How to Beat the Heat

76ers

Heat can be devastating, disconcerting, and debilitating. So how do you beat the heat?  On a hot day, and in hot conditions, how do you overcome overwhelming circumstances?  There is a way to beat the heat waves of life and the dog days of living.  Certain situations can cause us to become overly and unnecessarily excited emotionally; to become angry and agitated; to become rife and riled; to become irritated and infuriated; to become mean and mad. But we can beat the heat.

In their home opener, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the heat. The Miami Heat.  Yes, it was only one win, but it was a great one. Last night the Sixers beat the defending champion/current dynasty Miami Heat in front of a sold-out crowd.

Heat can be unbearable, untenable, and insufferable. While the young, inexperienced, overmatched Sixers appeared to have little chance of besting the Heat, they managed to out-execute LeBron James and Company; when it mattered most, getting major baskets from Hawes and key free throws from Turner and Carter-Williams in the closing minutes to seal the win.

Heat can be overwhelming, overpowering and undermining. Despite the Heat, the Sixers went on a 13-1 run to end the game last night. Rookie Michael Carter-Williams broke an NBA debut record with 9 steals, none bigger than the steal of Lebron James in the final minutes.

Heat can be intensive, oppressive, and repressive. However, in their season opener against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, the Sixers gave notice to the league that they may need to be taken seriously. Opening the game on a ridiculous 23-2 run during which they hit their first 11 shots from the field, Philadelphia weathered a steady Miami comeback and ended up with a 114-110 win over a team no one expected them to beat.

Young, inexperienced, overmatched. Sounds like David vs. Goliath.  David had what the rest of the Israelite army didn’t have: confidence in God.  David withstood the heat of Goliath’s challenge and said: Continue reading

Who’s In Your Corner?

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Who’s In Your Corner?

Angelo Dundee was in Muhammad Ali’s corner. He was in “Sugar” Ray Leonard’s Corner. He is famed for being the man who trained the man who called himself the “Greatest of All Times”; Muhammad Ali and five other champion boxers. He was a legendary trainer who cornered a host of world champion fighters and was even called upon by Hollywood to help bring authenticity to the 2005 hit movie “Cinderella Man.”

Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, and Paul Giamatti find depth and texture in otherwise ordinary roles in this classic boxing film about a down-on-his-luck pug granted a second chance at glory. Ron Howard’s meat-and-potatoes “Cinderella Man,” a tale about a meat-and-potatoes underdog, may ring familiar; he does have history in his corner: the true story of James J. Braddock, who went from the soup lines to the heavyweight title in 1935.

cinderella man in the cornerl
So who’s in your corner? Who do you trust? Who do you go to for advice and counsel? Do you surround yourself with “yes men” who agree with everything you say? Or worse, do you walk in the counsel of the ungodly? Do you stand in the way of sinners? Do you sit in the seat of the scornful?

Who’s in your corner? Who can you can you depend on? Who can you count on when the chips are down? Jesus had 12 disciples, called apostles, in His corner. Of these, he held three in close confidence: Peter, James and John. Ironically, Peter, the leader of the band, notoriously denied his Master three times.

Who’s in your corner? David had mighty men of valor in his corner. David had warriors in his corner. David had defenders in his corner. They fought for him. They killed for him. They died for him. At one point three of the roughest and toughest of the bunch broke through enemy lines to fetch a bottle of water for him.

So who do you have in your corner? Fanny Crosby penned these words: “Whom have I on earth beside thee? Whom in heaven but thee?” Continue reading

Moral Victories

 Cool Runnin's1

Some say that there are no moral victories. Not so. 

“Cool Runnings” is the 1993 film based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team trying to make it and win a medal in the Winter Olympics. Their final run starts off with an even better formation than they previously had, but the ancient, antiquated sled they use is unknowingly in poor shape. A bad bounce sends it careening out of control, eventually turning over and sending the team on a terrible out-of-control trajectory.

When the sled finally skids to a stop, several tense seconds pass before the team even moves. Finally, Derice regains consciousness and sees the finish line mere feet away. Paramedics rush down to tend to the Jamaicans, only to part as they rise to their feet. The guys hoist the sled over their shoulders and begin walking toward the finish line, determined to finish the race no matter what.

The crowd, awestruck by the Jamaicans’ performance, cheers them on as they finish. Everyone, even Mr. Bevil (now wearing a Jamaican souvenir shirt) shows their admiration: Even though their chances of winning are gone, Jamaica finishes with dignity and pride.

Some say that there are no moral victories.  Not so.  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning;they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—  the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.  These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (11:35-40)

Some say that there are no moral victories. Not so.  Some victories are won because you didn’t retaliate; you didn’t fight back; you didn’t dignify the insult with a response. You held your peace and let the Lord fight your battle.  That first Olympic Jamaican bobsled team crashed in front of the world, most of whom didn’t even give them a chance. Yet they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and  carried their broken bobsled  and their bruised egos across the finish line, because they were determined to finish the race, no matter what.

Some say there are no moral victories. Not so.  Some victories are won by going the extra mile and by turning the other cheek.  Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels to fight for him in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Yet he knew that he had the cross of Calvary yet to bear.  Some victories are won because you humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God. And because of that, in due time, he will exalt you.

Busted Plays

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Sometimes things don’t work out. Not as we planned, or even close.  Sometimes our days and weeks and months and even years seem like busted plays.  Things were supposed to turn out one way, but they ended up another; sometimes another dreadful, miserable or even horrible way. What to do?  Sometimes you have to improvise, suck it up, and gut it out. Sometimes you do have to make it up as you go along.

