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Most of all of us don’t give it all we’ve got. Most of any of us don’t give all of the effort and all of the energy we can or should.  Most of the time we don’t win, because we don’t play to win, and playing to win requires giving 100%, a.k.a., giving it all we’ve got.  Most often, we only give “what we can,” and we only give “when we can.” We don’t give like we know we can or like we know should. We rarely give like we’re supposed to. 

Giving is Biblical and Scriptural. It’s sacred, but it’s not sanctimonious. Giving is spiritual.  God gave us His Son, and Jesus, God’s Son gave us His life.  That’s the secret. That’s the lesson. Giving your ALL and giving IT your all and giving it all you’ve got is the only way to win in life.  And giving in sports is and should be no less.

Giving it all we’ve got commands commitment – commitment to a common cause and commitment to particular person. Our commitment should and must to be to something AND someone.  Both are required for a good and genuine, honest and heartfelt bond.

One of the faults and failures of our modern, secular society is that we lack commitment. Employees change jobs and Christians change churches for something to do. The days and the age and the era of the 30 year employee and the 30 year church member are vanishing before our very eyes.  Kids today wonder how their elder statesmen “made it” for 25 and 30 and 35 years or more at one job or one church.  The answer? They didn’t quit when the going got tough but instead stuck it out and gave it all they had.

Hannah Cockroft continues to give her all.  She’s a paraplegic who defied the odds. She holds the Paralympic and world records for both the 100 metres T34 and 200 metres T34. Competing for Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, she won two gold medals.  She doesn’t have two legs like of us, but she’s absolutely giving it all she’s got.

 I blogged about Hannah in “Winner’s Find a Way, Loser’s Find An Excuse” last year this time. Check out the December 12, 2013 blog post. http://www.godandsports.net/2013/12/12/winners-find-a-way-losers-find-an-excuse     Hannah is a para-Olympic wheelchair racer. On her web site she says, “Follow me on my road to Rio and beyond over the next few pages.  You can laugh with me, cry with me and win with me, as I strive to become the best that I can be. And remember, you have to keep working to keep winning.” http://www.hannahcockroft.co.uk/ Amen to that.

And so this Christmas Season, let’s give it all we’ve got. We’ve harbored hurts and nursed grudges and fostered fixations for far too long.  Instead, let’s give more and forgive more and love more and hug more, and forget and forsake all of the things that are holding us back and pinning us down and preventing us from giving it all we’ve got.    

nightmare on Broad St

Ok – So I turned on the TV last night all set to watch the big game and I got the surprise of my life. Instead of football, a movie came on. It was an ugly, horrible, horror movie. It was awful! Blood, guts and gore everywhere. Man! What a mess. There were times when I had to cover my eyes or look away . . . Wait, what? You say THAT WAS the game? OMG!

It wish it was a movie. It certainly played like “Nightmare on Broad Street” or Scary Movie XXV. Tony Romo was playing Freddie Krueger as he sliced and diced my Eagles all over Lincoln Financial Field. If you’re an Eagles fan, that’s not what was supposed to happen. Yes we came back from being down 21-0, but the game’s not over until the fat lady sings. Oh well.

Thank God we can wake from our bad dreams and live the reality of abundant life in Christ. I still have my life and my loving wife, and, well, my Eagles will fly again.

We can overcome bad dreams and bad teams and dried up streams and live to play another day. That’s the beauty of being a child of God and having Jesus as our Savior and Jesus as our “major.” Football is a minor. (Being an Eagles fan is an important minor, but it’s a minor nonetheless). Jesus is my major. And since Jesus is still the reason for the Season, we don’t need to get all caught up in all of this minor stuff.

So wake up from your nightmarish lifestyle, from your nightmarish living and from your nightmarish life. Stop spending money you don’t have to please people you don’t even like. Live a life of love and give out of love and only give because of love. Any other giving and any other kind of living, especially this time of year, is not a dream come true; it can be a nightmare.  

