Aggressive Faith: How To Come Back From Way Back

Stanford Coach David Shaw
Stanford Coach David Shaw Says You Just Gotta Believe

 

We love college football. And the only thing we love more than college football is college basketball and March Madness. But it’s the first full day of Fall 2018, and it’s football weather, so we’re in for upsets, comebacks and turnarounds, college football style.

In the Stanford – Oregon game — played in Eugene Oregon, mind you – with the score 24 -7, Ducks, Oregon running back Jaylon Redd appeared to have scored a touchdown, but he was later ruled to go out-of-bounds just inside the 1-yard line. He hit the pylon, and the pylon is out of bounds. It is?  Who knew? Anyway, no big deal, right? The way the Ducks were playing, they were destined to punch it in on the next play and take a seemingly insurmountable 31-7 lead in the first half. Right?  Wrong.

Wouldn’t ya know it, a bad snap sailed over Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert’s head. Stanford’s Joey Alfieri scooped it up and ran 80 yards for a touchdown. All of a sudden, a 14-point swing has the Cardinal down by just 10 points. After the game, Coach David Shaw called it the turning point of the game. And then, the Ducks go three and out, and the next time Stanford touches the ball, they go right down the field like it’s a walk in the park and they get another touchdown. That made the score 24 -21 at half-time, when it could have been 31 -7, Ducks.  Unbelievable.

And the final score? Stanford 38, Oregon 31, OT. Talk about a comeback for the ages.

The Stanford Cardinal (Cardinal is singular, mind you – but don’t ask) is ranked No. 7 in the nation. No. 7!  But they sure didn’t look like it in the early going, as Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert picked Stanford apart. It looked like a shooting gallery. It was like shootin’ ducks in a barrel – get it? Ha ha.  Anyway, Stanford couldn’t do anything right, and Oregon seemingly couldn’t do anything wrong. But that all changed in an instant. And as we live and breathe, we also believe that what’s going wrong can go right, if we only put feet to our faith.

After the miraculous comeback, Stanford Coach David Shaw said this:

 

We talk so much about believing. And not just about believing, but believing in the work and the effort and believing in the passion that we have for each other.

Wow. Coach Shaw sounds like a preacher! And he’s right. He’s exactly right. If you can believe it, you can achieve it. But you first have to believe; you must have faith.  And then you must put feet to your faith. We need not just talk about believing; we need to put our faith in action put our confidence in God in motion and do more than just believe. And that’s exactly what Stanford did.

Stanford came back from way back because they hung in there. Stanford was aggressive in the second half, and took advantage of every opportunity that came their way. And that’s what we need to do. We need to have aggressive faith. When we’re down, we should never feel like were out.

In this season, many of us are praying for revival. As we pray for a revival in the land, we should also pray for a revival in our souls. We should ask God to give us a personal revival. And as we pray, we should sing this great hymn by W. P. Mackay:

Hallelujah, thine the glory!

Hallelujah, Amen!

Hallelujah, thine the glory!

Revive us again.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Note to Vonte Davis: “Don’t Quit Halfway Through”

 

Vontae Davis
Vontae Davis Walks Out and Walks Away

Vontae Davis quit halfway through.  That’s right. A PROFESSIONAL NFL football player actually played one half of a game, took a look around him, and realized how bad the situation was, and, instead of pledging to help make it better, he quit. Forget this retirement rhetoric; that’s garbage. Dude quit.  Vontae Davis called it quits at halftime, when his Bills were losing 28-6 to the Chargers.  The final score was 31 – 20.

For the first time in NFL history, a player, namely the Buffalo Bills’ cornerback Vontae Davis, called it a career and retired at halftime. With the Bills looking like the worst team in the NFL, per CBS Sports, this sudden change to the team’s roster is unlikely to make things better.  

The veteran defensive back  pulled the most incredible exit in NFL history yesterday when he decided at halftime that he was calling it a career. He pulled himself out of the game,  put on his street clothes, walked out of the stadium and decided to retire, right there. This is one of the Bills’ starting cornerbacks!  The 30-year-old cornerback, a first-round pick in 2009, spent a majority of his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts. He played in 121 games and finishes his career with 22 interceptions and 98 pass deflections. 

So let’s analyze the situation for a minute: Yes the Bills stink. In the season opener on Sunday, September 9, 2018, the Baltimore Ravens dominated the game and slaughtered the Bills with a final score of 47 to 3.  That’s beyond bad. And no, you don’t get better in an instant. But yes, the Bills were a playoff team last year. But no, you don’t quit halfway through. It’s that simple. It’s like cheating, or accusing someone of cheating that isn’t cheating. You don’t. You just don’t. 

