One Out From History, Destiny Still Calls And Miracles Still Happen!

jordan-zimmermann-mlb-miami-marlins-washington-nationals-850x560

Amazing achievements don’t just happen, terrific triumphs don’t just appear, and wonderful wins don’t just come out of thin air. In fact, truth be told, precious plays are priceless and don’t come around every day. Such prized plays made in magical moments by players everywhere are to be valued and treasured, relished and cherished. And such is the case in the first no hitter pitched by the Washington National’s Baseball team.

Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was one out from history Sunday afternoon, and for what must have seemed like an eternity of forever’s, he watched little-used rookie left fielder Steven Souza Jr. — a defensive replacement in the ninth inning — give chase to a line drive that threatened to dash and destroy his destined no-hitter. It was the bottom of the ninth; there were two outs, and a CG (Complete Game) no hitter was on the line. Enter rookie reserve outfielder Steven Souza Jr.

One out from history. That’s where Zimmerman found himself, and where he almost found a place to doubt his date with destiny. The hit by the Marlins Christian Yelich came on a 2-1 count. Zimmermann hurled a 94-mph fast ball on the outside corner and Yelich showed his opposite field power and drove it to deep left-center field. Nationals’ now renowned and previously unknown Steven Souza and center fielder Denard Span took off for the deep drive while the stadium crowd stood silent and breathless. Souza’s angle of pursuit couldn’t have been any better than Spans, but yet he dove at the warning track and went airborne  to make an over-the-shoulder grab to preserve the no-hitter.

One out from destiny, it was quite a way to cap a regular season in which the Nationals finished with the NL’s best record, 96-66. Washington hosts San Francisco or Pittsburgh in Game 1 of a division series Friday. “Just an epic day for an epic season,” said Denard Span, who set a Nationals single-season record with his 184th hit. Zimmermann (14-5) threw 104 pitches, had 10 strikeouts and allowed only two baserunners. After retiring the first 14 batters. “When he caught it,” teammate Dunn said, “it was just like, ‘Really? Did that just happen?'”

Before we overplay the play we want to be careful not to minimize the moment or dampen and downplay the end of a really special game that comes at the end of a really special regular season. And it ain’t over yet, as Nationals Baseball fans hope it doesn’t end until they begin to celebrate a World Series win. Possible? Actually yes. Probable? You can check that box too.  

Just like Jordan Zimmerman, you might be one out from victory, one out from history, one out from destiny. You may have come to realize that there might not be a real Santa Claus, or a real Tooth Fairy, or a real Easter Bunny, but I hope you still conclude that there is still a real reason to believe in miracles.

So what are you destined for? Where are you going and what are you going to do when you get there? Write your own script. Don’t let fate foretell your future. Determine to disappoint your detractors and decide your own destiny. God is still in the miracle business.  If you want help (and trust me, you’ll need it) you can have it, and you can have it today.

Catch Fire And Play To Win the Game

 220px-Man_on_fireposter

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  Jim Elliot

Denzel Washington has a new film out called The Equalizer which is strikingly similar to what I believe was his best film, Man on Fire.  In the 2004 film Man on Fire, Denzel plays a former assassin who swears vengeance on those who committed an unspeakable act against the family he was hired to protect.  In this film he is “on fire” – burning with a desire to right wrongs and cancel-out, nullify and negate bad and belligerent forces that have come against those he is sent to serve.

Athletically speaking, great athletes who play at the top of their game are said to be “on fire.” They play like they are “possessed;” they seemingly cannot miss, everything they do is on-time and on-target and they win the game for their team.  However, winning at life may not look and feel like we think it should.  Just ask martyred missionary Jim Elliot.

Spiritually speaking, Jim Elliot was a man on fire. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot are two dynamos that should be household names.  I read their story again for the first time and had to fight back tears and fight back jumping up to fight anything and everything that is wicked and wrong and wide of the mark.  Their story is classic.

January 2, 1956, was the day that 29-year-old Jim Elliot had waited for most of his life. Jim was a missionary to Ecuador and died a martyr in 1956.  Jim and the four other missionaries he worked with were murdered by the very Acua Indians they went to evangelized.  In a supernatural turn of events that only God could arrange, Jim’s wife and the wives of the other four martyred missionaries won the Acua Indians to the Lord by their love and longsuffering.  Their story is told in the book, Through Gates of Splendor, The unforgettable true story of these five men who braved Auca lances and were martyred for the sake of the Gospel.  It was written by Elisabeth after her husband’s death.

