Thou Shalt Console Thy Brother

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Alshon Jeffrey did not lose the game. His dropped pass near the 20 yard line in the waning moments of the Divisional Playoff game against New Orleans in the Super Dome certainly would have put the defending Super Bowl champions in position to score the winning touchdown, but it just didn’t happen this time.  Primed for another miraculous comeback victory, Nick Foles drove the Philadelphia Eagles into scoring range down just six points to the No. 1 seed Saints ahead of the two-minute warning.

Then, zap. The magic was gone. We all hoped that Saint Nick had one more trick up his sleeve and we all believed that he could pull just one more rabbit out of his hat, but his pass, which was right on target, was dropped by the Eagles best receiver.  “Foles zipped a pass to his top receiver, Alshon Jeffery. The ball slipped through the wideout’s hands and landed in the gut of Saints corner Marshon Lattimore. Drop. INT. Comeback bid evaporated.

The interception epitomized the Eagles’ offensive struggles the final 45 minutes of the 20-14 loss to the Saints. And Jeffrey felt like he had blown the game all by himself.

“I let my teammates down. I let the city of Philadelphia down. That’s on me. We’ll be back next year for sure,” Jeffery said in the locker room. “One play don’t define me. I mean, all of the greats, they have missed game-winning shots. … So it happens. It’s part of football. I just hated the way it happened in the playoffs and it was the final moment.”

It’s hard. I mean, it’s really hard because he’s so down,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters of his message to Jeffery. “But for me, it’s about staying positive. Listen, he’s made many, many big catches for us this season and he will continue to do that. He’s just got to keep his head up. Don’t let one play define you. It’s not who he is. He’s too good of a player. He’ll embrace it obviously and he’ll be better for it, but I told him to keep his head up and keep playing.”

The Eagles started the game scorching hot scoring back-to-back 75-plus-yard touchdown drives to open the game with a 14-0 lead to stun the Superdome fans. The Eagles gobbled up 151 yards and eight first downs in the opening quarter.

But then the momentum shifted and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints scored 20 unanswered points to overcome their biggest deficit ever in post season play. There were a lot of plays between the first quarter and the fourth quarter that got away from Eagles, and that’s why Alshon shouldn’t shoulder the weight of this loss on his own.

But back to the play that said it all for the Eagles. Nick didn’t play all that well, and the defense, while holding Brees to 20 points, gave up too many big plays.  And Alshon Jeffrey did not lose the game. No he did not. The moral of the story is this: “one play and one day does not define you.” No it does not. And those of us who understand life and living know that a legacy is not built or destroyed in a day. Your legacy is built on the test of your character over time.

Keep your chin up. Hold you head high, and be an encouragement to someone who may have failed today but has the promise of destiny tomorrow.  Because failures are not final, and God has a plan for you, and he plans on using the good and the bad, the happy and the sad of your life to make you better.

So always remember, after a tough loss, the first commandment with promise is “thou shalt encourage thy brother.”

The Mother Of All Comebacks: Ieshia Champs

“When I was six years old, while playing with an old doll on a beat up sofa, I heard a knock at the door. My grandmother opened the door to reveal a woman I had seen earlier at school that day. My grandmother burst into tears and I was terribly confused. In that moment, I was being taken away and placed in the custody of Children Protective Services. Where was my mother? My father? Both were out on drug binges and I had not seen them in days.

Over the years, the only ounce of stability I received was in the eight hours I spent in the classroom. It was my comfort zone. I was a confused fourteen year old child who had already lived in over six different residences between all four years of high school. Some were friends whose parents allowed me to stay long term, and others were friends who sometimes had to sneak me in to stay the night. I was supposed to be thinking about what color lip gloss to wear or where to hang out with my friends over the weekend, however, I was worried about whose house could I stay at the following day. Soon things became overbearing and I reluctantly dropped out of school during my senior year. I wanted to help others who were in awful situations, perhaps plead someone’s case for innocence, yet I had no diploma and no desire to return to school. As the years grew, my dreams for becoming an attorney died.

