Sunday, January 31, 2016

I'm #Blessed and Need to Remember That


On December 26'Th, 2015, as I was driving back to school early to resume the basketball season, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain.  Hidden Brain is a social science podcast put out by National Public Radio (NPR).

That week's episode was focused on Christmas and the heightened giving during the holiday season.  I recently re-listened to this podcast and remembered how convicted I was the first time I listened to it.

Why do we give? Do we give because we want to, or because we feel like we should?  Is it a chore or is it a joy?

I want to focus on altruism, which is different than just giving.  Altruism, according to, is "feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness."  Almost everyone gives, but this podcast, and some thoughts I've had for myself show that giving and altruism are rarely the same thing.

Dr. John List, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, has done many experiments on giving.  During one of the interviews with the professor during the show he said, "People say, ‘I give because I want to help another person,' but when you dig down deeper, that's not the true motive to why they gave."

The show talks about two kinds of giving, the life-affirming and the guilt trip philanthropy.  This is the major difference between altruism, and giving into social pressure to give.

Dr. John List gave this example.

Imagine yourself on a peaceful Sunday afternoon at home.  You are watching football or reading a book with your family.  All of a sudden, you hear your doorbell ring.  You get up and go to the door and it is a charity solicitor.  Dr. List says, "Once you see it is a solicitor at the door you think, ‘oh my God, I wish I would have stayed on the couch watching the football game.'"  Because of this scenario, Dr. List ran a very compelling experiment in Chicago.  The first group was certain houses that just had solicitors show up with no warning.  The second group was told ahead of time that someone was going to be stopping by and asking for money.  The third group was told that someone was coming, but was given the choice to opt out of giving.  Dr. List found that the second group answered the door ¾ as many of times as the first group and the third group gave almost half of the first group.

If generosity were based on altruism and not social pressure, all of these groups should have given the same amount.

I can understand this, but instead of Sunday on the couch, it is Sunday in the church pew.  Christians should be the people that give altruistically the most right?  The Bible is filled with verses about giving.   Here are three examples:

Proverbs 21:26, "He covets greedily all the day long: but the righteous gives and spares not."

Luke 3:11, "He answers and said to them, He that has two coats, let him impart to him that has none; and he that has meat, let him do likewise."

Acts 20:35, "I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."

I can probably (guiltily) count on one hand how many times I have pulled the ten-dollar bill out of my wallet and put it in the offering plate instead of the single that I usually put in.  I can count on even fewer fingers a number of times I have given out of authenticity instead of the pressure of family or friends next to me.

I think I have every excuse in the book to not give.

"I'm a "poor" college kid"

"I plan on giving a lot when I'm older"

"I want to give, but just can't right now"

Those excuses, and the many more I have are lame.

One thing that has been on my heart a lot recently is that the Lord wants excellence.  The Christian rapper Propaganda in his song titled "Excellent" sings, "Excellent, that's what You should expect from us, that's the least we can do to say thank you for how He blessed us."

Our first fruits are not only expected in giving, but in all that we do.  God expects our best and we should give him our best in all we do.

I am incredibly blessed.  Even in just the worldly things the Lord has given me, I should thank Him every single second of every day, let alone the fact he has shown me grace for all the times I have failed Him.  I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  I have two parents and four brothers who love me.  I'm working my dream job that I would have never imagined working at the age of 21.  I go to a great school with professors who want to see me succeed.  I have been giving a tiny bit of musical gifts.  All of these things are in my life, but I let apathy take over and give the bare-minimum more than the best more times than not.

I have been incredibly guilty of this my whole life.
I'd rather read half the pages in an assignment and use that to answer the questions for an assignment.  I want to find the quick fix and not the right fix.  I want to get all the answers written down and not learn from them.

Killing apathy and striving for excellence is something I want to strive to do more because it is something I have not done for so long.  The Lord has blessed me with so much and expects a lot more from me than I give him.

In giving, work, love and so much more I am going to do my best, not because of social pressures, but because it is what God calls me, and everyone else, to do.  I want to get rid of my apathy and find more joy in work and giving because life is so much more than a net worth and social status.

"Take this apathy and bury it before it buries me" – Cold is the Night by the Oh Hellos

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I've Lost a Lot


Tomorrow I turn 21 years old.  This is really weird to think about.  Some days I feel like I live the life a fifty-year-old and other days, I still feel like I am five, but in reflecting in my life, I realized I'm a loser…and that's ok!

My freshmen football team only won one game.  Ever since I started playing basketball and managing it, I've always been on teams with a losing record. My two-year high school tennis career had only one match victory in it.  And don't even make me talk about my attempt at throwing for the track and field team my freshmen year of high school.  

