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If You Can Take It, You Can Make It: “Unbroken”

Unbroken-movie-poster (1)

If redemption and renewal and persistence and perseverance and resilience and restoration are your thing, then the film “Unbroken” is for you.  Forget the craggy critics who largely decried and disparaged the film. It’s an epic masterpiece. It’s the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who joined the armed forces during the Second World War only to be captured by the Japanese navy after his plane crashed in the Pacific.

Zamperini was redeemed and restored repeatedly. He lived by the line, “If you can take it, you can make it.”  We all should live by this line too, as it is a moniker for sports and for life. Zamperini’s heroic struggle to survive and subsist as he endured and even embraced the challenges he faced is an example for us all.  Louis overcame, and just like Mandisa sang in her song, he stayed in the fight till the final round.  He didn’t give up or give in; he took what life dished out, and remained unbroken.

“Unbroken” was accused of not having a “soul.” On the contrary, the critical criticizer who cast this stone may in fact be the one that is soulless. The film’s heartbeat is the constant beating heart of its hero who refused to recant his vows: first to live, and then to live for God.

And so, in 2015, remember to focus on the fact that you are being watched. Focus on the fact that your redemption will lead to victory for your friends, and will lead to the defeat of your foes. Focus on the fact that your friends are fighting with you in spirit, and your foes are fighting against your inner spirit. And both friends and foes are necessary for your redemption.  So please know that there are many, both friend and foe, who are watching and waiting to see if and how you endure your hardness.  

Remember, if you can take it, you can make it.

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:3, KJV//


The Mercy Rule


David cried for mercy. The two blind men cried out to Jesus for mercy.  Those who are merciful are called “blessed” and will receive mercy. It’s called “The Mercy Rule.” When a non-professional team is up by a bunch of points, the game can be called. When a pro team is up big late in the game, you don’t “pile on” but you run out the clock without trying to pile on the points.

At some point in our lives, we all will want and need mercy. Thankfully, His mercy endures forever.  Our redemption was purchased at the intersection of grace and mercy.  Grace needed mercy just as much as mercy needed grace. The hymn writer summed up our salvation with these words; “Mercy there was great and grace was free. Pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burned soul found liberty, at Calvary.” (William Newell – 1868 – 1956).

“We all experience fear, shame, loneliness, broken homes, or broken hearts. We all hurt and need true, lasting healing. The trouble, according to bestselling author Andrew Farley and Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe, is that we don’t know where to find it.

Inspired by MercyMe’s #1 hit song of the same name, The Hurt & The Healer reveals exactly how God can be the gentle healer of all our hurts. Writing from the pain they’ve experienced in their lives, Millard and Farley reveal how their own struggles caused them to feel they had disappointed God. Through their biblical guidance, readers will see that God wants them to be open and honest about their pain. Only then can they discover how to exchange destructive thinking patterns for God’s view of them and watch as God’s perfect love casts away all their fears.”  (MercyMe website:!/ss:facebook)

“A mercy rule, also well known by the slightly less polite term slaughter rule (or, less commonly, knockout rule and skunk rule), brings a sports event to an early end when one team has a very large and presumably insurmountable lead over the other team. It is called the mercy rule because it spares the losing team the humiliation of suffering a more formal loss, and denies the winning team the satisfaction thereof, and prevents running up the score, a generally discouraged practice in which the opponent continues to score beyond the point when the game has become out of hand.

The mercy rule is most common in North America and primarily in North American sports such as baseball or softball, where there is no game clock and play could theoretically continue forever, although it is also used in sports such as hockey and American football. It is very rare in competitive sports beyond the high school level.”

So remember the mercy rule. The next time someone offends you or does you wrong and you want to retaliate, remember the mercy rule. You’ll want God to remember it for you.


Will Kentucky Go Undefeated?


What’s all the hub bub about? Well, It’s all about this . . .

Will Kentucky Go Undefeated? The Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball team is 25-0.  These ‘Cats are undefeated and unbeaten and seemingly unbeatable and unassailable.   The last college team to go undefeated was Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers team in 1976, 39 years ago.  And because it’s been so long, and it’s especially so hard, some are asking, not if but when.

When will Kentucky lose a game?  And will a loss tarnish their legacy or expunge our expectancy that they are the best ever? Because that’s what these boys are playing for; they’re playing to answer the ages and become more than an iota of sports antiquity.  And so the question is, are they the best college team, ever? Judge for Yourself.  


