Tag Archives: Football

Swagger, Success & the Soul Effect

They conspired against [King Amaziah] in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish, but they sent men after him to Lachish and killed him there.
2 Kings 14:19 (NIV)

Football season has begun. Wendy and I listened to the wild Iowa State vs. Iowa game on our way home from the lake on Sunday. Last night we donned our Vikings regalia for the first time this year and enjoyed watching the purple people eaters win one over Saints before falling asleep to the Broncos and Chargers game.

As casual fans who don’t follow football closely during the off-season, Wendy and I spend the first couple of weeks of the fall trying to keep track of who went where to play with whom and which coach went where to coach for whom. It seems like every year is a large game of musical chairs. It was so odd last night for Wendy and me to see our long-time star, Adrian Peterson, wearing a Saints uniform.

One of the harsh realities of sports in our culture is that you’d better win or else. Coaches have very little tolerance for players who don’t perform, and teams have very little patience for coaches who don’t consistently bring home victories. If you read social media you’ll find that fans have zero patience for either coaches or players as soon as the losses begin to mount.

In this morning’s chapter King Amaziah of Judah, who seems to have been as full of himself as many prima donna athletes today, pressed for a military campaign against King Jehoash and his nation’s heated rivals to the north in Israel. King Jehoash returned Amaziah’s challenge with a message that sports culture today would call “talking smack.” Jehoash gives Amaziah the chance to back down, but Amaziah would have none of it. Game on. King Amaziah and Judah are humiliated in defeat. The wall of Jerusalem is breached and the treasures of Solomon’s Temple are stolen as plunder.

The very next thing we learn about Amaziah is that his own people conspired against him. When Amaziah skipped town (hoping to be a free agent, perhaps?) they went after him and “permanently terminated his contract.” We don’t like losers.

This morning I’m thinking about our culture’s obsession with success and with winning. I could have used business as a similar parallel. There are certainly institutional churches who have similar expectations of success from their pastors. Yet the path that Jesus prescribes for me, His follower, has a distinctly different trajectory to it:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

I understand that having a job in sports, business, or elsewhere in our success-obsessed culture means delivering wins and exceeding expectations. I wonder, however, what effect this corporately has on our souls over time. In the ceaseless pursuit of worldly success, it’s easy to forfeit, or simply lose, our spiritual center. Amaziah had didn’t have to taunt Israel. He didn’t have to pursue expanding his kingdom. He could have focused on contentedly serving his own people to become a king they would honor and respect.

…For 30 Minutes

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged….”
Joshua 8:1a (NIV)

Everyone who knows Wendy and me knows that we are baseball fans. In particular, we’re fans of the Chicago Cubs. Right now there is a lot of excitement in our house as the regular season opens next Monday night. The first game against Anaheim will start at 9:00 p.m. CDT. We will just be getting back from rehearsal. We’ll see how much of it we actually watch before we fall asleep. (Thank God for DVRs!)

Of all the major league sports, baseball’s season is truly a marathon. In the NFL’s 16 game season, every game is technically important, as one loss can come back to bite you when it comes time to the playoffs and home field advantage. In baseball, there are 162 regular season games between the beginning of April and the end of September. The best of teams will lose about a third of their games and occasionally suffer humiliating defeats. Even the worst teams in the league will win a third or more of their games and occasionally beat the best teams.

The Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, instituted a tradition in the Cub’s clubhouse last season. When the Cubs win, there is a party in the clubhouse for 30 minutes. Loud music, disco ball, dancing, shouting, and basking in the joy of the moment….for 30 minutes. Then, it’s back to work thinking about the next day’s game. Likewise, when the team loses, they are allowed to grieve for 30 minutes. Mope, scream, cry, commiserate, and feel the discouragement…for 30 minutes. Then, its back to work thinking about the next day’s game.

Our life journey is more like baseball season than football season. We all will experience our share of victories, and our share of defeats. No one, no matter how good the press and social media make them look, runs the table and is exempt from suffering loss and hardship. Everyone strikes out.

In today’s chapter, Josh and his team have just suffered an unexpected defeat after the huge victory at Jericho. It was the let down after the big game. Reality check. There is a sudden sense of gloom permeating the clubhouse. God, like a good manager, only lets the grief last for 30 minutes. It’s time to get the team’s focus on the next game: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. We’ve got a game against the King of Ai today, and I’ve got a game plan for one you’re gonna love!”

Today, I’m thinking about victories I’ve experienced in this life, and defeats. No matter how bad the loss, there are victories ahead. No matter how great the victory is, I’m going to strike out again at some point. As sure as the sun is going to rise and set. I need to let myself enjoy the victories…for about 30 minutes. Then I get back to work. I need to allow myself to grieve the losses…for about 30 minutes. Then get back to work.

Go get ’em.

chapter a day banner 2015

featured image by yozza via Flickr

TBT: Hanging and Grandpa & Grandma’s

Tom @ Gma Golly & Gpa Specs 1973

Speaking of Grandpa Spec and Grandma Golly, here’s a Throwback Thursday gem from January 1973 which would have made me a few months shy of seven years old. No doubt it was Christmas break and I was spending the night at Grandpa & Grandma’s house.