Eagles Cowboys

If my Eagles are going to beat the Dallas Cowboys and win the NFC East this year they’re going to have to play like they’re playing for all the marbles.  The Eagles and the Cowboys are tied for first place in the NFC East, they both have a 9-4 record, and a trip to the playoffs is on the line. And so tonight’s winner in all likelihood will win the Division, because the game tonight is for all the marbles.

Winning is equal and equivalent with “talking all of the marbles” home with you, just like you did after that childhood game all of us used to know and love and play.  And so, along that line, I found this nugget of knowledge written by Lisa Butterworth at www.Etsy.com:

“The  game of marbles, and others like it, were extremely popular in the US in the early 20th century with both children and adults, creating a marble culture that even generated its own particular language, some of which is still heard in today’s vernacular. ‘Knuckle down’ refers to a player’s hand position when he or she is getting ready to shoot a marble (one knuckle against the ground). Playing ‘for keeps’ means the player who wins takes ownership of the marbles he or she garnered. And a term I’d personally like to bring back is ‘quitsies’ (which allows any opponent to stop the game without consequence).”

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So tonight, the Eagles are playing for all the marbles.  It’s time to knuckle down, as both teams are playing for keeps (but we don’t want to use quitsies, because there’s no quit in an Eagles fan).   And that’s how we should live this Christian life.  We need to knuckle down, play for keeps and forget all about that quitsies stuff.

We’re not living a half-life and we’re not willing to share a half win.  We’re not willing to split the championship with anybody. We’re playing for all the marbles. We’re shouldn’t believe God for piecemeal and partial perfection and we mustn’t believe God just for minimal or marginal miracles. Why? Because we’re playing for all the marbles.  

Yes, my friends, we’re playing for all of the marbles. We’re living for all of the marbles. We’re believing God for all of the marbles. Why? Because we serve a great God who is faithful and true. That’s why we can sing “Every promise in the Bible is mine. Every chapter, every verse, every line. I’m standing on his promises Divine. Why? Because every promise in the Book is mine.”

So don’t play halfway. Don’t live halfway. Don’t be somewhat and somewhere and some-timey.  Don’t live midway and partway and in between and in the middle of the median.  Live for all the marbles. Give God all you’ve got.  After all, didn’t He give His all in Jesus for you?

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Winning is an art. Losing is a science. There are no guarantees that my Eagles will win Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowgirls, I mean Cowboys. None. But with proper planning, excellent execution, and the ball bouncing just the right way, my Eagles should be fine. In sports speak, that’s called “Art.” That being said, there is a long list of lessons and a lengthy, litany of logistics that must be learned in order to earn a victory and avoid defeat.

Losing is a science. It can be done in a few short and simple steps. Just ask this season’s edition of the Philadelphia 76ers (and the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks, for that matter). Opposite of winning, if you don’t command or at least comprehend the fact that winning is an art, you will easily marshal and master and collect and accumulate the dirty laundry of losing.

The Art of Winning

Dennis Conner (born September 16, 1942) is an American yachtsman, known as “Mr. America’s Cup”. He is noted for winning the bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics, two Star World Championships, and four wins in the America’s Cup. He also wrote the book “The Art of Winning.” I guess I’ll have to add it to my reading list.

Winning takes more than “x’s” and “o’s”; it takes more than practice (Practice? Where’s Allen Iverson when we need him!); and it takes more than having the best team and the best players on paper. Art is defined as “a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities.” In other words, true art isn’t “painting by the numbers.” It takes skill, savvy, flair and finesse to carefully create a piece of art and to actually envision a winsome win.

Losing takes little more than doing all, or just some, of the wrong things. Losing is a science, and science is defined as a “systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions.” It’s been tried and tested that poor, pathetic players all share the same attributes: they’re lazy and lethargic and listless and lackluster, and they lack the energy and the effort and the efficiency and the effectiveness that it takes to win.

In other words, it’s no secret that poor practice leads to poor performance. It’s no secret that team chemistry is a must for team wins. And it’s no secret that excellence and dominance and preeminence don’t just come out of thin air. Team turmoil and problem players are the raw material for licentious locker rooms. And that’s just a start. Pointing fingers and laying blame are part and parcel of a team that has nowhere to go but up.

