Playing For All The Marbles

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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?

The Art of Winning and The Science of Losing

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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.

Celebrate Every Win

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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.

The Function of Dysfunction

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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.

Do Your Talkin’ On The Court and Prove It On The Field

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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.

Husbands, Love Your Wives; Wives, Love Your Husband’s Team

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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.