So yes, my athletic career has been very less than stellar, borderline pathetic, but that's not bad.  Losing helps you learn what your true character is.  (I feel like this is the only thing I have written about but...) True life isn't found in worldly victory.  Losing is really hard to do, but we need to be able to win at losing.

Even though it doesn't feel like it for many others, and DEFINITELY myself, but sports are such a minor detail in the great big world we live in.  I want to have a career in sports, but I realize that they are very minuscule in the realm of issues we deal with.  Winning in sports is a very small victory and losing is a very small defeat.  Learning how to cope with the small helps us learn how to handle the serious things that happen in our lives.

One thing that has really bothered me recently was the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) recently banning student sections from doing certain cheers at basketball games, such as shouting air-ball if a player misses.  This made me, and lots of national broadcasters, so mad.  People need to know when what they did was wrong.  I think we need more things that tell us we aren't great because we aren't.

An air ball is a very small issue, but it is something that needs to be fixed and nothing gets fixed without accountability, even if that accountability is from an awkward sixteen-year-old in the opposing student section.   The player needs to know what they did was wrong.   Even though getting "taunted" makes you feel like a loser, it should, because what you did was wrong.

We need harsh words.  Ever read the Bible? It is filled with words that should make us feel bad about ourselves because we are bad.  

The more we realize how often we lose and how big of losers we are, we realize how great Christ's victory is.  Losing, from an air ball to whatever the worst thing you can think of, is ok, because our God is the ultimate winner.  There is no way we can win this life on our own.  We lose a lot and we are all losers, but God is great at winning.

The best part about God's winning is that he lets us join in.  He doesn't brag.  He doesn't rub the trophy in our face but gives it to us instead.  God takes all the losers who acknowledge his winning and makes them victors.  This is something only He can do.  So don't be ashamed of being a loser, but look to the ultimate winner when you are down.  Let your losses be Christ's victories.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why Christians Should Love Diversity


MLK Memorial in Washington D.C.
If you grew up in the church like I did, you probably have sung it ever since you were in preschool. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  But how well do we live this?  It is the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and it is hard not to think about how, even in 2016, we still mess up diversity so much. 

The Webster definition of diversity is, “the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.” 

I grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has been deemed as one of the most segregated cities in the whole country.  This statistic is unfortunately very true.  Living in the suburbs, there was little to no ethnic diversity in my neighborhood.  Everyone was white, all except for one Indian family.  I was lucky enough to attend Milwaukee Lutheran High School, which was very ethnically diverse.  One thing that our basketball team always did was on MLK Day, we would play in a basketball showcase at Concordia University Chicago, located in River Forest, Illinois.  There, we would play a game against another Lutheran school from somewhere around the Chicago area.  It hit me my freshmen year that we were the only team that was mixed race.  We would either play a team of all black students or all white students.  Of all days of the year, we would have to deal with the issue of lack of racial diversity on MLK day.  This is not what Dr. King, and so many other Civil Rights activists, sacrificed for.

2009/2010 Milwaukee Lutheran Red Knights
I remember my fourteen-year-old-self was very frustrated by this.  Why do we as humans, and even as the Church, struggle with diversity so much?  The New Testament is filled with border-breaking verses.  Here are just a few:

Galatians 3:28 
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-30                                “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.”

Revelation 7:9-10 
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Now as I continue, I do not want to be sounding like I am “holier than though,” because I am just as bad as this as anyone.  But we need a lot more difference in our lives. 

Korean BBQ Night
Here is another story that fills me with some shame.  Last year, before my sophomore year of college began, I was told that I was going to live with a Korean student.  I was pretty upset.  I thought that the cultural difference was going to ruin my year.  I was SO wrong about this.  Living with KJ was one of the biggest blessings of my life and the people I have met through his friendship have been incredible.  The difference in my life was much needed and helped me grow as a human more than I ever thought.  The food I’ve eaten, conversations I’ve had and so many things that I would have never experienced if I stayed in my bubble have changed my life.  This rocked my world a bit, but I am so thankful it did.  The Lord took a stubborn boy and gave him what he needed, even though he didn’t want it at first.

One of my favorite things about my current roommate, Jinho, who is also from Korea, is worshiping with him.  This is just like the Revelations verse.  Hearing a multitude of tongues praise Jesus is one of the most beautiful sounds that can be heard.  This is a thing that does not happen in my life, and I’m sure many others’ lives, enough.  I think that difference, in general, does not happen in enough lives.  Why does the church not do this more?!?

The reason we are so bad at diversity is because we love our comfort zones.

Diversity is so much more than just race, it is difference in general.  We aren't scared of other races because they are a different race, we are scared because it is different than what we are or what we are comfortable with. We are scared of leaving our comfort zone.  Living with KJ was a major move out of my comfort zone for me, but one of the best things that has ever happened to me. 

