sports

LaGrange, KY on the Map in Little League World Series

Michael Grant, writing for the Courier Journal:

The Little League baseball team from La Grange, Kentucky, participates in the opening ceremony of the 2011 Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar).  North Oldham is one of 16 teams — eight from the United States, eight from other countries — participating in the nationally televised double-elimination tournament. The games started Thursday and conclude with the title contest Aug. 28.

North Olham plays tonight at 8:00 on ESPN!

Favre and the Fear of Man

Did you see Al Michael's interview with Brett Favre last night? I think it revealed a few things about why he came back another year. 1) Favre hesitated in making a decision to come back because he fears failure and he fears man. He said that he did not want to let people down either by playing or not playing another year. 2) Favre misses the camaraderie of being part of a team ... he said there's nothing like it! 3) Favre knows he will make a lot of money. No brainer.

Whatever the reason ... I'm glad he's playing another year for my favorite team -- the Vikes!

What Makes Rondo Great

Rajon Rondo, a Kentucky product, is quickly emerging as one of the top point guards in the NBA.  This play right here (in Game 3 vs. the Magic) shows why he's so great.  He hustles.  And he wants it more.  His teammate Paul Pierce had this to say about the play:

“It was a great play just to be a part of,” Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. “Me and my friends were talking about that play. You’re going to see them replaying that hustle play throughout all the NBA commercials, I think, for the next 20, 25, 30 years. That’s how great that play was.”

Rondo is a good example of someone who knows his strengths and stays true to himself, working hard and always improving.  We could all learn something from his example.

Jim Luebe: A Man that Impacted Me Up Close

Jim LuebeOnly a handful of people have come into my life and impacted me up close.  Yes, I can point to pastors like John Piper and C.J. Mahaney who have had a profound influence on my life from afar.  But only a few have invested their lives into my life becoming like a father to me in the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15).  One of those men is Jim Luebe.  I met Jim as a college student at the University of Northern Iowa.  As a relatively new believer in Christ, he took an interest in me and saw in me the potential for leadership.  I remember sitting down with him one day and him turning to Joshua 1:9 which says, "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  He looked at me and said that God had called me to lead just like Joshua.  So I needed to be strong and courageous knowing that He would be with me!  Hearing those words propelled me to take action and be the man God made me to be. 

Jim also started a small group bible study with me and 3 other guys.  I think he affectionately called us "The Four Horsemen."  We met in the mornings on campus and studied through different books of the Bible.  We prayed together and were accountable to each other.  We also spent time with him in his home.  Jim intentionally let us see into his life, his marriage, his struggles, and even his sin.  But his heart was not mainly that we know him; he wanted us to know Christ!  Specifically, he wanted me to know the basics of living for Christ - The Word, Prayer, Fellowship, and Witnessing.  But he didn't just teach these things, he lived them out.  He never asked me to do anything he hadn't done first -- and that principle of leadership has stuck with me.  Jim is also a man of vision.  And he gave me opportunities to lead with vision.  Most older guys don't give younger guys the freedom to fail.  Jim did.  And in doing so, I learned to dream big and believe God could do great things -- more than I could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). 

And I'd be remiss to not mention how Jim showed me the importance of family.  He loves his wife and his boys.  I didn't think about that very much as a college student, but now I do, having been married for 12 years with 3 kids of my own.  Little did he know that he was giving me a model of how to put my wife and kids first in the midst of ministry.

Some of you know that Jim is now the Collegiate Director for the U.S. Navigators.  He and his sweet wife (Beth) continue to invest their lives into college students with a desire that they might become lifelong laborers in Christ's kingdom.  Sometimes I can still hear Jim's distinct voice in the back of my mind telling me about a friend of his that he described as "a faithful laborer over time."

Yes, only a handful of people come into our lives and impact us up close.  Jim Luebe is one of those people for me.  And my prayer is that I would be that for others in my life and ministry.

*Read this article he wrote to collegiate grads about true success in college ministry

John Calipari's Leadership

Great leaders see the potential in people and empower them to become the best they can be.  They create a leadership culture within their organization that attracts other leaders to them.  Take Kentucky basketball coach, John Calipari for example.  Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Calipari sat down with each of his players individually and had the same conversation with each one:

“Tell me what you look like when you're playing your best,” he said he told them. “Let's really be specific. What are you doing? What does it look like?”