Gotta love those fuzzy slippers.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Peter 3

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. 1 Peter 3:18a (NLT)

Wendy and I are sports fans. We follow our teams and enjoy watching them through the seasons. This means it’s been busy the past few weeks as baseball season is winding down, but football season is in full swing. The result is that we’re watching a lot of sports on television and the DVR is working overtime recording shows and movies that we likely won’t get to until after the fall classic.

Though we love watching many different sports, my love of baseball has grown over the years while my love of other sports has waned. There are a number of reasons for this. Baseball, more than any other sport, is a metaphor for life. It is a day-by-day journey that starts with the promise of life each spring and ends (especially for Cubs fans) with the harsh realities of death and disappointment each fall leaving hope of resurrection “next year.” Within the long journey there are highs and lows. Even the worst of teams pull together a few winning streaks and the best of teams are going to experience a host of disappointing losses. The best of the best hitters fail seven out of ten times at the plate. The greatest of pitchers give up a home run now and then.

While I love all these things about baseball, the one thing that I’ve come to appreciate most is the simple object of the game: making it home safely. It is the same objective that this wayfaring stranger has as I day-by-day walk my journey through this world of woe. You’ll even find it in the banner of my blog. It is the same way Peter summarizes the message of Jesus in today’s chapter: Jesus died on a cross and suffered as a sacrifice for ours sins once for all and did so in order to bring we sinners safely home.

Those who’ve walked with me for a long time have watched me hit a few home runs but have more often seen me strike out swinging. I’ve been hit by pitches and have stolen a few bases. I’ve also dropped some easy pop flies. Nevertheless, I get up early each morning with the promise that it’s a new day. I can’t do anything about yesterday’s bitter loss. I can only do my best in today’s game as I make my way toward the inevitable winter that slowly approaches.

Purple Pilgrimage

Earlier this week I had a couple of days that required my presence with a client in the Twin Cities. Wendy and I seized the opportunity to mix a little pleasure with a business trip and make our annual pilgrimage to the Metrodome to watch our beloved Vikings playing the San Francisco 49ers.

We left on Saturday morning and drove up to the Mall of America. Wendy and I have been doing this massive purge of our closets and drawers this fall. Clothes that we haven’t worn in years along with clothes that no longer fit us are being given away. We both had a short list of things we needed to replace, so we did a little shopping on Saturday afternoon. That night we dined at the flagship of perhaps our favorite restaurant of all time: Buca Di Beppo’s in downtown Minneapolis.

Sunday was beautiful as we walked from our hotel to the Metrodome. Wendy reminded me that since we’ve been making our (somewhat) annual pilgrimage to watch our beloved “purple people eaters” she had never seen them lose. I explained that she should prepare for that streak to end. The 49ers, who many hold to be the most talented team in the NFL this year, held the edge over our rebuilding Vikes in almost every aspect of the game.

The Metrodome is loud when you pack tens of thousands of screaming football fans inside. It’s raucous. It’s a blast. You quickly build camaraderie with your fellow fans sitting around you. You’re in this together. You’re family. Everyday on the street it’s easy to feel beleaguered and besieged by annoying cheeseheads, but on Sunday afternoon inside the Metrodome you are surrounded by brothers-in-arms. You are a force to be reckoned with.

Wendy made the observation that while we love the game of baseball, the truth of the matter is that the crowd at a baseball game has very little impact on an average game. The crowd cheers after something momentous happens. There is generally no swell of crowd noise until the bottom of the 9th, if at all. In football, the crowd can actually make a difference. When it’s 3rd and long for the opponent and the Metrodome crowd starts to scream, the crowd knows that they are making it almost impossible for the opposing team to hear plays getting called in from the sideline. It’s equally impossible for the opposing quarterback to successfully call an audible. It’s easy for the opponent to make mistakes amidst the deafening din. The average fan can be an active participant in the outcome of the game, and that’s kind of a fun feeling.

The game Sunday was perhaps the most fun we’ve ever had a Vikings game. The Vikings played their hearts out and pulled the upset. We and our fellow fans had a ball cheering the team on. Wendy’s streak is still in tact.

It was kind of a crazy summer for the two of us, and we’ve been really looking forward to a little time for the two of us to relax and enjoy some R&R. Our purple pilgrimage was just what the doctor ordered.

 

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 30

There were a lot of people, especially those from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, who did not eat the Passover meal because they had not prepared themselves adequately. 2 Chronicles 30:18 (MSG)

It’s football season, and as I write this I’m watching all of the television commercials prompting people to be prepared and well stocked for tailgating. I hear people talking about their weekly pre-game parties. I’ve never been into tailgating, but even Wendy and I know when the game will be on and are generally prepared to be on the couch in proper team regalia.

When I read today that the people weren’t prepared for their worship at the Passover, it leapt off the page at me. I started asking myself how “prepared” I am for worship on Sunday mornings. What do I do to make sure that my head and my heart are ready to worship God and hear what He might have to say to me?

The reality is, I give more thought to being prepared to watch a football game than I do to being prepared to worship of my Lord. Don’t get me wrong. I love football, and I love to get into the game and all the fun that surrounds it. Today, however, I’m giving thought to how I can ready myself for the event on Sunday which has eternal significance.

There’s Always Next Year

The I-Cubs missed the post season, losing their chances in the final game of the season on Labor Day. The Chi-Cubs are one step from the cellar and their days are numbered. The NFL season starts tonight. Wendy and I have broken out our purple and gold.

So long, Cubbie Bear. See you next spring when our hopes are made new again.