Davis said later that he came to the realization during the first half that he didn’t belong on an NFL football field any longer and that he should just retire. (Buffalo was down 28–6, so maybe a few other players should have had the same epiphany.) He said he didn’t mean to disrespect his teammates but they clearly still felt disrespected.

But don’t we teach our children not to give up and not to give in? Don’t we teach our boys and girls to be team players and not to be selfish? Aren’t we supposed to model before the next generation how to gut it out and suck it up? 

Incredibly, some are defending Davis for what he did. Why? Because this is a me first generation. This is an “I before we, me before you” and everybody else society that doesn’t give a hoot about how their actions affect anyone else.  And it’s said. It’s all so, so said.

 Here’s what Mr. Davis had to say for himself:

“This isn’t how I pictured retiring from the NFL,” Davis said, via NFL network. “But in my 10th NFL season, I have been doing what my body has been programmed to do: get ready to play on game day. I’ve endured multiple surgeries and played through many different injuries throughout my career and, over the last few weeks, this was the latest physical challenge.”

“I meant no disrespect to my teammates and coaches. But I hold myself to a standard. Mentally, I always expect myself to play at a high level,” Davis said, via NFL network. “But physically, I know today that isn’t possible and I had an honest moment with myself. While I was on the field, I just didn’t feel right, and I told the coaches, ‘I’m not feeling myself’.”

So you quit at halftime? Seriously?  He signed a one year deal with the Bills who weren’t that bad last year. But that was then, and this is now.  We’ve all learned that decisions should not be made on a whim or in the heat of the moment. Davis’s snap decision in the “now” moment certainly could be rethought or, even rescinded. But based on his statement, it doesn’t look like that will be the case. 

Mr. Davis went out and he put a bad taste in a lot of fans and players mouths.  And that’s just not how one should want to be remembered.

Motivation for Moving Forward — Can The Eagles Repeat? (A.K.A., When Will Wentz Be Back?)

 

Eagles Super Bowl Banner
Eagles’ Super Bowl LII Banner

 

That’s the question.  But actually, that’s not the real question. The real question is this: do the Eagles have the gumption and the gusto, the moxie and the mettle to repeat as Super Bowl Champions? And the answer is absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably yes.  The Eagles certainly CAN repeat. And since one good question always deserves another, the “B” part of this multiple choice test is this: WILL they repeat? Will the Eagles put it all together and win it all again? Will this dream team come together and will they keep it together so that it all stays together like last year’s magical season to produce back to back Super Bowl victories?  

Or will it all fall apart?

Carson Wentz will be back. Soon. Thank God. As much as we love and adore our beloved Nick Foles, Wentz has got to come back, ASAP. Yes we’re thankful to Nick for stepping in and stepping up and leading the charge up the playoff hill to the Super Bowl Summit. But in our heart of hearts we know that Nick is, and always will be, dare I say, “just a backup?” I know that sounds cold and cruel, but we have to face the fact that Nick played over his head in the playoffs last year — and we love him for it. But Wentz is the man. Wentz is our guy.

Truth be told, in the pre-season, Foles looked bad, really bad.  (And as Jack Nicholson once said “You can’t handle the Truth!) But we must. Foles did just enough in the season opener to save himself and his team from an opening night nightmare. If it wasn’t for the infamous Eagle “D,” we may well have lost to the pitiful looking Atlanta Falcons AT HOME on the night we raised, or unveiled, our Super Bowl banner. (I like seeing a banner raised, don’t you?) 

Here’s what one sports writer had to say about the Eagles/Falcons season opener:

“Let the record show that if it wasn’t for Philadelphia’s defense stepping up their game when the team needed it the most, chances are Atlanta would have won this game in a big way, and it wouldn’t have even been close. Whether it was preventing the Falcons from scoring on a goal-line stand during the first drive of the game to holding them to 12 points in general, the Eagles’ defense showed early signs of being a top unit once again during the 2018 season.

When looking at all of the weapons Matt Ryan has to work with from Julio Jones to Devonta Freeman, the Falcons never make it easy for any opponent. And even though Jones ended up getting his 10 catches for 169 yards to lead all receivers in the game, at least the Eagles were able to keep him out of the end zone, including times when it mattered the most towards the end of the game.

The fact that Atlanta only recorded one touchdown the entire game despite numerous opportunities deep in Philadelphia territory shows how special of a unit Jim Schwartz has on this team. By showing they can keep a high-powered offense in the Falcons in check, the Eagles’ defense will use this as motivation moving forward.” https://section215.com/2018/09/07/philadelphia-eagles-4-takeaways-from-win-over-atlanta-falcons-week-1/

 And that’s the message: we all need motivation for moving forward. 