After each player answered, Calipari said something that surprised many of them: “As your coach, how can I help you be that player?" (Eric Crawford, Courier Journal).

Do you see what he did right there?  He told his players to picture themselves playing at their fullest potential and then empowered them to get there with his help.  That's good leadership.

Why We Love Rooting for the Underdog

It's been a long time since we've seen so many cinderella teams make it this deep into the NCCA tournament.  But that's what March Madness is all about, right!  There’s nothing like seeing the little, no-name programs like Northern Iowa (my alma mater!) defeat the traditional, mighty powers like Kansas.  But all this “madness” got me thinking.  Why do we love the underdog?  Why do we love rooting for the little guy?  I think it’s because we see ourselves in the story of these cinderella teams.  We identify with the “Davids” because we are weak in and of ourselves.  Not many of us are naturally gifted to do great things.  But all of us want to be a part of doing something great.  Ironically, this is God’s pattern for showing His greatness.  “He chooses the foolish things in the world to shame the wise; he chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong; what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Cor. 1:26-28).  God takes delight in choosing the weak things of the world to show His strength.  He loves choosing the small things to show forth his greatness and power. 

We see this in Scripture, don’t we?  God chose little Israel.  God chose little Moses.  God chose little Gideon.  And God chose little David.  We could go on and on to show how God chose the “underdogs” to carry out his plan.  But why did God choose them?  Answer: “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:29).  To say it positively, God did it so that we would be humbled.  That we would know that His glory is seen most powerfully in humility. 

The greatest picture of glory seen in humility is Jesus.  Jesus was the ultimate underdog.  He came as a tiny baby from the little town of Bethlehem.  He worked in obscurity as a humble carpenter.  He grew to be a poor man despised by the world and betrayed by his friends.  And he died a humble death on a cross.  But there was victory.  Victory and glory seen through humility.

I love the line from one song that says, “Who would’ve thought that a lamb could rescue the souls of men?”  That lamb is our Victor.  That’s our Champion.  The lamb who was slain.  The Savior who came out of nowhere to defeat the greatest opponent ever-sin and death.  And we will spend eternity in awe of this humble, crucified King.

So, why do we love the underdog?  Because we follow the One who lived humbly, suffered greatly, and died horribly, but now reigns in victory.

The Winter Olympics in Our Basement!

Here's a little sermon illustration for children (and adults): There are some things you never forget.  I’ll never forget the time when my brother and I held the Winter Olympics in our basement.  We were 6 years old and we had been watching the Winter Olympics on TV.  We got so excited as we looked at the people going on the bobsled rides zooming down really fast.  And we loved watching those guys go off the huge ski jump.  So we decided that we were going to hold the Winter Olympics right there in our basement.  Now we had some steps going down to our basement.  So what we did for the ski jump was to simply take a running start off the top of the stairs and see how long we could jump down below.  It was kinda dangerous but thankfully we didn’t get hurt.  For the bobsled, we had the idea of taking my mom’s laundry basket and both of us sitting in it and sliding down the stairs as fast as we could.  I must admit, we wiped out a few times! 

Now, were we really in the Olympics?  Were we really Olympic athletes?  No, we were pretending to be something that we were not. Do you know that many people in this world and many people who go to church are pretending to be Christians but they are really not.  They say all the right things, but their lives are no different than those who are not Christians.  Their words don’t match their actions.

Jesus told us that this is really serious.  In the Bible, he spoke to his disciples one day and told them three pictures of what it means to be a true Christian.  Mt. 7:13-14 (Two Ways), Mt. 7:15-20 (Two Trees), Mt. 7:24-27 (Two Houses).

How Kurt Warner Expressed His Faith

Dustin S, friend and fellow UNI grad, on Kurt Warner's retirement: He retired yesterday from what is probably a Hall of Fame career. Everyone that knew anything about him also knew that he is a Christian. He is not shy about his faith at all. It is part of who he is. The following paragraph from Seth Wickersham at espn.com struck me when I read it:

Thanks for the religion. Some athletes give their life to Jesus Christ as a PR move; some are ripe with hypocrisy; some just say offensive things. Warner always expressed his faith without trivializing it or us.