My father always reminds me to, “get out of my comfort zone and into my growing zone.”  Comfort zones are the most dangerous things that everyone has.  It holds us back from experiencing so much in life because we are scared of the potential “dangers” that come with leaving it.  It can boil down to the most trivial problems, or reach out to some of the most major issues in our world.

We won’t order a different meal than the usual at our favorite restaurant

We won’t go on a mission trip because the work might be too hard

We won't talk to the person who is sitting alone in the dining hall because we are scared our friends will tease us

We won’t embrace a different culture because it is so different than our own

Fighting our comfort zone is so much easier said than done, and I am one of the world’s largest
Korean Squad
offenders at giving into my comfort zone, but so much fulfillment comes out of trying difference and opening our minds that come with leaving our comfort zone. 

So many issues of diversity in our life are from our insistent need to stay in a world of comfort, but Christ calls us to live an uncomfortable life.  We are called to carry our cross daily.  Jesus loves difference, so we should love difference.

Look for areas this week, month and year to break down your comfort zone more and more.  Different is not bad.  Different can help us learn more than we ever thought we could.

“Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle” – George R.R. Martin

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cultural Problems Seen in the NFL’s “Black Monday”

 (Full disclosure, if anyone reading this does not care about the NFL, football or even sports in general, there is still something for you in this week’s post!)

This past Monday, January 4’Th, was what is known around the National Football League as “Black Monday.”  Black Monday is the Monday after the regular season has ended and when many of the coaches around the league get fired, to put it simply.  As of today, there are six NFL teams without a head coach.  That is about 19% of the league.   Of those six vacant spots, five of them were firings and one was the retiring of Tom Coughlin, the historically old New York Giants coach. 

The two biggest firings in the NFL this season were the firings of the Philadelphia Eagle’s former head coach Chip Kelly and of Lovie Smith, who was coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Now I am FAR from an NFL GM or owner, but I am an NFL fan and there are two major problems with our culture that can be seen in the idea of "Black Monday." 

One: That we think we know better than other people. 
Two: that instant gratification has infected everyone. 

First: We Think We Know Better

I am going to start this part with a personal story.  So as I stated in my first post, my dream is to coach college basketball.  If there is one thing that is complained about most in the world of basketball is referees.  Even if someone has watched one minute of a basketball game in their whole life, they have probably heard someone complain about a referee.  I know I complain about them all the time. That changed a little bit when I had to referee a game at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp.  I SUCKED at it.  It was hard. I didn’t know what I was doing, but do you know who does know what they are doing? The actual referees at actual basketball games.  I think I know better than them, but I do not.

This is similar with NFL coaches.  Fans always think they know so much, but they’ve never had to make the decision on a 4’Th and 1 with 2:33 left during a three-point game in a stadium with 90,000 screaming people in it.  Being an NFL coach is HARD.  99% of human beings could not do it, but a lot think they can.  People always tell coaches how to do their jobs, but don’t actually know how to do 99% of that job.

You know whom else we try and tell how to do their job and have a 100% chance of being wrong on? God.  I am the number one victim of this mentality.  God is not a genie in a bottle granting wishes we have, he is the creator of everything we have done and we will do.  God’s will rarely looks like our will for our lives, but is much better.  We get angry at God when things don’t go our way.  In NFL terms, we get mad when we ask God for a “16-0” season of life and he gives us a “10-6.”  Trusting in God during a “2-14” season, or even an “0-16” season (Sorry Lions fans), is tough, but it is something we need to do, because it will be worth it.  John 16:33 is my favorite verse. It states, 

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world"

Earth is an “0-16” season, because of sin, but heaven is an eternal “16-0.”  We need to trust the Lord through all, and in all, circumstances and seasons of our life.

Second: Instant Gratification 

So I am a Millennial I will admit it.  I am in a sweater and beanie, sitting in a coffee shop while I write this.   I like Instagram more than I should and there are plenty of other Millennial stereotypes that I fit into. I will also admit that Millennials are the worst, but one thing we get constantly accused of is wanting everything to go our way right away…but isn't that everyone?  Doesn't everyone want things to be perfect?  Doesn't everyone want to wake up in the morning and have all their problems disappear?  All humans want instant gratification.

The Eagles and Buccaneers were not going to win the Super Bowl this year and they won’t win anyone anytime soon if they keep firing their coaches.  Chip Kelly and Lovie Smith both only coached two years for their respected franchises.  As I said earlier (and I know this is ironic based on the first part of this post), I am far from an NFL owner or GM and I do not know the full story with these two, but coaches need to create a system to win and that can’t happen when they get fired every two years.