By January of 2009, I was a mother of three and given the news of expecting my fourth child. As excited as I was, this turned out to be the most traumatic year I had ever experienced. Each month presented an overwhelming tragedy. I lost everything I owned in a house fire, was laid off from my job, and while seven months pregnant, lost my children’s father to cancer. I was suddenly a single mother of four with nothing to fall back on; not even my sanity.  I had four children, and I was already in my late 20’s. However, in the midst of this turmoil, I went back to school to obtain my GED. I did not want my children to experience what I did as a child. I had to succeed for them and for myself.

Upon matriculation into Thurgood Marshall School of Law, I was scared. I was a mother of five young children, and the only help I had was that of my church family and my sister, who also has five children of her own. My sisters’ love and care for me and my children helped me out in ways that are indescribable. She cooked for us, watched my children and hers after doing long hours at work, and most importantly, she always encouraged me and was a shoulder to lean on when I cried. She has been there every step of the way for me, despite her own personal obstacles she’s had to overcome. My church family has walked this journey with me since day one and has prayed for me daily, talked me out of giving up and most of all, they’ve been a family like no other. They’ve opened their home to me and my children and comforted me. It is situations such as those that gives me the drive and eagerness to become a successful attorney. Many of my peers identify me as a walking testimony, and are amazed at where I am today. I was once told that the odds were against me. I responded by not just defying the odds, but destroying them by resurrecting a dream that died.

I took the pictures with my kids because they helped me through school. They’re graduating too! They would help me review with flash cards while I cooked. They would sit as a mock jury while I taught them what I learned that day. I would sit in my closet and pray and cry because I was overwhelmed and my oldest son, David, would gather his siblings, give them a snack, make them take a bath, gather their school clothes, all to make things easier for me. And I had no knowledge of him doing that until I went to do it!”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ieshia Champs of Houston, Texas.

When You Get Down, You Don’t Have To Go Out

Curry Victorious

Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors were down by 22 points to the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. Twenty Two Points! And yet they won by twelve, 110 to 98. That’s a 34 point swing. Talk about a turnaround! When they were down, they were mentally tough and physically smart and they didn’t let their circumstances dictate their destiny.

What could have been an ego bruising, pride damaging loss turned into a late season, message sending, thriller of a win ON THE ROAD for the Warriors. The Spurs were trying to send the first place Warriors a message. Instead, the golden boys from Golden State sent a gold leaf message of their own by erasing a disappointing deficit and turning it into a surprising surplus. 

The message to the rest of us and even to the best of us is loud and clear: if the Warriors can do it in sports, we can do it in life, too.

So always, always, always remember this: if you get way down, you don’t have to wither out. To mix sports metaphors, being down in the count doesn’t have to mean you can’t or won’t hit a homerun. Quite the contrary; being down is not the end. Staying down can mean the end, but we all know that down is not out.

We are destined to win. Even though disappointment and discouragement and setbacks and letdowns are a part of life, they are not the lot of life. The keyword here is “part.” They don’t make up the whole of living. Time is filled with swift transition. Peace like a river can attend your way one minute, and then sorrows like sea billows roll can rush in the next. But the key is our faith and our focus.

Just like Steph Curry and the Warriors have shown us, when you get down, don’t stay down. Keep your chin up and your hopes high. Watch your body language and check your facial expressions.  And when you have a down moment or a down day or a down season, just do like Mo Farah did last summer in the Olympics: get back up and get back going! https://godandsports.net/2016/08/13/note-from-mo-farah-get-back-up-and-get-back-going/ 

A good reminder is the poem from the unknown poet, who once gave us these encouraging words:

Don’t Quit

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Wins That You Just Have To Have

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Tonight’s Monday Night.