Why is this such a big deal? Because we all want to know how good this Kentucky team is. We all want to know if Kentucky will be beat or if Kentucky will beat themselves.  As we all know, anything can happen in college basketball in March. Yes, the month of March is right around the corner, and that must mean that the madness of March is right behind it.  So we’re all watching and waiting, hoping and hyping, wanting and wishing and hopeful and heartened that we are watching history in the making.

But what about you? Let’s not get so consumed with sports that we forget about life. (Wait – what? Is that me talking?) That’s right. Sports is just a game. (Hold your breath, I’m going somewhere with this.)  That’s right, I said it, sports is just a game. It’s importance lies in the truth that it teaches us about the game of life.  And so the question is will YOU go undefeated? Or will you continue to go up and down and in and out and back and forth from day-to-day and week to week; from month to month and from year to year?  

Decide that you will not go down without a fight. Decide that you will go undefeated, mentally and emotionally and spiritually; and, on the off-chance that you lose a game or two, decide to bounce back.  Decide. Don’t listen to the pundits and predictors and analysts and authorities that say you can’t make it. Don’t fall for the fallacy that you don’t have what it takes.

Get yourself a good coach (and say what you want, John Calipari is a good Coach.) Decide that you will silence the critics; decide that you will disappoint the devil who is just waiting and watching for you to fall.


Let The Game Come To You

Michael and Kobe

Just be patient. Let the game come to you. Don’t rush. Be quick, but don’t hurry.

Earl Monroe

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Acts 12:5-7

Phil Jackson always coached his players to let the game come to them. Two of those players were two of the greatest basketball players of all time: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Phil’s advice to Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest player ever, was to “Stop chasing the game. Let the game come to you.” You have to “Tone it down and let the game come to you,” Phil is known to have demanded of the Laker’s Kobe Bryant.

Phil, winner of 13 NBA championships,  (11 as a coach and 2 as a player) coached his players to be natural and not to try too hard. Rather than force plays, wait for an opportunity to make a play. Forcing plays results in turnovers and lost scoring opportunities.

No matter what kind of game MJ was having, Phil Jackson would rest him at the end of the third quarter and for the first few minutes in the fourth. He’d come off the bench rested and ready, and go on to do the most amazing things I’d ever seen, things I ‘d never seen on a basketball court, more often than not leading the Bulls to victory.  And sometime during the fourth quarter, Marv Albert would remark “he lets the game come to him.”

So let the game come to you.

Things don’t always move as quickly as we want. People don’t change overnight.  All problems aren’t solved overnight.  All Answers don’t come overnight. But when we wait, the answers are prone to come to us.

“Problems” spelled backwards is “people.”  Seriously, when we rush, we make mistakes, cause offenses, forget important details, and generally make a mess of things. Just like in basketball, in life, when we force plays, we cause turnovers and loose scoring opportunities.

Earlier this year I felt myself pressing. I was pressing too hard at work, at school and at church.  I was trying too hard.  I was pressing my wife, my staff and myself too hard. My blood pressure went up and  my quality of life went down.  I wasn’t sleeping well at night and wasn’t awake during the day. I was pressing too hard, and it showed.

So I made the decision to step back.  Like Peter in his jail cell, I “Let go and let God.” The angel came to him, woke him out of his sleep, and released him from prison. 

So let the game come to you. Letting the game come to you feels great. Pressing too hard feels stressful.  Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He shall strenghen thine heart.  Wait I say, on the Lord.


No Pain, No Gain

no pain

No pain, no gain.  No prayer, no deliverance. No fasting, no victory. No repentance, no redemption.  No cross, no crown.

Every serious athlete knows that the victory is not won randomly, haphazardly, or unsystematically. Victory is a planned, methodical exercise.  It is premeditated, pre-ordained and pre-determined.  And it comes at great cost, and at great price. Yes there are the fluke wins, the one-and-done dark horses and the “from out of no-where unheard ofs,” but these are far and few between and even these victories are won at great price. The constant champion knows that to get on top is one thing, but staying on top is something else.

According to that ever-so trustworthy source, Wikipedia, The slogan, “No pain, no gain” (or “No gain without pain”) is an exercise motto that promises greater value rewards for the price of hard and even painful work. Under this conception, competitive professionals such as athletes and artists are required to endure pain and pressure to achieve professional excellence.  It came into prominence after 1982 when actress Jane Fonda began to produce a series of aerobic workout videos. In these videos, Fonda would use “No pain, no gain” and “Feel the burn” as catchphrases for the concept of working out past the point of experiencing muscle aches.

