Anyone who has ever played basketball has dreamed of dunking the ball.
But for people like me, who tend to suffer from height challenges along with reduced jumping abilities, it’s out of reach. The basket, that is. But I can jump high enough to touch the bottom of the net. Granted, that’s over a foot away from the rim. And you can’t just touch the rim, you must be able to elevate above the rim. That’s beyond me.
So I was pretty impressed when I ran across a video of a guy who is only 5’2” dunking the basketball. That is unheard of. It’s rather incredible, really. Most people at that height would assume it was impossible. Maybe not even try. Obviously this guy went above and beyond expectations. It would be so easy to be like everyone else. To assume it couldn’t be done. But he didn’t sell himself short, and now he amazes everyone who sees him at his game.
Let’s move outside the arena of basketball. In fact, let’s go back to a guy named Moses.
I bet you have heard of him. Did you know that he almost sold himself short? Thankfully God stepped in and made him go for it.
It all started when God showed up one day and asked Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. Most would have jumped at the opportunity. Not Moses.
He balked. Big time!
Moses’ first response was to fall back on what others thought about him. At least his perception of it.
First, he was a “nobody.” Because of that he didn’t think anyone would listen to him or follow his leadership. He had no credentials.
Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” Exodus 4:1 (ESV)
And there was more to his insecurity issues. Apparently he didn’t have the gift of public speaking. And since leaders have to speak on occasion, he was convinced he was the wrong guy. So he “said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Exodus 4:10 (ESV)
And then he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13 (ESV)
Now stop and think about it for a moment. You have heard of Moses because he eventually relented and did what he thought he could not do.
He did what he was not qualified to do.
He did what he thought someone else could have done better.
Thankfully Moses trusted God to use him. But what if God had allowed Moses to sell himself short? Many today consider Moses to be the greatest leader in the Old Testament.
I often wonder what Moses thought about when he went to bed at night.
Did he ever think, “I almost sold myself short.”
Perhaps a good question to ask is “Where am I selling myself short.” Maybe it’s time to go out and try to dunk that basketball.
However, there is one star Running Back who will not be in camp.
In 2014 Ray Rice was caught on video punching his wife–fiancee at the time–in an elevator. As the video went viral, the Baltimore Ravens were essentially forced to cut him from the team. Also, because of the despicable act the NFL also banned him for a period of time. Now that the ban is over, teams are not that likely to reinstate him.
All because of one foolish act.
One. Foolish. Act.
For Ray Rice it cost him millions of dollars. Let that sink in. Millions. That is costly.
And to some degree we have all paid a price for a particular act. Usually they are small things, like sleeping through our alarm one morning or eating too much during the holidays or even getting a speeding ticket.
But what about the more serious “foolish acts”?
Things that impact your entire life and derail you from the path you had planned to take. Some things can even destroy your dreams.
I’ve witnessed the fallout of a happy marriage when a one-night stand destroyed it all. Or what about the single Tweet that cost a young college-grad her job before it even started. Or the person who didn’t get a promotion because of something posted on Facebook.
Many will have to watch their hopes and dreams crumble because of one foolish act. Sad. Ray Rice is one of them.
Did you know the Bible tells about a person who could only look at his dream from a distance? It was Moses.
In Deuteronomy 34:4 it says, “And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.”
Why? Because of one foolish act during Moses’ time leading Israel to the Promised Land. Water was scarce and the people were complaining. If you are a parent and have ever traveled a long distance with your kids, perhaps you can relate a little.
At any rate Moses was human and lost his patience. In fact, he got angry. However, despite the circumstances Moses still needed to obey the LORD.
And the LORD had told Moses to speak to the rock.
But that’s not what happened. “Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.” (Numbers:20:10-11 ESV).
While it may seem like a small thing to hit the rock rather than speak to the rock, it was still an act of rebellion. Plus when you look more closely it appears to the people that Moses was the provider of water. After all, he is the one who hit the rock.