And that means Monday Night Football. And tonight’s football game between my Philadelphia Eagles (pronounced Iggles for those that don’t know), and the New York Football Giants, is a must win. It’s a must win for my Eagles in every way. https://godandsports.net/2014/11/21/a-must-win/

Some games mean more than others. Some games count for more than others. And some games are weighted heavier than others. I know what you’re thinking; no they don’t. Every game is weighted the same, you say. Not so. Some games are bigger and larger and greater in size and scope and significance than others. And I’m talking regular season here. I’m not even talking playoffs (Playoff’s? Are you kiddin’ me?) https://godandsports.net/2014/01/11/play-on-in-the-playoffs/

Anyway, all Eagles fans can do tonight is sing our fight song and hope that the home team comes with their “A” Game, because they’re gonna need it.

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There are times when you just have to have a win. Any kind of win. A win can be a break when you’re late on anything or a favor from a friend or a hand from a stranger. Those are wins, and when you’re in a straight or in a fix or in a bind of any kind, you just have to have a win.

And, believe it or not, these wins come by faith. Because sometimes, in order to get a break, you have to make a break.

Spiritually speaking, we need to discern when to go for broke and when to play the averages. We need to know when to tune it up and when to tone it down. We need to know when to holler and when to whisper. We need to know what’s urgent and what’s just important. And that takes maturity and sagacity and wisdom and understanding and insight and foresight. 

All of these come from God. And to get there, it sounds like we should pray the Serenity Prayer. Because there are some things that you CAN change. And in order for things to change, you have to know what you can change, and know what you can’t.

SerenityPrayer

That’s God’s Playbook.

Luck Runs Out On the Irish

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Kentucky 68: Notre Dame 66.

That was the best college basketball game of the year. The Notre Dame Irishmen gave Kentucky all they had. They gave Kentucky fits and fists and battled and baffled the presumptive champions until the final buzzer. They left nothing in the tank and put everything on the court, and that’s the way the game should be played. Wow.

What a lesson in how both to preserve and give 100% and how to hang in there and give it all you’ve got. You’ve got to give it to Notre Dame, and you’ve got to take your hats off to Kentucky too. It was both an awful win and an unlucky loss at the same time. Both teams played their hearts out, played their guts out, and played the lights out; unfortunately only one team can walk out a winner.

So let’s learn another lesson; let’s not be intimidated by the Kentucky’s in our life. Let’s not be afraid or alarmed or overawed or overwhelmed by unbeaten seven footers or undefeated three-point shooters. Learn the lesson. You can. You can beat King Kentucky. And Kentucky can, and did, abolish the Irish.

A Few of My Favorite Things

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Underdogs that win and teams that turn it around and competitors that comeback from the dead. These are a few of my favorite things.

Yes these are a few of my favorite things. The classic song from the classic, 1966 Academy Award winning film “The Sound of Music” cannot be improved upon, but someone should tell Julie Andrews that she can add the NCAA Tournament to the list!

The NC State Wolfpack just defeated the No. 1 Seed Villanova Wildcats to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Talk about sweet surprises. It’s not like the Wolfpack hasn’t been to the Big Dance almost uninvited before. In 1983, Jimmy Valvano and his mass of miracle makers defeated TWO, count ‘em, TWO No. 1 Seeds, Virginia and then Houston, en route to winning the National Championship in the upset win of the ages.

Upsets, comebacks and turnarounds. These are few of my favorite things. Upsets, because everyone loves an underdog. Comebacks, because we’ve all fallen behind and fallen off and fallen down with no hope of getting back up again. And turnarounds are only illegal if they’re committed in defeat. But U-turns and reversal of fortunes are welcome by all those whose feet are going downhill fast and are facing a dead-end.

But some way, somehow, a miracle emerges. Right before our very eyes, the impossible and the improbable incredibly occurs. Our wildest dreams come true and the world is watching in wonder as the Maker of marvels and the Winnower of wonders surprises us with yet another superlative that only He is capable of conjuring up.