No pain, no gain.  The premise here is that there are no free lunches. Everything costs something. And so it is with life.  While it is true that if you can believe it, you can achieve it, believing is not passive, it is active.  It involves placing trust. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

No pain, no gain.  The achievers, over-comers and champions know that they have to put the time in.  We used to sing this song in church: “Put your time in; Payday’s comin’ after while.”  And that’s all we sang. That’s it. Those 8 words comprised a song we would sing half the night.  But the truth of the song lasted longer than we could sing the song itself.

Put your time in. Love. Give. Forgive. Smile. Be kind. Overcome evil with good. It may be painful to love your enemy, and to forgive someone who wronged you but won’t apologize, but it’s time well spent. 

Put your time in; payday’s comin’ after while.

We are the Champions. Not every team can say that. Not every team can do that.  Only the elite few can. Only the elite few do.  As believers, we all can overcome any and every hurdle we have. We can defeat every foe we face. We and subdue every challenge we come across.  But it depends on how bad we want it. Jesus did his part. He shed His blood.  He gave His life. What more can He do?  So it’s up to us to live our lives as a testimony to His goodness and His grace. 

Mandisa Poster

Watch the “Overcomer” video by the former American Idol singer Mandisa.  You’ll thank me later. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and retired astronaut and Navy Captain Mark Kelly are featured in the music video for three-time GRAMMY® nominee and Season 5 American Idol finalist Mandisa’s new Christian chart-topping single “Overcomer.”

“I was really inspired by Mandisa’s song ‘Overcomer’ because its message is one of hope, perseverance and faith,” said Giffords. “We can’t always control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we respond. Like the song says, if we keep positive and ‘stay in the fight till the final round,’ we can overcome more than we ever dreamed possible.”

The “Overcomer” video, which includes never-before-released footage of Giffords’ road to recovery after being shot in the head at point-blank range at a Congress on Your Corner event in Tucson in 2011, Giffords and Kelly appear in the video alongside Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts and Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Scott Hamilton.

The powerful words to this great song are as follows: 

Staring at a stop sign
Watching people drive by
T Mac on the radio
Got so much on your mind
Nothing’s really going right
Looking for a ray of hope

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He’s not gonna let it get the best of you

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer

Everybody’s been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Oh, you’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget
Hang on to His promises
He wants You to know 

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer

The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There’s nothing He can’t do
He’s telling You

So how bad to you want it? The University of Maryland (my alma matter!) Men’s Soccer Team has been good for quite some time.  They have overcome mediocrity, achieved superlative success, and have earned the right to be called champions.  They won the ACC Championship this year. In 2008, when they were national champions, the sports page article read, “Turnaround Takes Terps to Title Shot.” During that season, the Terps lost a game they should have won. They used that loss as “the final lesson” en route to winning the NCAA Soccer title that magical championship season. 

MD Soccer

What have you overcome?  What have you defeated?  What have you gained victory over? In Revelation it says that “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. For they did not cling to life even in the face of death.”


Sports in Washington, DC: Up and Down and All Around


The Wizards just won a First Round playoff series by sweeping the Toronto Raptors.

The Nationals are tied for last place.

The Capitals play Game 7 tonight against their arch rivals, the New York Islanders, and;

The Redskins just picked up the option on RGIII’s contract, but I’m not even going there.


Sports in Washington, D.C. Oh boy. Hold on tight to your dreams.   If there ever was a city that was up and down and all around, when it comes to sports, it’s the Nation’s Capital.  So much promise. So little delivery.  If it weren’t for the little matter of three Super Bowl wins for the defunct Redskins, now otherwise known as the “Deadskins” and those Vince Lombardi trophies that came along with ‘em, the city would be on a sports suicide watch. But let’s not paint such a pitiful picture.

First, the good news: The Wizards proved that they are a legitimate playoff contender.  Not only did they win a first round series, they whupped and walloped the Atlantic Division winners. It was a matchup of the 5 Seed defeating a Four Seed, but what the hey; a win, is a win, is a win. Now it’s on to the Atlanta Hawks, if and when they beat the Milwaukee Bucks.  It should be an entertaining series and one the Wizards should win.  But we’ll wait and see.

Now for the not-so-good news: The Nationals. They just lost five straight. Not good.  They were picked to not only go to the World Series, but to WIN the World Series. That’s great, except this early season slump has got a lot of the locals a little leery and loopy.  Yes it’s a long season. No this was not expected. Yes they are somewhat shorthanded. No the pundits shouldn’t panic yet. At least not yet.

As for the Capitals, where do we begin?  Scott Allen of the Washington Post says this:

You’re right to be nervous. You’re forgiven if you’re full of dread. Even if you weren’t around for the first Game 7 in Washington Capitals franchise history 28 years ago, you were around for the most recent, and probably several other of the 10 Game 7s — most of them heartbreaking — in between. Nine losses in 12 games, all scarring in their own ways.