Had he spoken to the rock and water came out it would have been obvious that the LORD was the provider.
Because Moses that day, in a moment of anger, acted rashly and brought attention and honor to himself, he had to suffer the consequences. God took it seriously, and that one foolish act proved to be very costly.
So stay alert in your decisions and your actions. Be aware of oncoming temptations. Don’t be sidelined by one foolish act.
It sounds contradictory. It seems like a dilemma.
In the sports world we define so many great athletes and coaches not only by wins & losses, but also by championships.
Can you imagine being a football coach who takes your team to the super Bowl 4 years in a row and you are still labeled as a loser by many only because you didn’t walk away with the trophy? It happened to Marv Levy as coach of the Buffalo Bills. In one of those games, the outcome would have been a win if a field goal kick had been just 2 feet in the other direction.
Bud Grant was the coach of the Minnesota Vikings who also lost 4 Super Bowls. Was he a loser?
Many great coaches have only gone to the Super Bowl once. Because they walked away with the trophy that one time, we label them as winners.
But think about it. Do you realize how hard it is to get the Super Bowl even once? How about taking your team four times? Very few coaches have ever done that. So are they losers? I would say not.
In Hebrews 11, there is a list we often refer to as God’s Hall of Fame. In verses 36-39 there are a group of people who aren’t even named. They were virtual unknowns who never saw their reward on earth. No recognition, no pats on the back, no rewards. In fact, the polar opposite. But God was watching, and eventually God made it right. In verse 40, it says “God provided something better…”
And today while many still consider Marv Levy and Bud Grant losers, they did get elected to the Football Hall of Fame. Because there are those who recognize their true value as winners.
Guess what? You may be smart, loaded with talent, and loaded with skill. But the circumstances around you just are not in your favor. You may feel like you are losing your own personal “Super Bowl”. But you are not a loser. Keep on keeping on and stay in the game. God is keeping score.
July 1 is a big day in sports since many NBA (National Basketball Association) players become free agents. Which means they are looking for contracts with sweet deals and lots of money. Some have landed huge contracts, including guys you have never heard of.
I even mentioned to Carol that the amount of money is unreal when compared to some of the contracts in the NFL (National Football League), and football is by far a more popular and lucrative sport in this country.
And wouldn’t you know it?
NFL players have noticed and begun to compare. Now their huge contracts are considered peanuts to some of the newer ones in the NBA.
Before July 1 the NFL players considered themselves winners. Now they are losers. That’s what comparing does.
There is always someone who is faster, smarter, richer, prettier, talenter–OK, I made up that last word, but you get the picture.
One NFL player even tweeted that he had picked the wrong sport.
And you will do the same thing. You will think, “I should have chosen……….as my career.”
The fact is when you compare, you will never measure up.
No wonder the Bible warns against comparing. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12, ESV).
No wonder depression is at an all time high. We are comparing our lives with the highlight reels of our friends and neighbors on Facebook, Twitter, or in life in general. It may happen in sports July 1, but it invades our lives when someone we know gets married, gets a new car, lands a new job, or takes an exotic vacation.
And we can’t catch a break. Or so it seems.
On June 30 NFL players went to bed as winners; when they went to bed on July 1, they felt like losers.
Avoid the trap. Avoid comparison or you too will go to bed at night feeling like a loser.
As a guy I typically don’t like to read instructions. Which means I sometimes get it wrong and sometimes it takes longer to accomplish the project.
Bottom line: I needed the help the instructions provided.
But the greatest help we need comes from people. (Yes, I do believe our greatest help comes from God, but God Himself often provides help in the form of people).
The city of Cleveland just won their first championship in 52 years because Lebron James had help.
Let’s back up. Lebron had earlier played for Cleveland seven years with no help and no title.