And so the question for you and me is this: can we use the triumphs of yesterday as motivation for moving forward? Can we repeat the achievements and accomplishments of yesterday and move forward to notch more victories today and tomorrow? We certainly can, but as with the Eagles, the question is not can we, but will we?

Do we have the will to forge a way forward against the odds? Do we have the will to endure hardness, as good soldiers? Do we have the will to believe God for new mercies? And do we have the wherewithal to weather the howling wintery winds of life and the sometimes cold, cutting comments of friends and foes alike? Do we have what it takes to withstand the onslaught of the enemy and to continue to fight the good fight of faith? With the help of Heaven we can.

And by God’s grace we will.

 

Don’t Press The Panic Button

Nick Foles down

Here’s some sage advice for all those out there who watched the Philadelphia Eagles play and win Super Bowl LII just a few short months ago. If you haven’t seen the Eagles play since the Super Bowl, and if you tuned in last night for the first time since that miracle victory to watch the Super Bowl Champions, you watched in horror as the Eagles lost to the Cleveland Browns in a preseason matchup. The final score: 5-0. Hello? Are you still there? Yes, I said FIVE nothing. Yes the Eagles may be getting off to a rough start, but don’t press the panic button.

Please note that I said the Cleveland Browns, not the Cleveland Indians. If the Phillies lost to the Indians in a BASEBALL game, and you told me that we lost to them 5-0, I’d say, bummer. But this was a professional, NFL FOOTBALL game. And the Eagles played those same Cleveland Browns who haven’t won a game since forever ago. That’s right. The winning team scored a whopping five points. And the Eagles were not the winning team.

What’s that? You don’t watch preseason football? Well, neither did I until the Eagles won the Super Bowl, baby! And I was looking for that Super Bowl bump to carry us right to Super Bowl LIII in the ATL, Hot-lanta.

What’s that? This 2018 Eagles team is NOT nor nowhere near like 2017 Super Bowl team? They’re not? That’s a rhetorical question, because if you watched most of the first half, like I did, you’d be ready to press the panic button. But don’t do it. Don’t press the panic button – just yet.

The 2017 Eagles started the season with Carson Wentz, and they went 2-2 in the preseason and then began the season by going on a tear – they were 10 -1 and on their way to the Super bowl long before we were even daring to dream about a Super Bowl appearance, much less a superlative Super Bowl Victory.

But that was then. And this is now. And now, while everyone says that the 2018 Eagles are BETTER (at least on paper) than the 2017 Eagles, it doesn’t look that way in real life. In real-time, my Iggles are looking like they still suffer from a post-Super Bowl slump. And at the bottom of the heap was our dear, darling Nick Foles.

Yes Nick Foles. Last night Nick Foles, the MVP of Super Bowl LII, against Cleveland, mind you, looked like a red-shirt rookie staring into a pair of high beams. In one particularly dismal stretch, Foles stumbled over his own two feet  and fell in the end zone committing a safety, was sacked and fumbled, and for an encore, he threw interceptions on back-to-back possessions. But don’t press the panic button.

Truth be told, Super Bowl champions aren’t shoe-ins to repeat the following season. Yet all of Philly is hoping and praying that our Birds do it again. But the way they look now, we’ll need another miracle to pull off another miracle.

As believers, we are not to panic. We aren’t supposed to be anxious, we’re not supposed to worry, and God told us not to fear and not to fret? Why? Because God’s got in all in control. He’s got the whole world in his hand, and he’s got you and me, brother in His hand. In other words, in scripture after scripture, we’re admonished to walk by faith, to trust God, and, yes, in my translation, not to press the panic button.

The disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus was fast asleep down in the hold. A storm arose, the winds were whiping and the boat was tripping. It was a high and stormy gale. And so the disciples pressed the panic button. But when Jesus woke up, he chastised them for fearing, and spoke to the sea and said, “Peace, be still.”

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Mark 4:39-41, KJV

Whether it’s watching your team get hammered in a preseason football game or struggling to believe the promises of God, don’t press the panic button. Whether you’re going through a tough test on the job or waiting for your miracle, don’t press the panic button. I fact, here’s what we all should do instead; have faith in God. Remember, whatever you’re going through . . .

don’t press the panic button.

