March Madness: Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds

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“Nothing feels better than this,” UNR coach Eric Musselman said. “Nothing. Sweet 16!”

UVA made history. So did UMBC and so did Loyola-Chicago and so did Buffalo. UVA was the first No. 1 Seed to lose to a 16 Seed. Likewise, UMBC has the distinct honor of being the first 16 Seed to upset a No. 1 Seed. It’s never happened before, and we all thought that it never would. Correction: we didn’t believe it ever could. But it did.

Loyola-Chicago, an 11 Seed, defeated Miami, a Six Seed, and then turned right around and defeated Tennessee, a Three Seed. Madness.   Buffalo, seeded 13, THIRTEEN!, beat Arizona, a 4 Seed — in the first round. And that’s just for starters.

Xavier, another No. 1 Seed, is gone. North Carolina and Cincinnati, both No. 2 Seeds, are gone too, and so is Michigan State, a No. 3 Seed. Notice a trend here? Houston beat Michigan – no wait, Michigan actually won! And on a buzzer beater by a freshman, no less! Goodness! And it’s going to snow tomorrow night! Talk about March Madness. There was barely a bad game in the tournament. Yes some were tough to watch because of poor officiating and spells of sporadic shooting, but all in all, it’s seems to be the year of the underdog. We could talk all day about UMBC beating UVA, but how about Nevada’s win?

Josh Hall converted an offensive rebound for the tiebreaking basket with 9.1 seconds left as University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) erased a 22-point deficit in the final minutes of a stunning 75-73 victory over Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. UNR’s stirring comeback — the second-largest in tournament history — came just two days after the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack rallied from 14 points down to beat Texas 87-83 for its first NCAA victory since 2007.

The Wolf Pack (28-7) move on to an all-upstart South Region semifinal matchup with 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago (30-5) on Thursday. Cincinnati, the No. 2 seed, never trailed until Hall’s tiebreaking basket but watched its lead disintegrate as it failed to make a basket in the final 5:45.

Nothing feels better than this,” UNR coach Eric Musselman said. “Nothing. Sweet 16!”

This year, perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, there have been more upsets, comebacks and turnarounds than you can shake a stick at. We’ve seen epic victories, historic collapses, and a little of bit everything else in between. It’s so much like living in the Bible days, it’s scary. It’s almost as if the Bible is coming off of the pages, or up out of your smart phone. The holy writ says that “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first”. That’s what we’re seeing here.

It’s so spiritual, it’s so mystical, and it’s so applicable to everyday life in general and to our lives in specific that we have no choice but to stop and take note. How are the teams who no one picked to win winning with reckless abandon?   

I submit that we must acknowledge the otherworldly dimension of sports. But before you dismiss this notion, hear me out.  Not everyone believes in prayer, but those that do believe that faith and works actually work together for good. Mix some elbow grease in with a good game plan and teamwork and a technical reason for how David defeated Goliath and, viola, you get Loyola-Chicago winning two games in this tournament, and  UBMC trumping over an overconfident and (shall we say overly arrogant?) Virginia team that swears by its “system” come what may.

Miracles do happen on ice and yes, on the hardwood. You may not be a believer, but after this weekend’s upsets, comebacks and turnarounds, I don’t see how you can’t be.

Cleveland Breaks The Record!

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Don’t settle for what others have done. The path to victory is paved with the desire to exceed and excel and extend and expand upon what has gone before and what has already been. Newness of life and freshness of spirit are Heaven’s specialty.  God is all about newness and novelty and innovation and imagination.  So if you’re feeling drab and glum and sad and bummed out, break the record.

Don’t be a broken record. Don’t keep repeating the same ole, same ole to your own detriment and demise. Break the record. Do something different, special and exciting that will get the juices flowing. This urban idiom is one of my favorites. According to The Urban Dictionary, “ ‘Get The Juices Flowing’ means to become inspired to greater creativity, productivity, or energy, or to cause such a feeling in someone.” Isn’t that great?

So don’t miss how important and significant it is for the Cleveland Indians to win 21 games in a row. They broke the consecutive wins record of 20 games set by the Oakland Athletics, who won 20 consecutive games in 2002. The Indians are now tied with the 1935 Chicago Cubs of the National League with 21 straight wins.

Why is this such a big deal? First, setting records and then breaking others is spiritual.   “The most recent record setting win was a 5-3 victory over the Tigers at Progressive Field on Wednesday afternoon in a game sealed by a diving Lonnie Chisenhall catch, evoking a postseason-worthy roar from the 29,346 in attendance and that gave goosebumps to anybody with a sporting soul”. That’s right. If you have a “sporting soul” you understand why breaking records in sports and in life is eerie and even ethereal. http://m.indians.mlb.com/news/article/254088838/indians-21-game-win-streak-against-all-odds/   

“This is the longest win streak in the 116-year history of the American League. It is tied for the second-longest win streak of all-time. It is the most consecutive games any team has won in 82 years. It is a baseball streak that is very much anti-baseball, because it counters everything we know about the humbling nature of a game played just about every day, a game in which ‘momentum is the next day’s starter’ and ‘Hall of Famers fail seven out of 10 times’ and all those other truisms you’ve heard time and again.’”  http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/sports/indians-set-mark-with-21st-straight-win-now-chase-disputed-mlb-record/CMFfkKn1OLvOQi4AW8ehXP/ Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

So, this is for those of us who relish swimming upstream and skirting across the field and cutting against the grain: let’s find a record to break. Let’s prove to all of the “go with the flow,” humdrum, dull, droll, dreary denizens of life that breaking records and reaching beyond our grasp is indeed worth the extra effort after all.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016: “Let the Games Begin”

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How big a deal are the Olympics?  Big. Big, big. Big, big, big. Big deal. The Olympics are a really big deal. Under the best of civil circumstances, it’s no small feat to pull them off, and Brazil has had her fair share of challenges. Yet and still Brazil is getting these Olympics off the ground. That’s why I’m pulling for this impoverished and embattled nation and praying for them to win and win big. 

