Thou Shalt Console Thy Brother

alshon jeffrey drop

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.”

You Just Gotta Believe!

The Philadelphia Eagles just came back from the dead and made the playoffs, and in so doing they showed us how to participate in our own resurrection (And by the way, Saint Nick lives!)

At one point in this post-Super Bowl, celebration season, the Philadelphia Eagles were a woeful 4-6. They had just lost to the New Orleans Saints 48 -7 and with that loss all expectation for the playoffs was taken away; the season was essentially and technically over. To add insult to injury, our star QB, Carson Wentz, bruised his back and a slew of other injuries ensued; painfully, the Eagles likelihood of making the playoffs went from bad to worse. Faithful Philly fans everywhere thought that the Eagles chances of getting into the Playoffs and defending their crown were slim to none. Or so it seemed.  Then it all turned around.

After losing to the Cowboys 29 – 23 in overtime, the Eagles played their best football of the season and finished on a three game winning streak. After being dead in the water, the Eagles blanked the Redskins 24-0 on the last day of the season and won this must win game on the road to finish 9 -7, earning a Wild Card entry into the playoffs. The Eagles survived mistakes and heartbrakes, and are a living testimony of how to overcome all kinds of adversity.

But to actually get into the playoffs, Philly needed help. And help (from Heaven?) came in the form of the Chicago Bears’ No. 1 Defense.  For the Eagles to make the playoffs this season the Minnesota Vikings had to lose and the Bears had to win. So what happened? The Vikings lost at home to those same Bears 24 – 10. Whew! 

Christianity teaches that death is not final. Not physically or spiritually. The central and cardinal doctrine of Christianity affirms that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. Without the resurrection, the apostle Paul declared, Christian preaching and belief are pointless and meaningless. Because of the resurrection of Christ, we too can experience resurrections. We too can get help from Heaven to turn death into life.

Your situation may seem dead, your marriage may stink the stench of death, your children may have disappeared and departed from you, your finances may have suffered a fatal blow, and even your future may seem listless and lifeless.  But there is always hope. Always.

The Eagles making the playoffs this season just goes to show that sports teach the hope of resurrection. Resurrection is help from above descending live a dove to bring life and love. And even though we may feel or even be dead, we must participate in our own resurrection, because help only comes when we have hope. In games and seasons when it seems as if all hope is lost, teams can speak life and determine they are not facing a dead end, and we can too. It’s not just about being positive; it’s a firm faith and a battleax belief that our lot in life is to overcome every dip and every drop that we may descend into.

The Eagles making the playoffs just goes to prove that it’s not over until it’s over. The Eagles just proved to us once again that all things are possible to those who believe. So be encouraged. It’s not over. On this New Year’s Eve, it’s just beginning.   

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.

Tiger Woods: Will He Make It All The Way Back?

PGA Championship - Final Round
Tiger Woods at the 2018 PGA Championship, Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis

Now it seems as if Tiger Woods is always a bridesmaid, and not the bride. 

Tiger didn’t win the 2018 PGA Championship today. Tiger did not win his elusive 15th career major title at the PGA Championship. And Tiger did not sink the shots and the puts and the drives that he needed to hit to come out on top. But Tiger did win the hearts of the fans and he came away encouraged after his best finish at a major in nearly a decade. He lost by two strokes; and he was only one shot off the lead coming down the back nine. And he’s come in 2nd seven times now since coming back from back surgery.  

“The St. Louis fans waited 17 years to see Woods, and he delivered a performance that took golf back in time. Without hitting a fairway on the front nine, Woods cut the four-shot deficit to two. Dialed in on the back nine, he hit his approach to a foot on the 15th hole to get within one shot. The winner, Brooks Koepka, heard the roars from the crowd, all for Woods, and he answered with great shots of his own, finally converting the birdies to pull away.

Amid relentless pandemonium, Koepka ran off three straight birdies to end the front nine and seize control. When he was tied with Adam Scott through 14 holes, with Woods one shot behind, he delivered back-to-back birdies.

The crowd was enormous, louder than anything in golf this side of Augusta National or a Ryder Cup, and Woods looked closer than ever to capping his comeback from four back surgeries with another major.

Even with two bogeys, Woods shot 64 for his lowest final round in a major. He finished at 266, beating by three shots his best 72-hole score in a major.

But, it wasn’t enough. ‘I played hard,” Woods said. “I made a bit of a run. It looks like I’m going to come up a little short.’” http://www.cbc.ca/sports/golf/pga-championship-final-round-tiger-woods-brooks-koepka-1.4782774

And sometimes we all feel that way too, don’t we? We play our best, and live our best, and play our hearts out and give our all; and yet and still we come up short.