And so if you want to win in life, acquire a taste for art. Not necessarily fine art, but the art of being kind and considerate and congenial and commendable. Learn the art of speaking with salt and giving with grace. Learn the art of being nice and benign, of being benevolent and compassionate, and of being concerned and considerate. And when it comes to sports, never mind mastering the sciences; focus on being an artisan and not being partisan, especially when it comes to dealing with people and persons and folks and family and all sorts of citizens of our society. You’ll be glad you did.

JImmy V

Ever been on a bad team?  I have.  It sucks. (Excuse my French).  If you haven’t, it’s hard to understand why a bad, awful and abysmal, dreadful and deplorable, deficient and defective team would celebrate every win. 

Jimmy Valvano had a marginal team, but he believed in celebrating every win.  NC State won the ACC Championship in 1983 and his team received an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. He coached them to 8 improbable wins in the Big Dance all the way to the NCAA Basketball Championship. He may have died from brain cancer, but he knew how to celebrate every win.

You celebrate every win because victories are spiritual.   No, I’m not “spiritualizing” sports, again.  And yes, I am equating winning with spiritual success.  There are too many people in this world who are defeated and depleted, unhappy and unhealthy, and desolate and disconsolate – far, far too many. For these, a “win” of any kind is worth celebrating. And that it is.

Celebrations come after victories of any kind.  Any kind.  For some, getting out of bed is a victory. For others, saying “no” when they wanted to say yes is a victory. And for many, taking baby steps to conquer a habit or resist a temptation or quit a compulsion is a big deal. And it’s worth celebrating. Some marginal students see a “C” on a test or quiz and they’re ready to storm the field and take down the goalposts. Ask me how I know.

We celebrate every win because on the court, off the field, in the pool, at the rink, around the track, on the padded mat, up on the uneven bars, or just down in the dumps dangling with plain old life, victories are sometimes hard to come by, especially when you don’t have the help that you need. Enter Jesus, the son of Mary.

Jesus came to give us victory, and He came to not only help us win but to celebrate every win with us. Victory, conquest, and triumph all refer to a successful outcome of a struggle. First, victory suggests the decisive defeat of an opponent in a contest of any kind: “victory in battle; a football victory.” Conquest implies the taking over of control by the victor, and the obedience of the conquered.  Triumph implies a particularly outstanding victory such as “the triumph of a righteous cause; the triumph of justice.”

This time of year, we rejoice, sing and celebrate the Advent of our Lord. His coming was a wonderful win, a colossal conquest, and a tremendous triumph. And that is why we love to celebrate so much this time of year. But we should not just celebrate at Christmas, we should celebrate every win.

And so the next time you look down your nose at a team, any team, such as the Philadelphia 76ers (2-18) or the Oakland Raiders (2-11) or the team of your choice that is struggling right now, think again. Teams, like people, go through tough times and travel down rough roads. So if you need help to get a win, you’ve got it. And if you already are winning, help someone else to get a win and then celebrate their win with them.

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August: Osage County is a rough flick.  It’s a “family” movie with a wicked twist, so if you’re looking for a feel good, light and fluffy, family film to watch with the whole household, this is not the one to see.

That being said, this film is worth its salt. Academy Award winners Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts bring their “A” games to the screen in this dark and dim, dismal and downbeat portrayal of a family gone wrong and family life without a victory song.

Dysfunction is on full display in this emotionally explicit and verbally visceral depiction of family failure. Director John Wells’ adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play August: Osage County tells the tale of the dysfunctional Westin clan, who all come together after the death of the patriarch. Meryl Streep plays the matriarch as she fights mouth cancer, a growing dependency on pain pills, her family and herself in a “how to” dissertation on dysfunction.   As the clan bickers and jokes, old truths come to the surface, jealousies flourish, and eventually each of the characters confronts some past hurt or future fear.

A team is like a family, and a family is like a team.  When there is passion and devotion, compassion and dedication, the team, and the family, will win. Without trust and transparency, honesty and humility, the team will lose. It’s that simple. On every team and in every family, without truth and temerity, sincerity and solidarity, the family will dissolve into dysfunction. And the function of dysfunction is destruction.