So Lebron left and headed for Miami. Why? He was chasing a ring. A championship ring, and it was obvious that no help was coming to Cleveland. Miami already had a star player and Lebron invited another friend to join with him in Miami. Now there are three superstars in Miami, just the kind of help Lebron needed. Two championship titles soon followed.
But Lebron’s heart was always in Cleveland — he grew up in nearby Akron. However, when he left earlier there were a lot of hard feelings. People even burnt his jersey. When Lebron was gone, Cleveland was terrible. So terrible they were awarded high draft picks. And they used a number one pick in the draft to draft a star player, Kyrie Irving. (Note: When Lebron was at Cleveland, they were a decent team, which meant they never were awarded high draft picks, which mean Lebron never got the help he needed).
After two championships in Miami, Lebron headed back to Cleveland with one goal: bring the city a championship. He knew Kyrie Irving was already there. And he invited a couple more players to come with him. Why? He knew he needed help.
And let’s not forget that Lebron James is considered to be the best basketball player in the NBA….for the last ten years.
Even the best need help.
As a result, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Championship, and Lebron James was voted the Most Valuable Player of the series.
The best of the best needed help.
So where does that leave us?
In need of help.
In need of others.
In the Bible Moses had Aaron, David had his mighty men, and Jesus had his twelve disciples.
The best and the brightest realize their dreams need help.
Perhaps today the only thing standing between you and your dreams is help.
Let dig back into the archives. Way back. I still remember watching the NFC Championship Game in 1967 (at the time it was the National Football League) with my dad. Ray Scott and Jack Buck, two of my all time favorite sportscasters, called the game.
I will spare you the details, but the game came to be known as the Ice Bowl. Look it up. The weather conditions were beyond brutal.
However, the Green Bay Packers were coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, and the Dallas Cowboys by the legendary Tom Landry. It was a tight game. The score was Dallas 17 – Green Bay 14 with just seconds remaining. However, Green Bay had the ball at the one-yard line (sound familiar?). Actually it was a little less than a yard to go for a touchdown.
It was third down and Bart Starr, the quarterback, was able to sneak it into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. That play was played over and over. It became a defining moment. Now no one knew that at the time. But that’s the way defining moments are. You don’t realize them until later.
But that touchdown secured Vince Lombardi’s place in football history. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if Green Bay had not scored, today’s Super Bowl winner would not be receiving the Lombardi trophy, but the Landry trophy. That’s how big that play was.
You too will face defining moments. My dad faced one when he came home with an unusual job offer. He took it, and it continues to define his life. It was a wise decision.
In my own life I made a decision to buy a piece of land in a split second. That quick decision became a very positive defining moment in my family’s life.
In the business world, Stephen Covey wrote a book in his fifties entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.” That book became a defining moment in his own life.
But let’s go back to football and the recent Super Bowl. Seattle had the ball at the one yard line; however, unlike Green Bay, they did not score. As a result New England won the game and Tom Brady became a four-time Super Bowl winner. Even though he was not on the field for the crucial play, that win has forever put him in the conversation of “Best Quarterbacks of All Time.” The play at the end of the game and the win became defining moments in his life. It didn’t hurt that he had an incredible fourth quarter while on the field.
A defining moment may be on its way into your own life. You may not recognize when it comes, but there will be one. The best way to prepare is to start making wise decisions today so when the defining moment comes, you’ll be ready to make the decision that defines you.
In the Old Testament a boy named David made a decision to take on the giant Goliath. That decision became the defining moment in his life. But his earlier decisions led to that decision.
Once again, a defining moment is on its way. I hope you’re ready. It may define you for years to come.
Are you ready?
As life moves forward at the speed of light I have found that the natural tendency is to say yes and add, add, and add some more. When football season arrives that has to get added in. That’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday night, and Thursday night. Then there is more reading and more meetings and more time developing people.
So my biggest challenge seems to be deciding what to say NO to. For me it looks like I will have to cut out some of the flow of information; just can’t read as much. Still sorting it out though.