Kurt Warner lived his life as a follower of Jesus Christ in a way that garnered respect from others. He didn’t trivialize Jesus or people. We can communicate the things we believe most deeply in a way that others thank us. I don’t know Wickersham’s religious views, but this tells me that Kurt Warner is a man of peace. May I be one too.

Tim Tebow to appear in Super Bowl ad for Focus on the Family

USA Today reports:

Tim Tebow is taking his star power to sport's biggest stage. The former Florida quarterback and his mother will appear in a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl next month. The Christian group Focus on the Family says the Tebows will share a personal story centering on the theme "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life."

The group isn't releasing details, but the commercial is likely to be an anti-abortion message chronicling Pam Tebow's 1987 pregnancy. After getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child and gave birth to Tim.  (Read the rest ...)

John Wall was Impressive

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This guy could lead UK to the Final Four.  He's that good.  Watching him play (and beat North Carolina) reminded me of this article by Stephen Altrogge, adapted from his book, Game Day for the Glory of God.  Altrogge writes:

When we excel at sports, we are in a very small way reflecting the excellence of God's character. This is part of the reason why we experience so much joy in playing sports. Doing things excellently is a reflection of God, who does all things with excellence. The same is true of watching sports. When we see an athlete perform exceptionally well, we're seeing a small portion of God's character.

My High School Football Days

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Can you find me?  About 17 years ago I strapped on a helmet and played for the Linn-Mar Lions of Marion, Iowa.  My one claim to fame:  I tackled Tim Dwight and put him on his back.  Oh yeah ... but we lost the game 51-0!  Dwight went on to play pro football for the Falcons, Chargers, Patriots, Jets, and now Raiders as a wide receiver and kick returner.  If you look closely in the middle row on the far right is my friend Jesse (#14) and I'm right next to him (#32).  My brother, Mark, is right above him (#25).  Ahh... the glory days.

Tom Brady Knows What Life is NOT about

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently told Details magazine:

Life is not living in the suburbs with a white picket fence.  That's not life.  Somehow our American culture has made it out that that's what life needs to be.

A few years ago Brady did an interview with 60 minutes and admitted with all the SuperBowl rings and millions of dollars he's earned, "there's gotta be more [to life] than this."

Makes me think of the song by Switchfoot called, "This is Your Life."  The chorus goes like this.

This is your life, are you who you want to be? This is your life, are you who you want to be? This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be? When the world was younger and you had everything to lose

Tom Brady knows what life is not about.  Let's pray that as this NFL season begins, Tom Brady's eyes would be opened to see what life is all about.

Results from the 5K

img_0847I ran my first 5K this fourth of July.  Overall, it felt pretty good ... just a little pain on the last mile or so, but I finished.  It was fun to run it with my sister-in-law, Traci, and brother-in-law, Darrel.  Afterwards we found out where we finished in our age division (30-39). Traci - Gold Medal (1st in women ages 30-39) ... pretty impressive Traci!

Darrel - Silver Medal (2nd in men ages 30-39) ... only lost to a track coach

Me - Bronze Medal (3rd in men ages 30-39) ... not bad for my first 5K

My girls thought the bronze medal was pretty cool.  I guess it felt good as a dad to hand them my medal and let them wear it ... even though it was a bronze medal won from a little race in Buffalo Center, Iowa!  Oh well, you gotta start somewhere!

Getting Ready to Run a 5K

This 4th of July I'll be running my first 5K.  Yeah, I know.  Big deal.  Probably some of you out there have run marathons (like my own twin brother, Mark, sister-in-law, Traci, and brother-in-law, Darrel).  But I thought it wise not to try and bite off more than I could chew.  So, I'm getting geared up for the Buffalo Center (wife's hometown in Iowa) Bison Firecracker 5K!  My only real goal is to finish as I haven't been able to run as much lately with it being 95 degrees and crazy humidity! Any advice?  Tips? 

BTW ... Both Darrel and Traci are running in this thing ... they are experienced runners, and I'm expecting Darrel to take home the crown!