“Hoop Dreams,” a critically acclaimed 1994 documentary, follows William Gates and Arthur Agee, two African-American teenagers from Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players.  Agee and Gates are both from poor, African-American neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois. Gates lived in Cabrini–Green while Agee and his family resided in West Garfield Park.

Both are recruited by a scout from St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, a predominantly white high school with an outstanding basketball program, whose alumni include NBA great Isaiah Thomas.  Both have “hoop dreams” which end up being busted plays.

Sometimes things don’t work out. That’s when you trust that this “busted play” will turn out in spite and despite our failed efforts.  After all, all of our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags anyway. 

“Mankind” was a busted play. Man was created in God’s image and in God’s likeness, yet things didn’t work out. Not as God had planned, or so it seemed. 

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was a busted play.  Continue reading

Let The Game Come To You

Michael and Kobe

Just be patient. Let the game come to you. Don’t rush. Be quick, but don’t hurry.

Earl Monroe

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Acts 12:5-7

Phil Jackson always coached his players to let the game come to them. Two of those players were two of the greatest basketball players of all time: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Phil’s advice to Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest player ever, was to “Stop chasing the game. Let the game come to you.” You have to “Tone it down and let the game come to you,” Phil is known to have demanded of the Laker’s Kobe Bryant.

Phil, winner of 13 NBA championships,  (11 as a coach and 2 as a player) coached his players to be natural and not to try too hard. Rather than force plays, wait for an opportunity to make a play. Forcing plays results in turnovers and lost scoring opportunities.

No matter what kind of game MJ was having, Phil Jackson would rest him at the end of the third quarter and for the first few minutes in the fourth. He’d come off the bench rested and ready, and go on to do the most amazing things I’d ever seen, things I ‘d never seen on a basketball court, more often than not leading the Bulls to victory.  And sometime during the fourth quarter, Marv Albert would remark “he lets the game come to him.”

So let the game come to you.

Continue reading

The Intangibles

World Series Cartoon

What are the intangibles?  What separates the champions from the chumps?  What separates the  victors from the victims?  What separates the over comers from the underachievers? It’s the stat that doesn’t show up on the score sheet. It’s the quality in a person that people can’t measure.  It’s there, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

The coach of the New York Rangers, John Tortarella, said this about the Rangers captain, Ryan Callahan:

“He’s not the flashy player you see in the highlight reels every night.  It’s what he does night and night out – he has another gear.  He understands the intangible.  He respects the game; it’s something we’ve lost with our athletes.”

The intangibles. It’s something we’ve lost . . .

What are the spiritual intangibles?  Doing what needs to be done – consistently.  It is true that the upcoming World Series is not going to be fought just with bats, gloves, and balls, but with grit, guts, and beards.

Intangibles are fuel for the fire of all successful athletes, and believers.  Inner peace leads to outward calm.  You can measure height, and weight and vertical leap, and speed and quickness and agility, but you can’t measure the intangibles. You can’t measure, put your hand around, scope or quantify. You have them or you don’t.

“He understands the intangible.”  This for me sums up the perfect hockey player, and ultimately, the perfect player in any sport.  Athletes (and Christians, for that matter) are becoming more worried about themselves and less worried about the team they play for; the sport they play for; the fans they play for, and for believers, the Kingdom we represent.

Night in and night out; game in and game out; day in and day out.  Doing what needs to be done – consistently. This is the ultimate intangible.

Who has the intangibles? Players that have the intangibles, that being a passion or a fire that you can’t measure in a weight room or that you can’t put on paper, are typically the ones that mean most to an organization.  The reason is simple; the intangibles are what drive people.  If you’re more driven than the next person, you’re more likely to succeed at whatever it is you’re chasing.

The intangibles.  Let’s do what needs to be done.

Silencing the Critics

olympic_champion_usain_bolts_running_spikes_auctioned_for_39000_8yb1lThe fastest man in the world is Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who literally and figuratively “bolted” out of nowhere to win the gold medal in the 100 and 200 meter dashes at  the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.  

Usain Bolt ran the 100m dash in 9.69 seconds as he set a new WR. He had less than a great start, and “showboated” as he crossed the finish line; yet and still he won “gong away.” He pulled away from the field at 80 meters and could have had a faster time if he had retained his near perfect form through the tape. Usain won the 200 by running 19.31, and won by an incredibly large margin as he again pulled away from the pack, and showed his critics that he was in fact for real.

To further silence the critics, Bolt also broke his Olympic record In Berlin a year later when he ran against his closest competitor, Tyson Gay, who challenged Usain in the 100m and took second.  He also broke the 200m record by running a 19.19 the IAAF World Championship Track and Field in Berlin, Germany. In stead of responding to his critics, he did his talking in the race. Likewise, we need to remember that “the Lord shall fight for us, if we hold our peace.”

We all have critics, and Usain’s critics gave him a hard time for being so brassy as he crossed the finish  in the 100m finish line in 2008.  Uphazed, Bolt took this criticism to heart.  In his book, Reversed Thunder, Eugene Peterson wrote, “The devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.”  Our critics are actually doing us a favor: they bring out the best in us. 

Our critics/enemies don’t want us to succeed, they don’t want us to win, and they don’t want us to triumph. All the while they may use “trash talk” to discourage us in the process. But no worries –Jesus came to silence our critics.  When the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery to Jesus, they rebuked her and challenged Jesus to “do something about” the crime this woman had committed. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  John 8:4-11, New Living Translation

Our enemies will leave us alone, because Jesus came to negate the naysayers.  Jesus came to oppose our oppressors. Jesus came to denounce the detractors.  Jesus came to silence the critics.