NC State Believes

It’s so spiritual. Paul told the church at Ephesus that “you lived in this world without God and without hope.” And that goes for me and you too. We have all had hopeless situations and deflated expectations. But God stepped in just in the nick of time to save the day, and save us too.

A caring coach and passionate players are just a few of my favorite things. NC State’s Mark Gottfried is a good coach. And a good coach is one of my very favorite things. Coach Gottfried hugged and held and embraced and encouraged his players to the point that I would play for him right here and right now. A coach that truly cares and even loves his players and players that respond in kind by winning a tight ball game and triumphing over a tough team is food for the soul. Yes, these are a few of my favorite things.

NC State v Villanova

So add to the list, because “when the dog bites and when the bee stings, and when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things,” . . .  including an NC State upset win over a No. 1 Villanova, and then I don’t feel so bad!

And the rest of the song goes:

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eye lashes
Silver white winters that melt into spring
These are a few of my favorite things!

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
my favorite things
and then I don’t feel so bad!

God and Football: Faith, Hope and Love

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Joe Gibbs, the former Washington Redskins head coach who won three Super Bowls, is a shining example of faith and football, and the connection and correlation between God and sports. Football will draw you closer to God, as long as you don’t stay home and watch games on Sunday instead of going to church. Ha, Ha. Before you stop reading, please let me explain. What does God have to do with sports in general, and football in specific, you say? Well, I’m so glad you asked. (And we’re talkin’ American football, not soccer, for all of you in the rest of world who call our soccer, football). God loves football. Why? Because God is all about upsets, comebacks and turnarounds. And in the National Football League, in the good ‘ole NFL, we see upsets, comebacks and turnarounds on a weekly basis.  Watching and believing for wins, mostly upset wins, courageous comeback wins and terrific turnaround wins is as spiritual as it gets and requires faith, hope and love. Football requires faith. The Seattle fans had lost faith. When Seattle lost to Dallas a few weeks ago, we gave Russell Wilson and the Seahawks up for dead. Today, those same Seahawks gouged the Giants 38-17, and all of a sudden, the defending champions are back in action.  Sounds like a turnaround to me. Football requires hope. And Dallas Cowboys fans can only hope.  The Dallas Cowboys, after that impressive win in Seattle, lost to their arch-rival, the Washington Redskins, IN DALLAS on Monday Night Football! Yikes! And then the very next week they lost again to the surprising but not so impressive Arizona Cardinals. (I’m sorry, but am I the only one who doesn’t believe that the Cardinals are for real?) Anyway, this was the first time the Cowboys dropped two in a row in a while. Now, the Boys are Back, as they just jettisoned the Jaguars 31-17 in England. That’s right, England – not New England, but Brittan England, as in “on the other side of the pond” England. American Football in England? Oh well. Football requires love. The Philadelphia Eagles have not won a Super Bowl in my lifetime. We’ve come close, but as we all know, close only counts in horse shoes. Nonetheless, we Eagle fans love our beloved Eagles, no matter what. Just like any other die-hard fan, you’ve gotta love your team through the thick and through the “thins;” through the ups and the downs, and if that’s not spiritual, I don’t know what is. God loves us regardless of how many times we lose or lie down, fail or falter, flop or fold. No matter what, God loves us and won’t give up on us. No matter how many times we fumble or stumble, bumble or tumble, God loves us and will stick with us, no matter what. I am a preacher preaching a gospel of upsets, comebacks and turnarounds. So if you or anybody you know needs a pick me upper, a shot in the arm, a jolt of encouragement or energy, a boost or a lift, reassurance or reinforcement to get a dead battery jump started and up and running again, just watch football. Keep track of your team as they play week in and week out. This requires faith, (especially if you’re an Eagles fan, right?) as you are hoping and praying that they (we) win a Super Bowl in our lifetime. So just remember, football helps and even requires you to be spiritual. It requires faith, hope and love.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. Hebrews 13:13, NLT