Posted tagged ‘Michigan State basketball’

Does God Care About Sports?

March 31, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 31, 2014

 

About a week ago our local newspaper ran two different columns from the sports editors in response to a letter from a young girl who was inquiring about the level of God’s interest in sports.

The writers gave some excellent examples in the affirmative to the question. God does care about sports…just not as much as we do! God does love sports…just not as much as some people who wear spikes on their shoulders, paint their faces black, and wear Raider jerseys.

Sports has an important role in our culture, but sports sometimes becomes our culture. The lines get blurred on what is healthy and what is fanaticism. When lines get blurred the weird and unthinkable starts sneaking in the back door that has been propped open. People start bulking up, but bulking up isn’t good enough! Sometimes steroids and other “Miracle-Gro” hormones get added to the equation to give the athlete an advantage for now…and consequences later.

Sports has replaced the Sunday Worship Service, ironically, as what is worshiped. People will go to a Saturday night service so they can watch the Sunday afternoon Broncos’ game…or just not go to church at all!

Once again, ironically, as a Baptist pastor I must applaud the Mormons. Last weekend the BYU women’s basketball team was playing a Sweet Sixteen game against undefeated Connecticut. The Cougars hung tough, but lost to the undefeated Huskies. But long before that game was played it had been determined that if BYU would not play a game on Sunday, March 30.

Wait a minute! This is the NCAA…March Madness…hoops hysteria!

The Mormons would not let sports shape what they firmly believe in. I find that level of commitment a bit lower in Protestantland and the Catholic culture.

God cares about sports. He cares about people realizing their potential and purpose. Shooting a long jumper with a fluid stroke that more times than not results in the “tickling of the twine” is a gift, but it often gets confused with purpose. God’s purpose for our life…I pray…is more than how well I can flick my wrist in the releasing of a basketball.

God cares about sports and the positives they can teach…the work ethic…the incredible learnings from being part of a team…the friendships…the physical development as a result of getting in shape.

He cares about the opportunities that sports can bring into a world that aches with disappointments and negative diagnoses. If it hadn’t been for sports Michigan State’s Adreian Payne would not have met an eight year old girl named Lacey who had been battling cancer. Sports, namely being a 6’10” center on the Michigan State basketball team, was the avenue that brought him into Lacey’s hospital room at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan.

But it was a little girl’s battling for her life that brought perspective into Adreian’s life.

God cares about sports, and he also cares about whether or not we can keep a healthy perspective on things that are temporal and things that are permanent.

I still love shooting the long jump shot, although my knees seem to be protesting it more and more, but more than that, I love coaching basketball and being used to have a positive impact on young people’s lives.

God cares more about my impact on the younger generation than he does about how sweet the rotation on the basketball looks as I shoot it towards the basket.

The guy who mentored me in coaching, Don Fackler, brought that perspective to me. Don had a sweet outside shot, and if I was guarding him down low he would make me pay by scoring and also sliming me with his perspiration. He sweat more than anybody I knew! But his impact on how I coach now is seen in many ways. I never used the word “discombobulated” until I met Don Fackler.

At his funeral some twelve years ago now the aisles of First United Methodist Church in Mason, Michigan were filled with his former players…young men and women who had been impacted by him. Young men and women who were now raising their own children, or pursuing their college degree, or making a positive impact wherever they now lived.

I think that’s why God cares about sports, and that’s why I also care about sports.

Being A Six Foot Ten Inch Friend

February 7, 2014

WORDS FROM WW                                                          February 7, 2014

 

 

“Basketball can sometimes become the gateway to discovering what is really important about life.”

 

Adreian Payne is six feet ten inches tall, and is an All-American basketball player on the Michigan Sate University Spartans. When the NBA draft happens next summer he is projected to go in the first round.

But basketball has become secondary to Adreian this past year, due to an eight year old girl who comes up to about his waist named Lacy Holsworth.

Adreian met Lacy when he and some of his Michigan State teammates had toured the pediatrics ward of Sparrow Hospital the previous basketball season. Lacy had been diagnosed with cancer. As his teammates were about to leave her room she asked Payne to stay for a moment. There had been a bond that she sensed with him. Perhaps it was because Adreian’s mom had died when he was 13, and so he had endured a lot of pain and difficult times in his life. They traded phone numbers that day and began to text one another. After Lacy finished her chemotherapy treatments and returned home she would come to Spartan home games wearing the number 5 jersey- Adreian’s number. He would bring her onto the court during pre-game warmups and have her shoot a few shots. In her bedroom she has an “AP Wall” where she posts newspaper clippings of Payne’s MSU games.

After she and her family returned from a trip to Disneyland she felt a familiar pain in her jaw. The cancer had returned, and chances were good that this time it wasn’t going away. She started chemo treatments again. One day she said absolutely no visitors…except Adreian!

One day when the weather was really bad and he couldn’t get off campus to go visit her in the hospital he tweeted his 18,000 Twitter followers asking them to pray for Lacy.

The prognosis for this little girl is not promising, but Adreian Payne will walk with her through each of the battles.

Basketball has simply become the avenue for his life to journey with her, and although Payne will probably make a good living playing the sport he excels at one little eight year old girl will always help him remember what is really important.