Kick The Habit!

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It’s time to kick the habit. It’s time to kick down and kick aside and kick away what has been kicking you.  So, on this the eve of 2015, as we look back over 2014 and look beyond into 2015, let’s kick the habit.

The phrase “kick the habit” comes from the 19th century epidemic of opiate abuse. Kicking of the legs, muscle pain in the extremities and restless leg syndrome are all symptoms of opiate withdrawal. When one would cease the use of opiates withdrawal would follow, and kicking, stretching and twitching of the legs is a key symptom. Therefore to stop using opiates, one was kicking the habit.

Ndamukong Suh has a bad habit. He’s a dirty player, and dirty players deserve their just deserts.  I’m not a Dallas fan, so it’s going to be hard for me to root for “A.B.D.,” a.k.a. “Anybody but Dallas” this week because one of the dirtiest players, if not the dirtiest player in the NFL plays for Detroit. Maybe this week’s “ABD” should stand for be “Anybody But Detroit.” Right? 

Suh is not only dirty in the mind of fans – he’s dirty in the mind of his fellow NFL players. When asked “Who is the dirtiest player in the NFL?” Suh got the most votes.

Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, has a long history of being not-so-nice on the field. In fact, his NFL fines for his dirty moves, which encompass everything from making throat-slashing gestures to his most recent crime, trampling on a rival player, have forced him to reportedly pay the most fines of any NFL player. Ever.

Suh’s latest infraction was to stomp twice on the injured leg of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last Sunday. Initially, Suh was suspended from this weekend’s playoff game against Dallas. Instead, Suh appealed and the NFL stepped lightly, choosing to tight rope the fine line of competitive balance and overturned the league’s initial one-game suspension after hearing Suh’s appeal and announcing Tuesday that the Lions’ best defensive playmaker will instead be fined $70,000.

Maybe because Rodgers wasn’t injured on the play, the NFL reversed the suspension, instead electing to send a stern message with a heavy fine. Suh should have lost any benefit of a doubt based on his past reputation for drawing more than $450,000 in fines, including a notorious 2011 Thanksgiving Day stomp on the arm of then-Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith when he was suspended two games.

So what did we learn here? For starters, don’t be like Ndamukong Suh. Kick a bad habit.  You might come kicking and screaming, but come none the less.  Stop kicking people that are trying to support you and service you and succor you.  Stop kicking and screaming and start loving and listening.  

A bad reputation is hard to kick. So it’s time to rip a new rep.  It’s time to learn how and when to stop kicking.  Turn over a new leaf and kick a bad habit right back into 2014.  You’ll be glad you did.

If You Can Take It, You Can Make It: “Unbroken”

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If redemption and renewal and persistence and perseverance and resilience and restoration are your thing, then the film “Unbroken” is for you.  Forget the craggy critics who largely decried and disparaged the film. It’s an epic masterpiece. It’s the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who joined the armed forces during the Second World War only to be captured by the Japanese navy after his plane crashed in the Pacific.

Zamperini was redeemed and restored repeatedly. He lived by the line, “If you can take it, you can make it.”  We all should live by this line too, as it is a moniker for sports and for life. Zamperini’s heroic struggle to survive and subsist as he endured and even embraced the challenges he faced is an example for us all.  Louis overcame, and just like Mandisa sang in her song, he stayed in the fight till the final round.  He didn’t give up or give in; he took what life dished out, and remained unbroken.

“Unbroken” was accused of not having a “soul.” On the contrary, the critical criticizer who cast this stone may in fact be the one that is soulless. The film’s heartbeat is the constant beating heart of its hero who refused to recant his vows: first to live, and then to live for God.

And so, in 2015, remember to focus on the fact that you are being watched. Focus on the fact that your redemption will lead to victory for your friends, and will lead to the defeat of your foes. Focus on the fact that your friends are fighting with you in spirit, and your foes are fighting against your inner spirit. And both friends and foes are necessary for your redemption.  So please know that there are many, both friend and foe, who are watching and waiting to see if and how you endure your hardness.  

Remember, if you can take it, you can make it.

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:3, KJV

Too Much of a Bad Thing: a.k.a., How Many College Bowl Games Do We Really Need?

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Sometimes too much is a bad thing.  For instance, there are a gazillion college bowl games now. Seriously.  A gazillion.  Or close to it. (39 according to Wikipedia).

How much is too much? NC State won the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. Rutgers won the Quick Lane Bowl.  And Louisiana Tech won the Zaxby Heart of Dallas Bowl. Seriously?   Who came up with the names of these bowls, and whose idea was it to have all of these nonsensical bowl games anyway? Who’s going to watch the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl?  (I’m not making this up). Are you kidding me? These are games that nobody goes to and nobody else watches.

Sometimes too much is just too much.  Who or what is Bitcoin anyway? A simple search reveals that Autumn Ratke, the 28-year-old American CEO of bitcoin exchange firm First Meta, was found dead in her Singapore apartment on Feb. 28th.  So sad.  And a bowl game is now named “bitcoin.”  Really?  