The function of a team is to acquire the victory and to secure the triumph.  In August: Osage County, no one wins.  No one. It is a “team” loss on all fronts. And so the vital lesson is to avoid and overcome dysfunction at all costs. Chemistry and overcoming calamity, harmony instead of heated hostility are necessities and not niceties. Accord and agreement, unity and unanimity are requisites and requirements for healthy teams and happy homes.  On the contrary, dysfunction is a sure sign and a dead giveaway of a losing and lackluster lineup.

Dysfunction is a failure to function normally. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen and experienced it at one time or another. When it’s up close and personal, it hurts all the more.

So let’s strive to function as God designed because dysfunction is NOT in God’s playbook. Let’s endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.  In order to function as we were formed, we must “make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends. Remember, the Lord forgave us, so we must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13-14, New Living Translation

Amen.

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Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. I Kings 18:21

Christians say that their God is the real McCoy. Christians say that Jesus Christ is in fact the Son of God. Christians say that their God is the King of Kings and Lord of lords, the King above all Gods. I say, we need to do our talking on the court and we need to prove it on the field.

If our God is in fact “The God,” and the “Only Wise God,” then the proof should be in the pudding. The law and the facts, the evidence and our testimony, the confirmation and the substantiation of our reigning, ruling and righteous LORD God should in fact be our lives. The support for our Almighty, all-powerful, omnipotent and omniscient, terrible and terrific God must be in the life of a sinner turned into a saint.

LeSean McCoy was the NFL’s rushing leader last year. And the Eagles beat Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. That was then; this is now. Now, if my Eagles are to defend their NFC East crown and advance further in the playoffs this year, they’re going to have to do their tailing “on the court” and prove their dominance on the field.

Our God does His talking on the court and He proves Himself on the field. He is the God of upsets, comebacks and turnarounds. And He is the God of victory and triumph. Athletically speaking, in college basketball, Kentucky is No. 1 in the polls. And as long as they keep winning by double-digit margins, they are in fact doing their talking on the court. On the gridiron, Alabama, TCU, Oregon and Florida St. all say that they should be in the college football playoffs and that they in fact will win the National Championship of College Football. (Did I hear someone say Ohio State?) I say, prove it on the field.

Elijah did his talking on the court and he proved that His God was supreme and superior on the field. Elijah declared that Jehovah was God. Not Baal. Not Ashtoreth. Not any other “god.” Only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had won the right to be called God. And the prophet set out to prove it.

So how about it? Are you up to the challenge? Are you willing to let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God the Father, the only true God, in Heaven? If God is God, then proving it should be a piece of cake.

When we do our talking on the court and allow God to prove Himself on the field, we do not minimize living a saintly life. When we do things God’s way and run our race in God’s lane, since we are made in God’s likeness, proving His sovereignty and majesty and authority should in fact be easier done than said.

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Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Ephesians 5:25, KJV

The best thing a husband can do for his wife is to love her the way she needs to be loved.  This is a principle that we as husbands need to understand and apply. And, on the other side of the coin, our wives will get farther and go further with us when they love our favorite team. Above is a great pic of a couple supporting the German “football” team (soccer for us Americans).

The worst thing a husband can do is to put anything or anybody in front of his wife, and that includes his favorite team.  There. I said it.  Wife first, Eagles second  . . . (exhale.)  Surely I jest, but there is truth in jesting. Sometimes we as husbands put “the game” in front of cuddle time, and that, my friends, can be a BIG PROBLEM!  The solution?  Watch the big game together. (Of  course you already thought of that.)

The best thing for a couple to do is to watch sports together. I love my wife and I love that she loves sports – any sports, but particularly my sports teams.  And it’s alright if couples have different favorite teams, because they won’t play each other every week. Right? But when they do play head-to-head, here’s a little tip: when your team wins, go easy, at least after the initial jubilation. 

The worst thing for a couple to do is to be at odds over anything, especially sports. She may hate hockey and he may love lacrosse so there’s not too much room for negotiation there.  So what to? Compromise!  Remember, if you give a little, you’ll get a little; if you give a lot, you’ll get a lot.