Then there is the building project. Soon it will be something else.
But I believe deciding what not to do or do less of is going to be a BIG difference maker in my life.
One of the hardest things to say NO to is an idea while reading the Bible. My first thought is often ‘I need to study that passage a little more.’ Before I know it I have said yes and books are piled all over my desk. I must remind myself to say NO and put the books back and stay on task.
Steve Jobs was well known for saying that saying NO was perhaps the biggest secret to Apples’ success.
Now let’s be honest. How many of us really believe that saying NO could be such a key?
The hard part: not doing some good things. But even Jesus could not do everything. There were sick people He did not heal and there were people who wanted His time, yet He got in a boat and sailed away.
As I get older I often tell Carol that I when I can no longer keep up on the court I will hang up my basketball shoes. Now that will be a tough day. Right now my goal is to be able to play until I’m sixty. Keep in mind most of the guys I play with are in their late twenties or thirties.
Fortunately for me I was blessed with some speed in the game. Actually it was speed not skill that often kept me on a team.
But the reality is as I age I will slow down. And when the day comes that I can no longer keep up, I will stop playing.
Now think how uncomfortable that is. How often does someone in the workplace approach their boss and admit that they are not keeping up? How hard is it to approach someone and tell them they are no longer keeping up? I still recall the days in steel erection where some guys just could not keep up, and we had to let them go.
One day you and I will leave our jobs. One day I will have to quit playing basketball. One day you and I will have to stop driving our cars.
Those will be tough days. But they are coming. And yes, it will continue to be one of life’s most difficult questions.
Am I still able to keep up?
Mark is best known for being the writer of the Gospel of Mark. That in itself would put him in the winner’s circle. Can you imagine being one of forty different authors whom God chose to write the Bible? I cannot even imagine. What an honor. What a privilege. What a WIN!
Winning is fun. Winning alleviates a lot of pain. It makes you forget about your losses.
But Mark didn’t start out in the winner’s circle.
Actually he started out in the loser’s circle.
We first meet Mark in Acts 12:12 when the church met in his mother’s home. Mark must have showed some promise because when Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, Mark accompanied them. It didn’t last long, however. For whatever reason Mark left and went home (Acts 13:13).
A few years later when Paul and Barnabas set out on another journey, Barnabas was ready to give Mark another chance. But Paul was not so keen on the idea. Perhaps he thought Mark was lazy, uncommitted, or lacked the necessary skills. He may not have been up to the travel physically. We don’t know.
Although I don’t know how Mark felt, I know to be rejected by Paul had to hurt deeply. Rejection is never easy, but to be rejected by one of your heros multiplies the pain.
A sharp disagreement ensued, and Barnabas wound up leaving Paul and sailing to Cyprus with Mark. Evidently it got pretty heated. “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39 ESV). Paul is vehemently saying, “I don’t want him on my team.” OUCH!
Towards the end of Paul’s life he writes to Timothy and asks him to bring Mark with him. In 2 Timothy 4:11 he says, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”
As you can see, Mark is now considered valuable to the apostle Paul. I’d call that a win.
Clearly there were some hard feelings earlier, but these two men overcame those and were once again a team.
You need to understand Paul’s high estimation of Mark at this point. He is a lonely man since everyone but Luke has left him. To consider Mark very useful at this point says a lot about Mark. This was the guy who bailed earlier. Paul was not afraid of that now. Obviously Mark had grown personally over the years, and Paul noticed. Quite possibly Barnabas, Mark’s older cousin, was a huge inspiration to Mark’s personal development.
What did Mark do? What can we do in order to arrive in the winner’s circle?
1. Never give up on yourself.
There are only 32 NFL head coaches. It’s hard to believe you can actually make it into that elite group and be considered a loser. But some are. That’s how hard life can be.