The Capitals play their lucky 13th Game 7 on Monday against the New York Islanders, the same franchise that ended Washington’s first Game 7 at 1:58 a.m. on April 19, 1987. That history doesn’t matter to the players on the ice, of course.

But as all tried and true sports fans know, history DOES matter. And history is not on the Capitals side.  So we’re all waiting with baited breath so see what happens tonight. I’m too scared to watch!

And so it is with most of us. Sometimes we’re up and sometimes we’re down and most times we’re all around. We want to be on top and in first and at our best all of the time. But life doesn’t work that way. We are oft times frail and fragile and not always fleet and agile.  We can be flimsy and whimsy and rocky and rickety and we need help. And lots of it. Humans in general and sports fans in specific need all the help we can get.

Since we’re all up and down and all around, some depend on luck.  If it weren’t for bad sports luck, some of us wouldn’t have any sports luck at all. What’s that? We don’t believe in luck? I thought we believed in Andrew Luck? OK, he’s AFC and he’s a time zone away. I get it.

I choose to depend on God.  He always comes through. Maybe not for our teams, but for us and our dreams, He does, when we trust Him.  

So take heart, Washington D .C. sports fans. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming trail.  I don’t think.


How To Get Out Of A Slump: Meet The Right People In The Right Place At the Right Time

Seattle 2015 461

I just got out a slump. And so did the Mets; Yes the Mets; the Amazin’ Miracle Mets. But first me. Sometimes you limp and lag and teeter and totter and flip and flop along and you don’t even know that you’re not moving in a logical procession or making any meaningful progression. That was me. But that’s over. Thank God.

Sometimes you just don’t know what to do or when to do or how to do what you know you need to do to get out of a rut. Sometimes you’re in a rift or a ravine or a gully or a gorge or a ditch or a drain that’s leading to nowhere. You know you need to reboot and recharge and re-image and rethink everything. And you know it but you can’t quite seem to do anything about it.   That is unless and until you happen upon or meet by chance or run into the right people in the right place at the right time. Well, all of that happened for me in Seattle.

Seattle got me out of my slump. And more specifically, I’m out of my slump because I met a great guy and his wife, Chris and Cindy. They were hidden away in an out –of- the way restaurant on Bainbridge Island and they gave me the gumption I need to go on just a little further. Yes I go to church and pray and read my Bible, but there’s something about meeting someone “out of the blue” that charges your battery and revs your engine like nothing else can. There’s something about a coming together at just the right time that is almost indescribable and indiscernible but is real and palpable nonetheless.

So here’s another reason to believe in Providence. It all went down like this:

Seattle 2015 481

I really wanted to take a ferry ride across Puget Sound and I wanted to go on a nice, sunny day. Well, Monday, April 20th was my day. It was a beautiful, balmy 72 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And for all that know Seattle, weather like that doesn’t come around every day. So I caught the 4:40 Ferry and had a therapeutic trip and a resuscitating ride with views of Downtown Seattle and the Olympus and Cascades Mountains to die for.

Seattle 2015 492

I got to Bainbridge Island and determined to eat dinner at a local diner, so I asked around. I was told there were plenty of nice places to choose from. Then I “happened” run into an older lady who told me to “hurry up!” She thought I was going to the museum, but I told her I was looking for a nice, homey restaurant. She gave me a few suggestions, but then said if I wanted to go to an out-of-the way place on the water I should walk a little further and go to Harbor Public House ( ). I’m so glad I did. I believe God put the right people in the right place at the right time just for me.

Enter my new friends. They were sitting and waiting for a table outside overlooking the water. I chatted it up a little with them and the next thing you know, because they had been waiting awhile, and I wanted to eat outside too, they invited me to dine with them. Wow! It was great. The ferry ride was “Da Bomb,” the food was better and the company of my new friends was the best.  Wow.  Sounds like teamwork played a part in this, huh? 