Jim seemingly was groomed by God and planned to be a missionary all of his life.  The trip was not without controversy, as family and friends alike all tried in vain to dissuade him from his destiny.  He wrote this in his diary on the voyage to Ecuador:

My going to Ecuador is God‘s counsel, and my refusal to be counseled by all who insist I should stay and stir up the believers in the U.S.  And how do I know it is His counsel?  Yea, my heart instruteth me in the night seasons. Oh how good.  For I have known my heart is speaking to me for God.  No visions, no voices, but the counsel of a heart which desires God.

The crazy, scary, creepy crawly part of the story is that Jim KNEW he would not live long, and it’s as if he marched to his death knowingly.  Spiritually speaking, it was strangely surreal and oddly otherworldly.

                “Life is not here, but hid above with Christ in God.”

Jim was a man of destiny; Jim was a man on fire.  He met his “fate” at the hands of the Acua Indians, but because of his love for God and his desire see this native nation won for Christ, he prayed this prayer:

He makes his ministers a flame of fire.  Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame. But flame is transient, often short-lived.  Canst thou bear this my soul – short life?

While not all of us are called to be martyred missionaries, we are called to be a flame of fire and to be saturated with His Spirit for whatever we do, be it football or baseball, hockey or golf, we are called to be our all and to give our all for Him.  .

Matrix Fans Unite

The Matrix 

If you haven’t seen The Matrix, stop reading.  Stop reading now.  Go rent it, buy it, or break down and borrow it, but for Pete’s sake, watch this film – at least twice for starters – and then come back and continue reading.

If you love David vs. Goliath, the long-shot doesn’t stand a chance, the little runt will die trying, and the underdog defeats the favorite kind of movies, then The Matrix is for you.

The Matrix has it all: good and evil, right and wrong, vanquishers and villains, and saints and sinners.  It has love and hate, war and peace, help and hurt, rejection and retaliation and all of the emotions and sensations of the human spirit.  It has many of the spiritual themes you need to study as well: rebirth and resurrection, restoration and renewal, and resurgence and re-emergence, just to name a few.

If you believe in redemption, recovery and restitution, then you’re a Matrix fan.  How can you not like and love a feel good, the good guys win, the bad guys lose, the prophecy comes to pass story with a storybook ending?  While I know there are many who have trouble swallowing all of the blends in the film, it works for the rest of us.  While Biblical Christianity is mixed with in Hinduism, Gnosticism and a few other “isms,” keep in mind that The Path of Hinduism is really The Way of Christianity.

The Matrix is for all sports fans who love to see the little guy rise and become MVP of the World Series.  It’s a story of “The One” who doesn’t believe in himself, but has others who do the believing for him until he himself comes to faith.  In the film, Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. “Neo” is the prophesied One.  He comes to acknowledge the prophecies about him saving the world, or, in sports speak, winning the big one, are in fact true.

In the coup d’etat of the film, Neo is dead, as he has been killed by enemy agents.  Trinity, an obvious reference to the Godhead, tells Neo that she received a prophecy that she would fall in love with “The One.” Trinity’s kiss of love brings Neo back to life and he goes on to defeat the enemy agents.

The moral of The Matrix is that good will one day conquer evil, right will win out over wrong, and the little guy will someway, somehow defeat the big bad bastions that think they can’t be beat.

The Golden Rule: All’s Fair In Love And Football

 redskins-eagles-football-

Remember the old saying, “I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out?”  Well, not to be outdone, the NFL, namely the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins, put on a mega mêlée of their own late in their game at “The Link” (Lincoln Financial Field) in Philly.  I wasn’t mad until certain Redskins fans defended the cheap shot that lead to the brawl as being a “good hit.”  It’s a good thing I don’t cuss. “He got me pretty good. I did not see him,” Foles said. “I thought the guy was down so that’s why I wasn’t looking for anyone. The next thing I know I’m just obliterated.”

For those that don’t remember or even know what the old saying about a fight at a hockey game means, know this: hockey is a brutal sport.  Back in the ‘70s when I grew up, fights at an NHL game were normal, even expected common occurrences of just about every game.  In fact, the Philadelphia Flyers were so notorious for fighting their nickname was the “Broad Street Bullies,” and for good reason.  While all of Philly loved our beloved Flyers, we all knew when they crossed the line.  Or at least I hope and think that we should’ve known. Right? Anyway . . .

Remember when fights at school were called “fair ones?”  That means that the fight was between me and you and no knives or guns were allowed and no friends or cousins could jump in and make it a lopsided, unfair fight.  Unfortunately, it appears that those days are long gone.