The best thing for a wife to do is to be supportive. This may sound old school and old-fashioned and just plain old, but it’s still true nonetheless.  Please keep in mind that being supportive is not dependent upon the husband loving, and loving is not dependent upon the wife being supportive, but when both blend and bind and fuse and fasten and  seal and seam together at the same time, it  sure does help. 

The best thing about this blog is the spiritual connection between God and sports.  Here, the spiritual tie-in is clear. Jesus loves us, and He cares about what we are concerned about. Even sports.  And we, the Church, are the bride of Christ. So it follows that we should “do things” together.  Naturally, we are better together, and watching, playing and participating in sports in any way together can build and bond a long and lasting relationship.

The best thing about being married is that you get to share your life with the one you love. And when your team is in the hunt for a playoff spot and more, that’s a great thing.

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Alabama: came back from the dead in a comeback for the ages.

Alabama was almost down for the count. Auburn had Alabama on the ropes and yet the Crimson Tide found a way to come back from the dead. With the score 33 to 20, Alabama scored 35 points in the second half to run away with the 2014 Iron Bowl Title.

At one point, Alabama QB Blake Sims was dazed and dazzled and the Alabama fans were dumfounded and confounded. Sims threw 3 first half interceptions and it seemed as if he was going to throw the game away. Yet Sims and Alabama found their footing and they found a way to recover and regroup as they ran Auburn out of the gym on the way to an instant classic comeback win.

Alabama proved that they are indeed the No. 1 team in the land, as they overcame a 13 point deficit on the way to demonstrating dominance on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Sims, after the interceptions, lead his team on 5 straight scoring drives that lead to 5 straight touchdowns.

Like them or lump them. Alabama proved that you can indeed come back from the dead. For those that watched the game, it was practically a forgone conclusion that the home team would lose. But halftime adjustments, and alterations, corrections and wholesale changes made the difference.

And this is a lesson for us all. Naturally and spiritually, at times we may be down, but we are never out. We may fall behind, but we can always get ahead. We may be down, but we can always rise again. Sound Biblical? Of course it is. Just ask Jesus. Our Lord was dead. He was not asleep, or in a coma or unconscious. He was dead. But he rose from the dead with all power in His hand. And He showed us that if we put our trust in him, we too can come back from beyond hope.

A comeback is a spiritual thing. To see one is special; to experience one is supernatural. If you or someone you know is trailing in life, just remember that you too can come back from way back, even back from the dead. Because it’s not over until God says it’s over.

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Eagles 33 –  Dallas 10. And it wasn’t that close.

So how did they do it? How did the Eagles beat and best the dastardly Dallas demagogues in their own house? And on Thanksgiving Day, to boot! My Eagles won the same way you and I will defeat our demons and our disappointments and our discouragements and our dejections. On those dork, down days when no one gives you a snow ball’s chance in hell to win, there must be some way to overcome and overtake the enemy of our souls.

Wining the big game begins with winning the small ones. You don’t win on the big stage until you win on the back stage. Winning in secret is required for winning in public. Winning the war within starts with conquering our fears and our phobias and our doubts and our dreads and believing that miracles still happen when you believe.

The Eagles won before they even stepped foot onto the field. And we win when we make up our minds and agree with God on who we are and who He is. We worry and we’re weary and we whine and we whimper when we don’t agree with God. And that’s it! That’s how we win the big game!

We win when we agree with God without questioning or quizzing or grilling or groaning. When things don’t appear the way we wish or when things don’t go the way want, we still need to have confidence in God. His Word is still true. And it’s true not just for the few; it can be true for you too.

So take it from the Philadelphia Eagles. Win the game before you play the game. It’s not that the Cowboys didn’t want to win, but he Eagles obviously wanted it more. It may be hard to understand, but we understand and live by faith, not by sight.

So you can trust your big games to the one who is bigger that any game and every problem that you will ever have. So show confidence, not cowardice; trust and never doubt, and He will surely bring you out.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV

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