Brian Dawkins: The Best Eagle Ever

 

 

brian_dawkins_football_hall_of_fame_speech
Brian Dawkins 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Speech

Faith, family & football: these are the three key elements in the life of Brian Dawkins, arguably one of the best players to don a Philadelphia Eagles uniform in the modern era. Dawkins is passionate about everything, and everything starts with faith. Faith the noun and faith the verb were Dawkins’ No. 1 traits. He practiced what he preached and he lived what he learned.

Dawkins’ speech at the 2018 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony was one for the ages. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and stop reading right now and watch it. Please. It’s totally worth it. B-Dawk was the first Eagle to reach the Hall since Reggie White, the “Minister of Defense” in 2005, and it was worth the wait. I’ve watched the clip over and over and I’m moved to tears and cry like a baby every time.

Dawkins began his speech by giving praise to God. He shouted “hallelujah” before uttering any other words. It set the tone and paved the way for a stirring, rousing, emotionally moving speech that revealed that there was no shame in Brian Dawkins game. His past, private struggles are now very public, as he detailed how his pain gave birth to his gain. Dawkins faith and his family, especially his wife, were vital to helping him deal with the vicissitudes of his life,

Dawkins was a great football player and he wasn’t great by accident. He was a great player because he is a better person. He urged everyone not to settle, but to push through the pain, because there is purpose in pain. You saw how he played the game; he played with reckless abandon. And that’s how he lives. Dawkins told us that his pain increased his faith exponentially. He said that he went “through” his struggles – he did not stay in them. And he encouraged everyone with these words: “Don’t stay where you are; keep moving and keep pressing through.”  

If we didn’t learn anything else from the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, we learned this; it’s faith that gets us through, it’s family that carries us through, and football, for most of the inductees, as rough and tough as it can be, connected the two together. Brian Dawkins, Randy Moss and Ray Lewis are symbols of the faith we need to have in God, the strength that family gives us, and the joy of being a part of a championship caliber team that endures pain and struggle and secures victories and upsets and comebacks and turnarounds in providential ways. 

So take it from Brian Dawkins: push through. There’s s gain on the other side of your pain.

 

Croatia Stuns England, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Is Theirs for the Taking

Coratia's mario-mandzukic 2018
Mario Mandzukic celebrates after scoring Croatia’s winning goal in their upset, comeback win against England

“Little” Croatia didn’t get the memo. Little Croatia didn’t read the script. And Little Croatia, the little country across the Adriatic Sea from Italy (see, sports and a geography lesson to boot!) that was carved out of former Yugoslavia (and a history lesson), is on its way to its first World Cup Final in only 27 years of existence. And along the way, Team Croatia defeated Argentina and host Russia. Unbelievable.

England was on its way to not just the World Cup Final, but to a victory in the World Cup Final. It was a fait accompli, or so they thought. Until Croatia got in the way with a come from behind, goal in extra time-turnaround win. It was an upset for the ages. England wasn’t supposed to lose. And Croatia wasn’t supposed to win. And that’s how the ball bounces in this summer of surprises.

And here’s the theological twist: what have people, or even you yourself, said that you couldn’t do? What seemingly insurmountable, unachievable, or impossible feat have you been told just can’t happen in your life? Write it down. The Biblical examples are endless. Abraham and Sarah had their promised baby boy late in their retirement years. So did Zacharias and Elizabeth. The woman with the issue of blood was cleansed after being sick for so long, and the widow from Nain had her son raised to life again. It can happen!

So write it down. Write what you are believing God for down. Put a magnet on it and stick it on the refrigerator. Write it in on a post it and stick it on your mirror. This way, every day, you can remind yourself of what you are believing God for. And then remember Croatia in the FIFA 2018 World Cup. Because if Croatia can pull off the improbable, you can too.

And if “little” Croatia defeats France in the final on Sunday, they will forever be the upstart that pulled off the upset that we will be talking about for ages to come. And, when your miracle comes to pass, we’ll be talking about you too.

“As Brazil Crashes Out, the Magic Appears to Be Gone, Too”

Brazil Loss in 2018 FIFA

Here’s an absoultely brilliantly written piece by By 

KAZAN, Russia — It is a fine line between respect and deference, and in the days before they came face to face with Brazil, Belgium’s players and staff did all they could to navigate it.

A World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil was a challenge, defender Vincent Kompany said, but he and his teammates would not be “losing sleep” over the identity of their opponents. There was “no weakness” in Brazil’s team, according to striker Romelu Lukaku, although “defensively, they can be taken” on.

Belgium’s coach, Roberto Martínez, would concede only one advantage to his opponent before his team beat Brazil, 2-1, on Friday. “The difference is, we have not won the World Cup, and they have won it five times,” he said. “Brazil has got that psychological barrier out of the way.”