One reason I love football is that there are so many parallels to life within the sport. For one, attitude plays such a huge role among NFL coaches. They all experience losing. Yet they all act like winners. How? Bob LaMonte, a sports agent who works with NFL coaches, said, “When I talk to a winning coach on Monday morning, I often detect that his mood isn’t much different than that of a losing coach.”
For another, it’s a game of second chances. As I write this the Seattle Seahawks have just won the Super Bowl. The coach is Pete Carroll. Several years ago Pete coached the New York Jets and totally bombed out. He was criticized for his coaching skills. When he returned to the NFL as the Seahawks coach, he was criticized for his drafting skills. In fact, some said the 2012 draft proved he couldn’t coach. Needless to say, it was in that draft that he chose Russell Wilson, the current starting quarterback, along with a few others who were on the roster of the Super Bowl winning team.
Pete Carroll never gave up on himself.
Neither can you.
2. Surround yourself with people who have your back. You need at least one person who is going to hang with you and encourage you. For Mark it was Barnabas. Who is going to be your cheerleader? Who is going to go through the tough spots with you. Oprah once said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
How often do think about the company you keep? How often do you think of the influence they are having in your life? Are the people in your life the ones who will help you get to the winner’s circle?
Some are with you only because it’s convenient.
3. Add value to others. Near the end of his life Paul said Mark was helpful to his ministry. That is, Mark brought something to the table. Not only was Mark valuable to Paul, but Mark also spent time with Peter, another of the apostles (1 Peter 5:13). And we would all admit that the Gospel of Mark has added tremendous value over the years to millions of people.
Think of several ways you can add value to someone: Have a cup of coffee with someone and offer encouragement, spend time with someone, run an errand, etc. You could give someone you know a book on marriage, finances, ….Abraham Lincoln said, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” The list is endless. Start today adding value to others.
Had Mark given up, Paul and Peter would have lost out. The world would have lost out. If you allow failure to define you as a loser, you will never make it to the winner’s circle.
This past fall Carol and I took a couple of weeks to celebrate 30 years of marriage. While traveling we visited ancient Olympia. This is where the first Olympics were held. They took place every four years from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.
The athletes actually had some amazing facilities for their time. This was before electricity and running water to be sure, but ingenuity ruled the day. There was an indoor gymnasium, an outdoor stadium with a track, and bath houses. Also, there was a temple to Zeus right in the middle of the sports complex.
The early games consisted of events like running, wrestling, and horse and chariot races. In today’s Olympics the site changes every four years, and athletes come from all over the world.
When they show up it is typically to participate in only ONE event. The fact is, it is very difficult to compete and excel in multiple sports. Swimmers swim and runners run. Ice skaters skate. And if the ice skaters decided to run, they would be considered failures. But as long as they skate, no one will notice that they cannot run very well. Stick to their ONE thing, and they look exceptional.
We admire people who have chosen to excel in ONE thing, yet we fall into the trap thinking that we can excel in several things.
As great an athlete as Michael Jordan was he never could excel at baseball, even in the Minor Leagues. So he wisely decided to stick with his ONE thing, basketball.
Now you may be asking, What is my ONE thing?
This is not an easy question to answer. It involves a number of things like honesty, clarity, understanding, choices, and time. There is no magic formula.
Olympians get this. Think about it.
1. Honesty: They start out being very honest about their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Clarity: That brings clarity as to what they will work on. Hint-It’s not their weaknesses.
3. Understanding: Over time they understand how to excel, improve, and increase their skill level.
4. Choices: They learn to say yes to some things and no to others. It may be saying no to TV and yes to fruits and vegetables. Those are hard choices for many, but not Olympians.
5. Time: In due time others notice their high level of skill, sponsors step in, and their journey to the Olympics begins.
These five things do not represent five easy steps. They simply illustrate that sometimes finding your ONE thing is not as easy as it sounds. But it also illustrates that you can begin the journey.
What’s your ONE thing? Why not start the journey today?