You need to be able to deal with a little bad to get a little good in life. My favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers, could have fired Mike McCarthy after he missed the playoff in 2 of his first three seasons (Even though that one of three they did make the playoffs with a number two overall seed in the NFC during Brett Favre’s farewell from Green Bay season). If the Packers fired Mike McCarthy
after his first season in 2006, when they went 8-8 or in 2008 when they went 6-10, they probably would have never won the Super Bowl in 2010 or make the playoffs for seven seasons in a row.

We all go through rough patches and that is ok.  We learn most in the tough times.  If we never learned how to cope with difficulty, humanity would be in a terrible state.  More and more people are becoming less and less ok with hardship; in fact, we avoid it at all cost.  We want to take the easiest route to work.  We want to take a magic pill to lose weight.  We want to win 1.3 Billion dollars in a Powerball ticket.  We don't want to take the scenic route.  We don't want to work out for a half hour every day.  We don't want to work hard to make a living.  We do not want to suffer.  The scriptures say in Romans 5:1-4 that,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Instant gratification is the polar opposite of glorying in our suffering.  NFL teams need to stick with coaches through bad seasons to be able to truly learn and grow as a franchise.  We need to stick with bad seasons of life to be able to truly grow as human beings and sons and daughters of Jesus Christ.

We always think we know what is best and we want the easy way, but that never works best for us.  Trusting in the Lord and accepting all circumstances is how we are to live our lives.  God knows better than we do and always will. We need to accept suffering and not hide from it. 

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." - John Wooden

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year, New Blog (Do Not Waver)


Hello all 25 people I assume are actually going to read this.  It is January, 3’rd 2016 and this is my first blog.  I am now being that stereotypical twenty-something college student who is starting his or her own blog.  This is something I have wanted to do for a very long time and a response to my failed attempt at starting a Vlog my freshman year of college (Cringe worthy, I know).  I want to do this to work on my writing ability and use it as an outlet to process thoughts and feelings I have about things in my life and the world around us.  I really do not know what direction this is going to take, but what the heck!

I guess as any first, I should introduce myself.  My name is Josh Coldagelli and I think the best way to describe myself is as a Christian, sports nut, Hipster.  These are the three things that really help define who I am. 

First: Christian. I am a Christian and all of my life revolves around Jesus and what he has done in my life.  I will bet that all of my posts involve spiritual elements some way some how.  My faith is the most important thing in my life.  Spiritual metaphors are my favorite, so be ready for that at some point during this journey.

Second: Sports.  I am a huge sports fan and have been ever since I was very young.  When you are the third of four boys, sports and competition are usually involved in your life some way some how.  I am a diehard Packers, Brewers, Bucks, Thunder, Oklahoma Sooners, Marquette Golden Eagles and Dallas Stars fan.  I have the goal of coaching basketball at the college level as my career and currently work as a Student Assistant for my College’s basketball team. 

Third: Hipster.  I love indie music, culture, a good mug full of roasted coffee and a flannel on my back.  This has been a part of my identity and it is probably lame to call myself a hipster (and usually hate doing so), but I think it is time to finally just embrace it. 

Ok, enough about me, here are my first thoughts of 2016…

As the New Year roles around, resolutions pop up everywhere.  Even this blog is one of my New Year's resolutions.  The typical resolutions of weight loss, healthy living, reading more and all those other good habits we want to put into our lives seem to stay around for a few days or weeks in January, but they almost always seem to go away sooner rather than later.  It is really easy for us to waver from our goals we have set for ourselves. 

I am currently reading one of Phil Jackson’s books titled Sacred Hoops. Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest NBA coach of all time, writes in his book about how in one of his first coaching jobs for the semi-pro Albany Patroons he wanted to suspend one of his players for leaving the bench before the game was over.  He gave his best player a two game suspension.  The owner of the team said that Phil needed to remove the suspension so that the team did not lose their next two games.  Phil, who was a very young coach at the time, gave in.  He said that this ruined the season and the team fell apart afterwards.  He wavered and had to live with the consequences. 

Whether it is because of internal or external pressure, it is really easy to change our minds on decisions, especially our New Year's resolutions.  One of the definitions I found of waver/wavering was to, “be irresolute.”  It will be very easy for me to give up on this blog.  It is easy for us to put our Bible down.  It is easy for us the leave a bad job, but not a lot of good comes from the easy options in life.  It would have been hard for Phil Jackson to tell the owner he wasn’t going to lift the suspension, but the outcome for the rest of the season would have been much better.  He learned from this lesson and that is why he won eleven NBA Championships.  When we persevere and do not waver, good things happen.  As tempting and easy as it will be to give up on New Year's resolutions, so much good comes from sticking with them.  Stand strong in your goals you have set for yourself.  Let 2016 be your best year yet and keep working hard, even though it is hard.

Luke 21:19 (NIV) ~ “Stand firm, and you will win life”