Friday, March 20, 2015

Lessons from the Madness

March Madness has begun and as a basketball fan it's one of my favorite times of the year. The competition is strong and games are exciting. But last night as I prepared to turn the TV off, I got to thinking and friend, even if you're not a fan of the game, I believe there are some lessons we can learn from the Madness.

I'll admit my bracket is busted after day one and that hasn't happened for a long time. I typically analyze the games, apply the trends (a 5 always loses to a 12...) and listen to some experts. This year though I went with my heart and picked Iowa State to beat Baylor for the title. Our beloved Cyclones lost by one and didn't bring their A was a disappointing lose. It took me back to my younger days, back when the game was my life and basketball was my God. Back then a loss could affect me for days and my dad would often say, "It's just a game." As a teenager those words frustrated me, but yesterday I found myself remembering them and sharing them with my kids. Basketball is great and March Madness is fun, but on day one of the tourney I'm grateful I was reminded it's still just a game. My heart still aches for the players and coaches, but win or lose life goes on. Perhaps basketball isn't your passion, but what is? When it doesn't go the way you expect or want remind yourself, "It's just __________."

Another lesson from our home team - People Pleasing NEVER Lasts! This past Saturday, ISU won the Big 12 Tourney and were back to back champions for the first time. Fans were excited and had nothing but good things to say about the team and coaches. People were pleased with the Clones and agreed they could win it all. Five days later they lose and we hear, "I knew they wouldn't win. They don't play as a team. Fire the coach." Friend, if we set out to please man the same thing can and will happen to us...people may love us today, but tomorrow things can change real fast. We must remember Galatians 1:10 - "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."  

Our whole family fills out a bracket so the kids get involved in the games as well...last night we all sat and watched part of the Purdue and Cincinnati game. We watched as one player basically hit his opponent and was ejected from the game. The kids hadn't ever seen this before and were quite struck when he had to leave the court. As the announcer talked about his past anger problems we had a great conversation about self-control. We shared with our kids about how our actions affect others and have consequences...this athlete let his team down and we can do the same when we don't practice self-control. "A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back." 

Another lesson I need to remember that came to mind as I watched the game I love - there are no 2nd chances! I'm sure the Cyclones are still replaying the game in their mind and wishing they would have done this or not done that, but they can't go back and change it. And friend, the same is true in the life we live...the things we do or don't do can't be redone tomorrow. Friend, just like a team that plays a tournament game, we have no 2nd chances and are not guaranteed tomorrow, may we use our time wisely! "Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James 4:14

I'll admit I was bummed with the Cyclones loss...I really believed they could make a run and as a former player and coach I know how that last loss stings. As I found myself almost grieving the end of their season, a talk I heard Ben Watson (NFL player) give came to mind. He shared about his Super Bowl ring and how though it's what professional football players train for, in the end it really doesn't matter. Friend stop for a minute and think about what you are working towards? A promotion? A new home? A perfect family? We are called to work as if working for the Lord and must be driven to earn rewards that will never rust away or sit on a shelf. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:19-21

The final lesson and probably the most important came from an interview I saw with the SMU player who was called for goal-tending. The play cost his team the game and ended their season. The guy was in tears and held himself responsible. My heart hurt as I watched him describe it all and express the pain he felt. Then I was reminded of a phrase my high school coach used to say, "When you lose you should feel bad." Obviously this guy wanted to win, he loved his team and he fell short of his dream...he felt bad. As I thought about this a different thought entered my mind - "When you sin, you should feel bad." Friend, that thought was convicting. I thought about how bad I felt for my favorite team losing and for this player I'd never seen making a costly mistake, but how did I feel about the sin in my life. Did I hurt over that? Did I think about the pain it caused for my team, my family, my coach and Heavenly Father? Do I realize how my sin, especially the little ones that don't seem to matter, keep me from living a life worthy of the calling God's given? 

I'll have to admit, I don't think I ever learned so much from a day of basketball. What has the Madness taught you? Friend, I pray you enjoy some more games this weekend, but may we each remember what matters and allow God to teach us as we enjoy the sport we love!


  1. Jill, again I have enjoyed your blog; I really enjoyed the connection of basketball to our lives. I loved that you said, "When you sin, you should feel bad." I loved all the Biblical lesson that you tied in!!! I am not a big college basketball fan, but I do love me some football!! In my North Carolina home, we have Carolina, Duke, NC State, but I am not a die-hard fan. My son-in-law is a big Carolina fan, my moma loved Duke, and my grandson would like to go to NC State (he's only 9); I have a guy in my 8:30 Bible study class who loves Duke, but he loves the Lord more!! I think I'll make a copy of your blog and give it to him; he will enjoy it. I don't think that the Madness has taught me much, but you sure did by comparing it to our way of doing things for the glory of God.
    Keep it coming; I love and learn so much from you,
    Mema Jeanne

    1. Good to hear from you Mema Jeanne! Grateful these words spoke to you even though you're not a big b-ball fan. And thanks for sharing my words it means more than you know. Blessings to you! Enjoy your weekend!

  2. Wow! What great analogies to pull out of March Madness. Thank you for making this more than a tournament for me and for giving me lessons to share with my family!

    You always challenge me, my friend. And I am thankful.



    1. Thanks for stopping by Wendy! Grateful God used these words to enhance the madness for you. Lately I've been thinking about teammates and the importance of encouraging one another, which is so important in sports, but doubly in important as we walk in faith. Thankful to be on His team with you!