We tend to defend what we think is right instead of what we ultimately and undoubtedly know is right.  Honestly, I watched the hit by Washington nose tackle Chris Baker on Eagle quarterback Nick Foles, and it wasn’t as bad as I had heard it was, but it was still a cheap shot.  And for all you Redskins (players, not necessarily fans) out there, I can’t wait until Kirk Cousins or even RGIII (whenever or if-ever he’s healthy again) gets hit like that.  I’m sure you’ll be crying foul then.

We must remember that fair is fair; but some just don’t know, or don’t want to know, what fair is. You don’t do to others what you don’t want others to do to you.  In fact, the Bible puts it like this: “Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).  Or more colloquially put, “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.” We call it The Golden Rule. Anything less is unsportsmanlike conduct, and is the kind of sportsmanship our fathers and coaches taught us not to do.

So if you don’t remember anything else, please remember this:

“The game had 19 penalties, one major brawl, two ejections, at least a couple of hits way after the whistles had blown, all sorts of taunting and a general vibe of meanness and chaos. It was still fun, kind of, but it wasn’t very professional.

After the game, I heard passionate, heartfelt and convincing arguments that Chris Baker deserved to get tossed from the game for plowing into Foles during an interception return that didn’t even exist, since the interception was later reversed on replay. These arguments came mostly from non-Redskins fans. I also heard passionate, heartfelt and convincing arguments that Baker’s ejection and penalty were epic miscarriages of justice, or at least the results of a terrible NFL rule. You could teach an entire graduate seminar on how pre-existing bias influences one’s perception of truth based on that sequence. Or you could just go outside and enjoy the fall weather.”  Dan Steinberg @dcsportsbog.  Amen brother.

I have to remember that I have too many friends that are Redskins fans, and it’s not worth losing them over one game, even if it was a divisional game.  So remember, we have only one fight worth fighting, and that’s the good fight of faith.

Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many.  1 Timothy 6:12, RSV

Roger Goodell And The NFL’s Week From Hell

Goodell

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water!  Whew!  Poor Roger Goodell.  He’s taking a licking, and the poor guy is barely ticking.  Last week, the Commissioner of the National Football League had his hands full.  As if the Ray Rice domestic violence fiasco wasn’t enough, by the end of the same week, another all-star got in trouble and it’s all over the news.  Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was indicted, imprisoned and “impounded” by his team for child abuse.  Oh boy.  In light of all of this at the same time, what’s an NFL Commissioner to do?

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.  Another NFL player, Jonathan Dwyer of the Arizona Cardinals, was indicted for domestic violence.  AND if that wasn’t enough, the Carolina Panthers decided that star defensive end Greg Hardy won’t play any more games for the team until his domestic violence case is resolved.  My, my, my.

The cries for Goodell’s head are getting louder and louder.  If Goodell wasn’t in hot water with the Rice “incident,” he sure is now.

Sometimes, just when you thought things were going to get better, they got worse. As believers, how do we deal with disaster?  How do we deal with adversity and atrocity?  Christians are supposed to be the poster children for how to deal and how to cope and how not only survive, but to thrive amidst turmoil and trauma and stress and strain.  We are the examples and exemplars and samples and specimens for how to overcome.

The best athletes overcome and overtake and overwhelm and overpower every obstacle that comes their way in order to win.  In fact, sometimes it takes trials and tribulations to prompt us to achieve. Speaking of the Jewish people just before they left and while they were yet still slopping slaves in Egypt, the Bible says that “the more that the Egyptians afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” (Exodus 1:12).

Because we believe in and trust in and have faith in a higher power, we can rest and relax when the chips are down. When our funds are low and our debts are high, when we want to smile but we have to sigh, that’s when the Christians of 1st Century Rome were, and that’s when Christians of every age are at our best.

Like a ship that’s tossed and driven, battered by an angry sea; when the storms of life are raging, and the fury falls on me; I wonder what I have done, to make this race so hard to run; And I say to my soul, ‘Soul take courage, the Lord will make a way somehow.’

So what do we do when all else fails? What do we do when all is falling apart and nothing is coming together? Call on Jesus!  The disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm, and Jesus lost himself in the hull of the boat and went to sleep.  When things got real bad, they decided it was time to wake up Jesus.  Jesus got up from sleep, rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a great calm.  How about that for a turnaround!

When it looks real bad, that’s when every child of the King can say, I believe it’s going to end up real good.  What the devil means for our destruction, God can turn around and use as part of our construction. Where sin and shame and chaos and confusion and disaster and destruction and muck and mire and all kinds of mess abound, that’s where grace abounds all the more.

Good can come out of this NFL mess.  It can. President Abraham Lincoln quoted the 19th Psalm in the Gettysburg Address, which is etched on the walls of the Memorial that bears his name: “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9).  Correction and guidance come from Heaven and not from hell.  And if we repent and turn around, we will experience turnarounds.  But we have to believe and trust God that it can and that it will.