Talk about a Providential turn of events. And so it is in life and in sports for those who go a little further wait a little longer and reach a little higher than they were reaching just a day or two ago. When you have everything fall into the just the right place at just the right time it is no accident.  It’s Divine. Coincidentally, Deborah Fike in “The Change Blog,” suggests that one of the ways you get out of a slump is to reconnect with old friends or, — find new ones! And that’s what I did! And in writing this blog I found these blogs which were helpful:


Lauren Hill: “Never Give Up”

Lauren Hill

If you’re discouraged or despondent or downtrodden or demoralized or just plain feel like giving up, hold on just a second or two. Before you thrown in the towel and throw up your hands and throw away your future, before you concede the win and declare defeat, read this:

Lauren Hill died of brain cancer Friday morning at age 19, but left her mark wanting to “bring a change in the world.” Lauren, the Mount St. Joseph University basketball player spent her final year polishing a lay-up and inspiring others to live fully. While battling an inoperable brain tumor, Lauren created a foundation to raise money for cancer research. Lauren inspired the world by living her dream.

Lauren Hill’s teammates and coaches are remembering the 19-year-old college basketball player with her own inspiring words: ”Never give up.” An example she lived by as she fought a brain tumor and rallied those around her to help her achieve her dream of playing in a game. Several hundred students gathered on the grassy quad at Mount St. Joseph on Friday, spelling out Hill’s No. 22 with blue.

Her life and spirit inspired a nation, judging from the widespread reactions to her death on Friday from the basketball community, the wider world of sports and beyond.

The Mount St. Joseph student gained international attention when she decided to play on the freshman basketball team even as her inoperable brain tumor was sapping her of coordination and energy. She played the team’s opener against Franklin College and scored two points before being replaced in the first quarter.

Lauren, a freshman and native of Greendale, Indiana, was diagnosed during her senior year of high school but decided to play for the NCAA Division III College, which is located near Cincinnati. She played in four games this season and made five lay-ups, including two in her final game, a 66-65 victory over the College of Wooster on Dec. 16. She ended her playing career soon after and became an honorary coach for the team.

Lauren is gone but not forgotten. Fans of Hill can order her Upper Deck rookie card for $10 or an authentic signed version for $50 through the foundation’s online store.


Oh to have the courage and the composure and the bravery and the bravado and the muster and the mettle to do what Lauren Hill did. Lauren said to “find something to fight for.” She did not give up. She did not give in. Her body simply gave out.


Farewell, dear Lauren.


Michigan State Has Hope!

 NCAA Michigan St Louisville Basketball

Hope. It’s a great four letter word. With it we win; without it we lose. With hope we can succeed; without hope we will fail. With hope, we’re destined; without hope we’re doomed. With hope we just might make it; without hope, we don’t stand a chance. Just ask Job of the Bible. At one point, he wondered where his hope was.

Hope is a powerful thing. Its power and its potency and its potential are positively peculiar indeed. The power of hope lies in its ability to keep a drowning man afloat. The potency of hope lies in its capacity to keep a dying man alive. The potential of hope lies in its capability to keep a despondent man’s mind properly aligned. In essence, hope keeps you alive and alert and watchful and wistful. Hope keeps you on board and on key and in tune with what God has intended for you now and down the road.

Hope in sports keeps players playing and coaches coaching. Hope gets you through a long, grueling practice and through a tough, tight game. When you’re weary and when you’re worn, the hope of a win gets you through. The hope of an expected end keeps us all moving and marching and going forward and gaining ground onward. Hope springs eternal, and that is why we always must have hope.

Hope is the earnest expectation of things to come. Hope is the engagement ring. Hope is the down payment on the unbuilt house. Hope is the leave request for the summer vacation. Without hope, we’re done; kaput; finished; D.O.A. – a.k.a., dead on arrival. But with hope, we have a chance. Albeit, it may be a slim, outside, longshot of a chance, but it’s still a chance.

Michigan State is in the Final Four, along with Wisconsin, Duke, and the presumptive champion, Kentucky. And nobody, and I mean nobody, had Michigan State in the Final Four, at least not this year’s Final Four. A month ago they weren’t that good or this good. But that’s what hope does. It gives us a spark and a spur and a surge and a splurge of adrenaline that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Only a faithful few Tom Izzo fans had Michigan State going this far in the Tournament. And fewer who picked them would admit that they had any faith, or dare I say any hope, that they would be on the verge of something big. But don’t you think for one minute that the Spartans don’t think and hope and expect to win.

Michigan State has hope. After all, they have Tom Izzo, and Tom Izzo is a great coach. And they have Travis Trice, who is a believer, and in his post game interview, he gave credit to God for the victory. I love it. And it’s still March, and in March there is methodical madness. And the Madness of March, strange as it may seem, gives hope to each and every gamer and dreamer out there. That includes Michigan State, and me and you too.


So don’t lose hope. Don’t lose your hope. Make sure you keep her close by. And if you lose your hope, have someone look for her for you, because if you can’t see her, someone else who cares about you can.


Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?

Job 7:15, NIV

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