I Buffet my Body – Brady Heslip – Baylor Bears – March Madness Part 1

I believe that I have a good sense of humor, but embarrassingly, one way that my body works too hard is with puns.  I often find that puns can be clever or corny and appreciate both to some extent.  But by favorite kind of puns are the ones that bring about a certain irony.  And there is a certain irony in 1 Corinthians 9.27 where Paul writes that “I buffet my body and subdue it”  The irony of course is that the word he uses to train it “buffet” is spelled the same as buffet – as in “all you can eat”.  We need to buffet ourselves against the buffet.

Heslip

Heslip firing off a Three-Pointer

Yah, so anyway, Baylor senior guard Brady Heslip – a fellow Canadian and one of the top 3-point shooters in the NCAA, but Baylor was not his first choice as place to play college ball.  Originally committed to Boston College, he did not play his freshman year.  Then the coach was fired and Heslip transferred to Baylor.  That meant sitting out a year.  And as you can read in this article from Sports Spectrum, Heslip knew that he was overweight.  He also knew that if he wanted to play college ball, he would have to get back in shape.  So during his year of ineligibility, he made some changes to his workout habits and to his diet.  He buffeted his body, training it.  And he lost 24 pounds.  Later that year his game would get noticed, especially in a huge NCAA tournament win against Colorado.

goggles

Heslip and his “3-point goggles” have also focused on following Christ since going to Baylor

Also, after transferring to Baylor, Heslip made another change in his life – with the guidance of Baylor head coach Scott Drew, Heslip was introduced to the Christian faith and made following Jesus a central part of his life.  He sums up his journey like this.

“It just reassures that God really does have a plan for all of our lives. If you pray about it and want to learn about it and want to get to know Him, He will do works for you. He will speak to you, sometimes indirectly, and just show that He really does have your back, and He is looking out for you. He will put you in places you need to be, and as long as you stay close to Him and try to grow in Him, He will work for you.”

Here are my takeaways from his story:

1- Christianity is not for the complacent –  1 Corinthians 9 is challenging for us.  It is easy to coast, but as a wise person once pointed out to me, the only way to coast is downhill.  It is easier to eat junk then it is to eat healthy, it is easier to be lazy then it is to exercise and it is easier to coast in life then to truly follow God with our whole heart – but in each of these cases, the work is worth it.  We can have the assurance of salvation when we surrender our lives to Christ, but to truly love Him is to live by His standards and that takes effort.  We can always keep training. There is no coasting in following Christ.

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Heslip says coach Scott Drew helped him learn to live for God.

2- Waiting doesn’t mean stopping – God doesn’t always move when and how we think he will, but as we wait to see what he is doing, that does not mean that we stop everything we are doing.  We keep living for Him where we are and being equipped to do what He asks us to do.  Heslip had to wait a year to play ball, but he used that time to prepare for when that moment came, so that he could be ready to jump in and be successful.  While we wait for God to open whatever door He is going to open, we can continue to grow closer to Him and be ready so when that door or another door opens, we can be ready to step through and see God work through us.

As Baylor enters this tournament, and March Madness hits, I am looking forward to seeing how God will use Heslip and others in the tournament who love Him to share what God is doing in their lives.  Keep checking back over the next 3 weeks to read more stories of Christ-followers in the NCAA Tournament.

 

March Madness – the Champs are crowned. Christians on the Louisville Cardinals

What a run of madness that was.  In the end, those who like upsets may have been a little saddened that the number 1 seed overall won the whole thing.  But they didn’t have an easy run of it.  They trailed by more than 10 in both the semi-final and final.  They had to deal with one of their teammates going down to what I’ve heard many say is “the worst injury I’ve seen in sports”.

Peyton Siva, the only senior on the team is the team captain, and as you can read in this article

Siva's play is "all for Jesus"

 

from USA today, Siva had a very difficult home life growing up.  The most well shared part of his story is the day, at age 13, when he took his brother’s car and drove around to various seedy parts of Seattle looking for his drug addict father.  You can read this Sports Spectrum article about Siva’s deep rooted faith in God and spiritual leadership for the team.  He plays by the motto “Its All Jesus”.

Now, as one of the best players on the championship team, it isn’t surprising that he and the rest of the Cardinals were able to overcome the injury to Kevin Ware.  So why does an injury like that happen?  Who knows?  But some cool things that have come out because of it.