So don’t get stuck in the mess.  Don’t wallow in the mire.  If you want things to go the right way, and you’re ready and willing to turn to God for help, your litter and clutter and refuse and rubbish can and will be recycled into something that can be of good use for you and for everyone else around you as well.

Who Said Your Best Wasn’t Good Enough?

Kevin Leman

“And above all things, never think that you’re not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you at your own reckoning.”

Isaac Asimov

I haven’t read Kevin Leman’s book, but it sounds like it’s something I would like to check out.  And maybe you too.

Now when it comes to sports, strictly speaking, sometimes your best just isn’t good enough.  Sometimes your forth and one play comes up a tad short; sometimes your field goal attempt sails wide right; sometimes your shot rims out; and sometimes you get beat out after you gave it all you’ve got.  Sometimes you go in with everything only to come out with nothing.  And sometimes we go, to mix in a movie metaphor, a bridge too far.

Grumpy grouches and miserable menaces will always criticize and be critical; this type will always judge and be judgmental, be cruel and crass, brunt and brash, and you will never live up to their standard.  There are those that will always disapprove and disparage, complain and condemn, nit-pick and pick holes in your game and your life. These are the ones that will never be satisfied, and these are the ones you should never even try to satisfy. 

Good Enough

On the other hand, you are good enough for God!  That’s why God wants you to know that He is good enough for you. 

I grew up playing sports and was taught that your best is good enough.  This saying is true to a fault.  In sports it applies until you don’t win the big one. Don Shula, the legendary coach of the Miami Dolphins said this:

What I learned from that loss, and also another loss that I’m going to talk about later, was that when you’re there, it’s not good enough to be there, when you’re there, you better walk away with that ring.

And he’s right. We don’t play just to play. As the former Philadelphia Eagle great Hernan Edwards once said, “You play to win the game! Hello?!”  https://godandsports.net/?s=You+play+to+win+the+game&searchsubmit=Find+%C2%BB

Spiritually speaking, our best is measured against our worst. And more often than not, we are at our worst. The prophet said all of our righteousness is as filthy rags. So, since we will never measure up to God’s standard of holiness and righteousness, we must trust Him to do what we can’t. Our best will never be good enough for Heaven. That’s why God sent His Son and that’s why His Son gave His life.  God’s best is good enough, and we should accept and accede to what Heaven has to offer instead of trying to be good and clean and pure and perfect all on our own.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that we don’t TRY our best, or GIVE our best, or even DO our best. To not try, and give and do our best is heresy. It’s a cop out; it’s a duck and a dodge, and a shun and a shirk from being and doing the right thing.  It’s taking advantage of God’s grace, and to take advantage of God’s grace is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “Cheap Grace.” 

music-good-enough

So do your best, and let God do the rest. That’s what the Gospel is all about.

Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

MayweatherMarquezFinalLVPC_Hoganphotos-3

Any fight fans out there?  I’m not, but as the saying goes, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Playa Hater is live in Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez fight on Saturday night, October 13, 2014 at the MGM Grand. The rapper Ice T wrote these lyrics: “I don’t know why a player wanna hate T.  I didn’t choose the game, the game chose me.”

Don’t hate the player, hate the game is another way of saying “don’t blame me; this is how the system works.” In other words, “society made me do it,” or “the system is flawed and I’ve figured out how to work it,”or “everyone else is cheating too.”

This, of course is a cop out.  To say, don’t dislike someone for their actions, consider instead the situation that causes it, is only half of the story. It’s a twist of Gandhi’s Quote: “Hate the sin and love the sinner.”  

In order to “hate the game,” individual culpability is thrown out the window, and we are somehow to believe it when athletes gone astray say “it’s not my fault that I’m the way that I am.”  Hogwash.

The most popular usage of “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game” (DHTPHTG) is when one employs extra-scrupulous tactics to vanquish an enemy in the fields of:

Business;

Dating;

Politics, and especially Sports.

Hate is the opposite of love, and the best use of hate is for sin and shame, and for the emblems of evil that pervade our society.  Our hate should not be for the institutions of football and baseball and basketball and professional sports in general. Rather, our hate should be, as the Bible implies and as Gandhi implores, for the sin and not for the sinner.

It seems that we have lost our way when we don’t play clean and hard and fair; when we don’t reward the right ones and we reward everyone; and when we excuse those who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.  We need to return to good old fashioned morals and manners, principles and practices, and these need to be employed on and off of the court and the field, and in tonight’s case, the boxing ring.