Thursday, October 30, 2008

From the world of sports

Three stories from the sports world this past week captured my attention. All of them, in their own way, preach truth to us.

First, Mike Singletary coached his first game as interim head coach of the San Francisco 49ers this past Sunday. Singletary grew up here in Houston and played football for Worthing High School before becoming a legend at Baylor. According to Baylor lore, Singletary broke several dozen helmets in practices with his ferocious hits. Drafted by the Chicago Bears, he lead his team to their only Super Bowl win in 1985. They called him "the Samarai," and NFL highlight video producers loved to show the intensity in his eyes on the field.

Singletary took over the 49ers this week after their previous coach was fired, and he made an immediate impression. In mid-game, Singletary ordered the team's star Tight End, Vernon Davis, into the locker room after a foolish penalty. In the world of multi-millionaire athletes, such things simply aren't done, so Singletary's actions provoked quite a bit of conversation among sports writers and fans. As for Singletary, he stood by his decision, saying (among other things), "I refuse to coach players who are all about themselves...I told him he would do a better job for us taking a shower and watching the rest of the game."

The lesson for all of us is that sometimes we need a friend brave enough to call us out. In our no-fault world, accountability is rare, so it shocks us when it actually happens. But, like King David in II Samuel 12, we all need a Nathan sometimes to tell us, "You've sinned and you need to get right before it's too late." Do you have any friends that wise and bold? Maybe you ought to pray that God would send a few into your life. Are you that kind of friend to anyone else? Maybe we all ought to pray for the wisdom and boldness to confront when necessary.

Second, this past Tuesday my Houston Cougars were hammered on national TV by Marshall. But that was just a game. Something happened in the midst of the humiliating loss that was far more significant. Patrick Edwards, a freshman wide receiver, was chasing an overthrown pass in the third quarter when he slammed into a cart full of band equipment that was sitting, inexplicably, a few yards past the end zone. ESPN replayed the gruesome impact several times, and post-game reports confirmed that Edwards had suffered a compound fracture. He had surgery that night to insert rods in his leg, and doctors hope he can play next season.

Edwards is a good kid, a guy who had walked onto the football team and then earned a scholarship. He also was a world-class sprinter who had hopes of trying out for the Olympics someday. Now all that is in jeopardy, all because someone carelessly left heavy equipment too close to the playing field. I pray Edwards will make a quick recovery, and that he will find strength to forgive. For us, the lesson is that carelessness can be costly. What we see as small compromises, a casual approach to less-visible sins, can ultimately cause great harm. Often, it is innocent bystanders who get hurt by our carelessness, while we get off scott-free...and carry the guilt from that time on. Are there any areas of your life where you've left things out of place? Let's deal with those "small" details before it's too late.

Finally, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series last night. Brad Lidge pitched the final inning for the Phils. Lidge was one of my favorite players during his time with the Astros, so I was glad to see him get some measure of redemption. You might recall a few years ago, when a certain Mr. Pujols from St Louis hit a pitch from Lidge to somewhere near Orange in the ninth inning of a National League Championship Series. After that, it seemed like Lidge was never the same. The Astros gave him a few years to return to form, but ultimately gave up on him, shipping him to Philadelphia. Now Lidge is riding high again. Last night after the game, he thanked many people, among them Jesus Christ. I had no idea Lidge was a fellow believer--and I'd be happy for him either way--but it was good to know He understood the real source of His strength.

The lesson for us is that God never gives up on people. No matter how badly we mess up, or how much we may doubt ourselves, He is in the redemption business. By the way, we should be in that business, too. Who is there in your life who needs a little encouragement not to give up? Who do you know who needs to hear that God can redeem even the most hopeless situation. Let's spread a little good news this week.

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