Hancock rushed over to pray for his injured teammate

If you watched the game last night, then you know that Cardinals Luke Hancock was instrumental in Louisville’s comeback.  He was rewarded with the MVP award).  They were down by a dozen when he started going on a rampage of 3 pointers that keyed a 14-1 run right before halftime.  But it was Hancock’s actions during the injury to Ware that really amazed me and challenged me.  As you can hear in interviews and read in this blog by Cory Nikkel (warning: He links to the injury video not for the faint of heart), Hancock quickly made his way over to his fallen teammate, put a hand on his chest and prayed for Ware.  Check out the picture from USA today.  Hancock says he was moved to be by Ware’s side because he had suffered an injury last summer and remembered his teammate that came and stayed by his side – that meant a lot to him, so he knew he had to be that guy for his injured teammate.

I have 3 thoughts to share about this story.

1- Serving God and Loving others can get messy and uncomfortable.

Others instincts was to turn away, to cringe and even to throw up.   I am not condemning the natural reaction – it is natural!  But Hancock opted to go into the place of pain and suffering and be with the one dealing with the pain.  We are called to that, too.  To meet people in need where they are, and to be there to comfort and pray for each other.

2- Our desire to help others is motivated by our own experiences.

Hancock felt compelled to go over to Ware because he remembered how much he didn’t want to be alone when he was injured.  God wants to use the experiences we have in our lives  – positive and negative – to help others.

3- When in doubt – Pray.

No one had seen anything like this before.  No one really knew what to do, how to help.  Prayer can go a long way in those situations.  We are told to pray continuously and as we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will be helped with what to pray for.

Very cool that all these things from this team pointed to God.  Congrats to Louisville for their Championship run!

Buzzer Beater – Aaron Craft of the Ohio State Buckeyes – Rounds 2 & 3

The reason this time of the NCAA basketball season is called “March Madness” is because there are so many crazy story lines

Aaron Craft's 3 pointer at the buzzer sends Ohio State to the Sweet 16 for the 4th straight year

happening all at once. There are 347 division one college basketball teams and these are (arguably) the best 68 in the NCAA.  Only 1 of these 68 teams will win their final game of the season, and that  will be the champs, crowned in a week’s time as the champs.  Now I am only a casual fan of the NCAA basketball.  I’m as likely to flip a coin to fill in my brackets as I am to think through who I want to win (I actually did 1 bracket each way this year, and have Marquette winning in both)

The tournament, has it all –  gutty players playing through injury, teams dealing with injuries to star players, upsets, bad calls.  In short, there are lots of reasons to watch, and lots of reasons to get excited.  And then there are the buzzer-beaters.  Those last second shots that determine the outcome of a particular game.  We had one yesterday, a 3 pointer drained by Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, ending the season of the Iowa State Cyclones.  Read about the Madness from “the Lantern” (Ohio State newspaper)

Aaron Craft is a Junior guard for the Buckeyes.  And as you can read in this article from “The Lantern”  Craft is a natural leader who is growing in his responsibilities to the team and in his faith in God.  The article talks about how he got connected with Athletes in Action (AIA) on campus and how that keeps him grounded in the face of expectations for the basketball season.  You can also read more about Craft in this article from Sports Spectrum Magazine.

Some thoughts…

1- God is using programs like Athletes in Action and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) to change lives.

I’ve read over and over again about people understanding who God is and who He is calling them to be through programs like these.  It all starts with a bold faith and a willingness to share the message of Jesus unashamed and unafraid.  There are lots of ways that society can look down on us or insult us because of our faith.  But that doesn’t matter compared to what God can do through us when we are obedient.  AIA, FCA, IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) gives people a place to grow in their faith and boldness and it is changing lives!  If you are looking to grow in your faith or boldness, maybe a group like this on your campus is worth checking out.

2- It’s up to us.

Both articles that I read about Craft and OSU basketball mentioned the players on the team that had graduated and moved on, leaving the program in the hands of the current team.  It can be easy to sit back and let others lead – especially when they are good at what they do.  But now the leadership is being passed on.  Sometimes, we treat our faith like this.  We sit back and watch what others are doing for a while, staying in the background. But the time will come when God asks us to step up and live out his purposes.  Will you be ready?  When the trials of life come, we will need Christ as OUR foundation so we aren’t destroyed.  There are no sidelines in this game.  God calls us all to action.

Can Baptists Really Dance? March Madness Special – Play in Round

Well, it is that time of the year.  A little madness in the middle of March.  68 teams have made it to the “Big Dance”.  There are 4 play in games that will cut the field down to the  Final 64.  One of the teams at the “dance” this year is Liberty University from Lynchburg Virginia.  Liberty is a Baptist University and was a long-shot to make it to the tournament, especially after they started 0-8 and had their best player Antwan Burris on the shelf for the whole year with a foot injury.  It looked like a long season for the Flames.  

