watched Jesus die then put Him in the tomb; they thought it was over. It was not a good Friday. It wasn’t a good day.

All the hopes and expectations they had in Jesus had been nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb. They couldn’t begin to imagine how life would go on. How could they have been so misguided? Pain. Heartbreak. Self-doubt. Self-Condemnation. Especially for Peter who had sworn that he didn’t even know Jesus, his best friend. How could he have done that?

Well, we ask those questions because we have the benefit of knowing Sunday was on it’s way!

But if we can put ourselves in their place…what would we have thought? It would have been a horrible Friday. The worst.

They didn’t know the Resurrection was around the corner. Yes, Jesus had told them. They were slow to believe. We would have been, too. We still are.

What has Jesus told you that you have not yet believed? Make this your Good Friday!

Good Friday is good because we know Jesus’ death open the way for us to know God personally. He died to wash away our sins. Totally. We can begin again! That’s good news for a hurting world. There is hope!

Yes. It’s a Good Friday!