That weight of history, of course, is what lends Brazil its magic. It is what makes Brazil the world’s most prestigious national team, a byword not just for taste and style but for success, too. That ultimate marriage of style and substance is what makes the sight of those canary yellow jerseys, blue shorts and white socks so enchanting, what makes the colors gleam just a little brighter.

To see them is to remember Pelé and Jairzinho, Romário and Ronaldo, all of the single-name stars who emerged, every four years, to light up a tournament and so many childhoods. It is to recall the goals they scored and the World Cups they won, the stories of their indelible greatness the world was told when it was young.

It is the same whether you are a fan or a player: Brazil is different; Brazil is special. Martínez is quite right — that effect must count for something, at some level, however deep in the subconscious. It must bewitch those who find themselves tasked with stopping the thing that so inspired them.

And yet if those jerseys are intimidating to see, they are surely no less daunting to wear. All those greats, all those ghosts, on your shoulders and on your back, reminding you of what you are supposed to achieve, who you are supposed to be, that only victory counts as success and everything else is failure.

But Martínez was also quite wrong. Brazil might have won five World Cups, but this Brazil team — this Brazil generation — has not won any, and it will be painfully, crushingly aware of it.

There are five stars on Brazil’s jersey representing those championships, but the last one was added in 2002. After this defeat, the soonest a sixth can join it is in 2022, a wait of two long decades for a nation that — for all the romance of jogo bonito — values only victory. This team, like the three that have gone before it, has failed.

There has not even been a succession of near misses. Brazil fell in the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010, just as it has in Russia. It went one step further on home soil in 2014, but found only humiliation, the sort that can scar a nation, waiting there.

Every time, the rhythm of the country’s reaction has been the same. There is a bout of soul-searching; the manager is sacked; a new coach promises to make the team more resilient, more tenacious. He does this by playing with more defensive midfielders. It does not work. The cycle begins again.

This time, it is even harder to believe such a response would be proportionate. Brazil was not embarrassed by Belgium: Tite’s team created more than enough chances to have forced extra time, at the very least. It can regard itself unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty for a foul on Gabriel Jesus. It can believe itself cursed that, in the first half in particular, Belgium defended so effectively by accident, rather than by design.

Not every defeat is proof of some spiritual failing. Not every defeat means everything is wrong. Certainly, there is no shortage of talent on this Brazilian squad, just as there was no shortage of talent in any of the squads since 2002. Neymar is not a mirage, and neither are Jesus, Philippe Coutinho, Douglas Costa and the others.

There are some aging legs in the back line, and something of a dearth of young, dynamic fullbacks, but this is a country that exports thousands of players every year. It is a place where players will continue to grow.

That is what has allowed Brazil to build its history, that endless flowering of talent, one star replaced smoothly by another, year after year, cycle after cycle, decade after decade.

What has happened since 2002, though, suggests this is no longer the advantage it once was. The playing field has been leveled: Brazil is no longer pre-eminent in the way it once was, possessed of enough raw brilliance to carry it through. The explanation for that does not lie in Brazil’s shortcomings, but in someone else’s strengths.

It is not a coincidence that all four of this year’s World Cup semifinalists, whatever happens in the second set of quarterfinals, are from Europe. This is, increasingly, a European competition. All four of the most recent world champions have been European. Since 1990, what might be broadly termed soccer’s modern era, there have been eight World Cups. Brazil has won two. Europe will have picked up the rest.

At least one manager here has confided privately that Europe’s power — in terms of finance, influence, and physicality — has become almost impossible to compete with, certainly for Africa, Asia and North America, and increasingly for South America, the game’s other traditional stronghold.

The major nations of the Old World have industrialized youth development so effectively that France, Germany and Spain can now rival Brazil and Argentina as a source of players. Its smaller countries have such easy access to best practices that their size is no longer an issue.

Their players and coaches can be exported easily to the best leagues in the world. The latest developments in coaching, sports science, nutrition and the rest can be imported rapidly. It is that process that allowed Iceland to draw with Argentina, and be a little disappointed it did not win. It is that process that has left Belgium in the World Cup semifinals, and Croatia and Sweden with hopes of joining them.

And it is that process that has seen Brazil come and go from four World Cups, all without success. Each one, each failing, simply adds to the pressure that awaits the next team to try to end the wait, to try to overcome all of the advantages that Europe can call on.

The players in those yellow jerseys know as well as anyone that Brazil has won five World Cups. They know more than everyone that they have not contributed to any of them. Increasingly, those victories are not a psychological barrier that lies broken at their feet, but one that towers above them, standing in their way, casting them into shadow.