How much is too much? I just so happened to see the highlights from some random bowl and the cameraman accidentally panned the stands.  There were fans who had an entire SECTION to themselves and still weren’t close to anybody else.  In other words, the fans stayed away in droves. I wonder why. This is a time when both society in general and the sports community in specific are on overload.  The offering of all the cockamamie college bowl games these days is just one example.

There were times when the sports world didn’t try to do too much. When I grew up in the ‘70’s and ’80’s, we watched the Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, the Peach Bowl and the Orange Bowl, and the Granddaddy of ‘em all, the Rose Bowl as well as other “Big” bowl games. Now, they’ve got bowls coming out the wazzo and bowls for every team that is “bowl eligible,” whatever that means. And who cares except the teams that play in that particular bowl? And of course the networks that pocket the profits from the paid advertisements.  

Sometimes too much is way too much. Jesus taught us to live simply and to simplify our lives. Clutter only leads to clatter, and hoarding only leads to unnecessary storing.  Amassing and acquiring only leads to stockpiling which leads to accumulating way too much. Even too much of a good thing is a bad thing, because moderation is the key. The Bible teaches that we should be balanced and unbiased and even-handed and fair-minded. 

Let your moderation be known unto all men. 

Philippians 4:5a, KJV

So in 2015, stop trying to do too much.  Stop trying to do so much. You can’t do everything, and it’s unwise to try. Focus on your faith, your family, and your friends. Because you really don’t need a gazillion “B” list bowl games in your life anyway.  Do you?

Has Your Team Been Naughty or Nice?

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Well, all of Philly can answer that question in unison (NOT NICE!), and so can Giants and Redskins fans as well. As for the Cowboys and all of the other NFL teams headed for the playoffs, they certainly have played “nice” and have played their way into the playoffs. My Eagles played their way OUT of the playoffs, and an off-season of second guessing and (hopefully) first round picking lies ahead.

What about you? Have YOU been naughty or have you been nice? That goes for doing and thinking. Have you played your way out of some things? There’s no middle ground when it comes to Santa’s sacred selection: you’re either naughty or nice; you’re either bad or benevolent; you’re either disobedient or deferential; you’re either complicit in the madness or a giver of gladness.

Being naughty or nice is a choice. I was taught that you’re either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Period. There’s no standing on the sidelines or riding the fence when it comes to spiritual things.

So, with all of the racial unrest around us, we all better watch out. We don’t need to cry and we don’t need to pout. We need to be solution oriented. We need to be responsive and not reactionary. We know and believe that we have the answer for the world to today. The Love of God is the strongest force in the universe. And the love of God has been demonstrated in one special way. And His name is Jesus.

So, even if your team hasn’t been nice this year, there are more important things than football in particular and sports in general. It’s more important to seek peace than to seek revenge. It’s more important to resolve to love than to resort to hate. We all need to be good for goodness sake.

And so this Christmas, let’s remember that goodness only comes from God. Even more so than Santa, God is checking His list, and He’s checking it twice; He’s checking to see who’s been naughty or nice.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He’s making a list
And checking it twice
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

O! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

I Saw Dez Bryant Kissing Mrs. Santa Claus, a.k.a., Joy To The Cowboys

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I saw Dez Bryant kissing Mrs. Santa Claus. Well, not really, but here’s three reasons why the Cowboys will win the Super Bowl:

1. Dez Bryant probably did kiss Mrs. Santa Claus, I just didn’t see it. But there isn’t much else he hasn’t done on the field. He recently torched the Eagles and Colts, and there’s not much else he hasn’t or can’t do for his team.

2. DeMarco Murray is about to break Emmit Smith’s single season rushing record. Seriously? Yes, seriously. DeMarco Murray is a Man-child who has run roughshod right around and through the rest of the NFC. The only obstacle that remains is Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks.  And that matchup should be a rematch to see and an NFC Championship game to savor for the ages.

3. Tony Romo. That’s right, Tony Romo. He’s not “The savior,” but the way he ‘s playing here lately, he’s certainly saving the symbolic soul of the Cowboys in what could be a season to remember.

So there you have it. The Dallas faithful just may get their Christmas wish this year, much to the chagrin of my Philadelphia Eagles, who were the pundit’s preseason preference to win the NFC East, and a consensus contender for the Super Bowl. Now that’s all over. Now the Philly faithful will have to wait until next year.

As for the rest of the NFL, we have to give it to those Cowboys. Yes, ‘dem “Now Boys” have now proven that they have the new tried and true triumvirate or “trinity” of football in Bryant, Murray and Romo, reminiscent of the old trio of Michael Irvin, Emmit Smith and Troy Aikman. (See Impact Players from September 19th, 2013 http://www.godandsports.net/2013/09/19/impact-players).

And this Christmas, let’s remember the power of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, the three in One. God in three Persons, blessed Trinity. God the Father gave His Son; Jesus, The Son, gave His life and in so doing gave us The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, as well as comfort and joy.  And so we celebrate the fact that the 1st Comforter has indeed come in the person of our Savior, Jesus Christ The Lord.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns. And, as much as it pains me to say, joy to the Cowboys.

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Give It All You’ve Got

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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 website 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.

A Nightmare On Broad Street

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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.