Many countries coming together under the banner of peace and harmony and goodwill is a genuinely good thing.  A manifold diversity of nationalities and ethnicities and cultures and customs gathering together at all is not a bad thing. So here’s to a safe, sensational, marvelous and memorable fortnight of games.

Harmony is of God. Peace and accord and unity and agreement under the banner of sports and sportsmanship can’t be bad; in fact it’s a very good thing. And so even if “religion” or faith is not a central theme or principal premise of the games, they are part and parcel of the Olympic spirit.

Amidst and amongst the multiple countries and the myriad of contestants, each and every athlete has the chance and the challenge of becoming a champion and winning gold. And winning, as we all know, is spiritual. Yes participating is an honor, but “you play to win the game. Hello!” Right? (Thanks Herman Edwards).

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post wrote a poignant article about the games being in Rio. Here’s a sampling of what she said:

The Games have stressed a city already under stress; you can see that in the stoic faces waiting for the groaning city buses that aren’t permitted in the dedicated lanes and the angry protests that followed the torch. But by the eve of the Opening Ceremonies, it also was plain what a grand if teetering metropolis this is, with its eras stacked one top of another: imperial, colonial, belle epoque and modern.

This fact gives the Rio Games an atmosphere unlike any before: there is a mixed undercurrent here, a skeptical pride, a political roil and above all a juxtaposition of gorgeousness and want, existing side by side. These are an especially striated, bifurcated Olympics.

But I agree with this line from Sally; “Bringing the Olympics here was not a mistake despite the unfinished buildings and exposed pipes and sewer water.” Every athlete has a right to have a chance, and so do countries and nations. And this is Brazil’s chance.

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This is the first Olympics in South America, the second poorest continent on the globe, behind Africa. And it is Biblical and spiritual that the poor and the lowly and the modest and the common man amongst us deserves to be raised up and built up and brought up to where they belong.

And this is the spiritual side of the Olympics.

Let It Snow!

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For those of us that love snow, this weekend will be snow heaven. That’s the good news. The reality is that the storm storming our way will be more than a covering of the ground with  wavy, white, winter wool. The truth is that the weather will do more than make our woods a wintery wonderland. When it comes to snow, to use a basketball term, the flurry of fun soon turns to “one and done.” Snow may be majestic in the mountains, but in the city, it can get the opposite of pretty. After watching it all come down, the fury begins when we have to shovel it all up. But let’s focus on the positive.

So many life lessons can be learned from the snow. First, snow is God given. This may seem an over simplistic significance, but it’s a substantial sign, nonetheless.  The book of Job speaks of the “treasury of the snow” and traveling to where snow is made (Job 38:22).  Yes weatherman on the Weather Channel will tell us of the science of snow, but man can’t make snow in abundance like God can. The source and sum of snow’s beauty and bounty originates in high, heaven alone.

Snow is also symbolic and has spiritual significance. Snow has a mystical meaning and a sacred substance. Its’ purity and piety and innocence and intelligence are woven into every seasonal snowfall. God says that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”  Snow, especially freshly fallen snow, reminds us of the purity and the surety we have when we give and surrender ourselves over to the Maker and Master of those teeny, tiny ice crystals. 

Further, each and every snowflake is different and distinct. Alone and apart, each one can’t do much of anything. But when they fall and flurry together, snowflakes can mass and mound and meat together to shut down a whole town. Snowfalls can be seismic. They can effect and endanger life and limb.

So let’s pray for safety and security during this mammoth, monstrous, behemoth of a blizzard. And let’s remember the meaning and the message of snow. It can deliver a powerful punch, both naturally and spiritually.  

Determined To Disapoint the devil

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 “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”  Romans 6:4

I am determined to disappoint the devil.  The enemy of my soul wants me to capitalize his name; but I will not. 

I am determined to disappoint the devil. The enemy wants me to fail: I am determined to succeed.  The enemy wants me to quit: I am determined to keep going. The enemy wants me to doubt and fear: I am determined to walk in faith and hope.  The enemy wants me to hate; I am determined to love. The enemy is trying to overcome me with evil: I am determined to overcome evil with good.  The enemy wants me to make the same mistakes over and over again; I am determined to learn from my mistakes.

Determine to disappoint the devil.  Insanity personified is doing  the same ‘ole ting and expecting different results. Stop doing the same negative things.  Stop thinking the same negative thoughts.  Stop making the same stupid mistakes. Stop failing the same test over, and over again.

Determine to disappoint the devil.  Don’t give him the satisfaction of hating and holding grudges and having temper-tantrums when you don’t get your way.  Stop being an old fart.  Stop living like a young, entitled brat. Resolve to die to yourself and live a new life in Christ.

Determine means   to settle or decide (a dispute or question) by an authoritative or conclusive decision.   It means to conclude or ascertain, after reasoning or observation. It means to fix the position of.  It means to control or demand. And it means to give direction or impel.

Determine to disappoint the devil. Don’t give him the time of day. He is not in control!  Contrary to what Flip Wilson said, the devil did not make you do it! YOU made you do it. We control more than we want to admit. So settle and decide RIGHT NOW to take control of your life by dying to self and living for Him!

Determine to disappoint the devil.  Take action!  Fix your position!  Give direction to your thoughts and actions. Be an authoritative child of God who is not tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, and with every whim, impulse and urge that comes your way.  We control our actions as well as our reactions.  Like a team on the verge of the playoffs, we control our own destiny. So focus on your destiny.     

Determine to disappoint the devil by living a New Life in Christ every day.