But then they started to turn things around a little.  They started to win a few games here and there.  At the end of the regular season, they were considered an incredible long shot to win their conference.  But then they went on an amazing run, beating team after team that should have put an end to their season.  They won their conference championship and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament – a spot in a play-in game, becoming only the second team in history to make it to the tournament with 20 losses in a season.  Now say what you want about automatic bids and whether or not the Flames deserved to be there or not, but it sure has been a great run for them.  There is something to be said about peaking at the right time.  You can read more about their season in this article from Washington Post.  

Coach Dale Lever has been the coach of the Flames since 2009.  He had been an assistant coach at Liberty, then took a job as assistant coach at Marquette  with Buzz Williams (who I blogged about a year ago – read it here).   As you can see in this video by Sports Spectrum Magazine, both Layer and women’s basketball coach Carey Green have a strong faith in God that guides them as men and as coaches, not only to strive for success on the court, but more importantly, success in what God has called them to do-  disciple their players, lead the team and reflect Jesus while doing so.

2013 Big South Champs - Liberty Flames

They are humble men, desiring nothing beyond God’s plan for their programs.   There are a lot of parallels between the role of a coach and our Christian faith.  It is important to have mentors that will teach you, challenge you, expect you to stretch yourself and continue to grow in your faith.  We will never reach a place where we can’t know God more.  There isn’t a college basketball program whose players don’t game plan or practice, to make themselves better.  A coach will help focus the gifts that the players have,  and channel it into a plan that will give the team the best chance for success.  The same can be said of a good mentor – He or she will challenge you to grow, to get better and to exceed expectations.  They will also be there to give you some guidance, to correct what isn’t working and to cheer you on when you are meeting your potential.

As I type this, Liberty has lost their play-in game by 1 point against North Carolina A&T.  This Cinderella’s trip to the ball was short lived, but the impact that Coach Layer has had on these men will go far beyond, and serve far greater purposes then this tournament would ever have allowed on its own.  Congrats Flames on a great run at the end of the season.  Keep the lessons you learned about God’s faithfulness along the way close by.  They will serve you well in the rest of your life.

 

 

A Name is Not Enough – Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors

Warriors Guard Stephen Curry

A father’s dream is often that his son will follow in his footsteps.  We all have interests, things that we could effortlessly spend hours doing or even talking about.  To have this common ground is great and can build a strong bond between a parent and their child.  My father and I share an enjoyment of golf and while neither of us will be playing at Augusta National anytime soon, we have had some good times on the golf course or on the driving range.  But that is more of a pastime for both of us – not an all consuming part of our life.

Stephen's Dad Dell played for 16 years in the NBA

Some sons follow in their father’s career path.  That can lead to a close bond, or it can lead to some added pressure.  For example, in the Stephen Curry story, his father, Dell played in the NBA for 16 years.  Stephen grew up around basketball and played the game throughout his childhood.  But despite his father’s successful career, Stephen was passed over by many big name basketball programs at the end of his high school playing days.  He agreed to go play at Davidson and went on to post the second highest point average of any freshman in the nation.  You can read about his story in an interview with Prodigal Magazine here.  The next year, he would lead Davidson on a magical run in the NCAA tournament, leading Davidson to the Elite 8.   You can also check out this article from Sports Spectrum magazine about how injuries have slowed him a little, this far in his career, but that he is still a star in the making.  Earlier this week, Curry scored a career high 54 points in a game against the Knicks.

Curry celebrates some of his 54 points against the Knicks - Feb 2013

 

My Takaways from this story:

1- God has ways of keeping us humble.

Curry mentions in the Prodigal Interview that if he had played at one of the bigger schools, he likely would have “gotten caught up in the hype and possibly lost my foundation of what I grew up on.”    He had become consumed about where he was going to play.  To not be offered a scholarship at a “big school” program may have been frustrating for Curry at the time, but he has no regrets about playing at Davidson.  He talked about what a great experience he had there.  God knows what He is doing.  Even when we think He has forgotten us, or let us down, it turns out we are in exactly the best situation for us.

2- We have our own life to live

Being the son of an NBA player doesn’t automatically make you an NBA player.  It doesn’t even guarantee you a scholarship at a top school.  You need to get there yourself.  Just like belief in God.  Stephen had to work and earn his way to the NBA.  Being the child of Christian parents does not make you a Christian.  We need to choose to follow God on our own.  As a dad, I wish I could make my kids choose to follow God but it doesn’t work that way.  We each need to make our own choice to follow God or Not.  Joshua, when the Israelites arrived in the promised land, called all the people together and asked them to make up their mind about who they would serve – who would be their God.  The same challenge is issued to each of us today.  As I think about it, my ultimate goal as a dad, is that if my kids are going to follow my footsteps in some way, it is that they would see that I live my life for God and choose to follow God themselves.

For more about Stephen Curry, check out his web site