This is where the spiritual side of sports comes in. When we come up short, God fills in the gaps and the holes and the cracks so that we can be healthy and whole. We are only complete in Him. We are only victorious in Him. We are only winners in Him. In fact,  we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Thank God. Thank God for Jesus. Thank God that Heaven knew that we would come up short and came to our rescue.

God is still filling in our cracks and covering for us when we fall short. And He does it every time.  God is still giving us bonus “stoppage” time to score a goal and giving us overtime to win the game and giving us extra innings to drive in the winning run. God is still redeeming our lives from corruption and disruption and destruction. Yes, God is still working miracles for us.

Perhaps God will work a miracle for Tiger Woods, on the golf course, and in the course of his life,  too.

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.

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy! (The Phillies Are In First Place!)

Phillies Logo

That’s right folks; the Philadelphia Phillies are in first place in the National League East. And they’re looking good doing it. Well, kinda good.  It’s a stunning turn of events. The Nationals were SUPPOSED to be the best team in the East, but not so. And the Braves came out this season with a little something to prove, but they find themselves going neck and neck with the Phils. And I love it.

It seems like this: every time I watch Sports Center or pay a little too much attention to my ESPN App or am a little too concerned about the standings, they’re losing or they’ve lost. Conversely, when I don’t pay attention or forget to check in or deliberately say “whatever” in a good, unfazed and nonplussed way, they win!  So, is that the formula and the principle — don’t be anxious, don’t worry about it, and don’t sweat the small stuff?

It seems like the same philosophy that pays in life works for us on the field of play too, and vice versa. In essence, sports and life are teaching us, and each other, the same lesson. It seems, yea rather, it is in fact the prescription for a stress free, worry free life.  Whatever happens, in spite of what happens, and yea, even BECAUSE of what happens, we must learn to live this way. The ticket to being “care free” in this life of cares is that feel-good, Bobby McFerrin song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” . . . in Jesus!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=A0geKeeye1Zbd8sAYxdXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0N2Noc21lBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNwaXZz?p=Don%27t+Worry%2C+Be+Happy&fr2=piv-web&fr=mcafee#id=9&vid=78f30eec3fdd9a9a1412ac84a021a934&action=view

And here’s our scriptural ammunition for the fight:

Philippians 4:6

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.    New American Standard Updated Version

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.     New Living Translation

 

 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

1 Peter 5:7, KJV

Toronto?  Kaw-Why!?

kawhi-leonard - gregg-popovich

Sometimes somethings just don’t make a whole lot of sense on paper. And sometimes somethings make less sense in reality. And Sometimes somethings weren’t even a good idea at the time. Hence is the Kawhi Leonard trade from San Antonio to Toronto. Yes, Toronto. That perennially great regular season team that can’t do a darn thing in the playoffs. Now they’ve essentially rented Kawhi for one year, because next year he’s a Free Agent. (And why does free agency cost so much?)

Toronto traded Kawhi for DeMar DeRozan, but “in the initial aftermath, reports came out indicating that neither of the star players involved were thrilled about the deal, and in fact Leonard had no interest in playing with the Raptors. However, it seems that Leonard has softened that stance a bit. According to a report from Bruce Arthur, the Raptors have had ‘positive’ talks with Leonard’s camp, and the star has shown no indication that he’ll holdout.

And so Kawhi Leonard finally got his wish. He’s no longer a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Only, the blockbuster trade that got him out of town sent him not to Los Angeles, but the polar opposite: Toronto. Early on Wednesday morning, the Spurs and Raptors swung a huge deal that sent Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors and DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Spurs.

So again, the $25,000 question is “Why?” Why did the marriage between Kawhi and San Antonio, and more specifially between Kawhi and Greg Popovich, go so bad so fast? Why Toronto? And why do teams trade their best player to a team they don’t want to play for?

Sometimes somethings just don’t make sense. But for those who know and trust God, there is a silver lining. Romans 8:28 says that “And we know that all things work together for good for them who love God; to those who are called according to his purpose.” The Message Bible puts it this way:

That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Every detail is worked into something good. I don’t know what Kawhi’s spiritual status is, but I absolutely know mine. And that means that all of the bad and the ugly are working together for my good. Thank God. Job felt the same way. He went thorugh somethings that did not make sense. And without this promise, Job and I would have gone crazy a long time ago. So we hold to this promise, and all the while sing this old hymn, until our change comes:

We are tossed and driven
on the restless sea of time;
somber skies and howling tempests
oft succeed a bright sunshine;
in that land of perfect day,
when the mists are rolled away,
we will understand it better by and by.

Refrain:
By and by, when the morning comes,
when the saints of God are gathered home,
we’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome,
for we’ll understand it better by and by.