Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Mission & Eric the Eel

If you didn't notice, the Olympics are taking place right now in London!  Okay, you probably noticed. For some weird reason my brain keeps wanting to compare the Olympics to a missions conference! So for no other reason than to get it out of my head here goes:

  1. Like the Olympics, a missions conference brings people together from obscure parts of the world.
  2. Like the Olympics, a missions conference is often used to celebrate triumph and highlight causes.
  3. Like the Olympics, a missions conference seems to create sudden expertise in cultures (events) we knew nothing about 10 minutes ago. (A quote from a friends facebook feed... "The woman swimmer in lane 7 during the breaststroke so looked like she was not swimming correctly. She wasn't coming out of the water as much as the others... hmmmm")  "And yes, the churches in Botswana could have a lot of their problems fixed if they would appoint elders.... or something... maybe... I guess."
  4. Like the Olympics, a missions conference is fascinating to attend with lots of stories and insights into things you'd never think of otherwise.
  5. Like the Olympics, educated commentators (veteran missionaries) are essential guides to gain deeper insight into the issues being presented.
  6. Like the Olympics, a missions conference often has an element of competition to it as diverse ministries and mission fields seek support from a finite pool of resources.
  7. Like the Olympics, a missions conference will always reveal obscure ministries (events) that you'd never considered before, but they are incredibly important to those involved with them.
  8. Like the Olympics, a missions conference seeks to promote peace around the world. The Olympics promote the values of: respect, excellence, and friendship as a pathway to peace. Christian missionaries also promote a set of values with the goal of creating peace with God and neighbour.
As you can see, I'm two short of a Top 10 list, so please feel free to leave a comment and help me out.

Okay, I know this post is a bit lame, so since #8 talks about Olympic values & #1 mentions obscure countries, I thought I'd share the highlight of the Sydney Olympics: Eric the Eel. The commentators are classic Australian comedians Roy & H.G..

Youtube won't let me embed the video, so click HERE!   Eric is now the coach of the Equatorial Guinea national swim team!!

And here's a similar story about the London Games with a rower from Niger who's only been rowing three months!! He finished 90+ seconds behind the winner!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


On Sunday Adam Scott had a four shot lead in the British Open (golf) with four holes to play. He bogeyed the final four holes and lost by a shot to Ernie Els. That sure seems like the definition of choking. In letting this Major escape his grasp Scott following in the footsteps of another famous Aussie choker golfer, Greg Norman.  But it's all swings and roundabouts as the last time an Aussie won a major it was thanks to a Phil Mickelson brain freeze in the US Open.

Also lost in the headline of Scott's collapse is the fact that almost everyone else on the leaderboard Saturday night, except Els, went backwards on Sunday.
  • Adam Scott +5
  • Graeme McDowell +5
  • Brandt Snedeker +4
  • Tiger Woods +3
It was a tough day to play golf. Luke Donald shot one under and moved up 9 spots!

Several other sites out there have made a sport of identifying chokers.  Here's a few to choose from:
  • An Aussie perspective: (From 2008, a bit old as it names Spain as chokers in soccer, they've since won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012! Although England held true to form with a penalty shootout loss to Italy! It also must come from rugby country as it leaves out Collingwood and St. Kilda!)
  • A US list with pics from:
  • Here's another older list that does a good job of listing their Top 10 and telling a bit of the story.
  • Wikipedia even has an entry for choking (sports) with numerous examples including my (almost) hometown Buffalo Bills of the early 90's. Four consecutive Superbowls: Zero wins!
The Bible doesn't really talk about choking, but I think it gives a few examples of guys who choked in life.  They had everything going for them and then threw it all away.  Here's my list:

Top 5 Biblical Chokers

  1. Judas Iscariot - He actually followed Jesus around for 3 years.  He heard him teaching, he could ask questions, he had the opportunity that every Christian literally hopes to die for! Then he traded it all in for 40 pieces of silver that he later returned. Tragically his story ends with with hanging himself. (He literally choked himself... sorry, couldn't resist.)
  2. King Rehoboam - He took the throne after Solomon, Israel's greatest, richest, most powerful king.  Every coach or player following in the footsteps of a legend knows the pressure that comes with that situation. Rehoboam crumbled under the pressure. Intending to put his own stamp on the nation he raised taxes and applied a firmer hand in his rule. In response the people rebelled and the nation split into two kingdoms! (1 Kings 12)
  3. King Saul - The first king of Israel also had great expectations. The people demanded a king in spite of God's warnings.  He got off to a bright start in winning some battles, but ends his life turning from God, consulting a witch, and dying in battle with most of his sons.
  4. Moses -He accomplished a lot of great things for God, but he also bailed at crucial moments. Commissioned by God to confront Pharaoh, Moses gave one weak excuse after another until God eventually sent his brother Aaron to do all the talking for him. And the ultimate "choke" was leading Israel out of Egypt toward the Promised Land for 40 + years and then dying on the threshold of entering the land.
  5. 9 Lepers - There are lots of stories about lepers in the Bible.  They often demonstrate how God uses the weak things and people in life to accomplish his purposes. But Luke 17 tells of Jesus' encounter with 10 lepers.  He heals them.  That's a terrific blessing and high for them. They choke though, because 9 of them are forever remembered as failing to thank Jesus.  They serve as an object lesson of what NOT to do.  From a life changing high, to finger wagging for at least 2,000 years!!
Any other suggestions?

Moral: If you're going to choke, do it somewhere unimportant, like on the sports field.  Don't choke in life.  Keep your commitments. Finish what you start. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sports Science

I believe that God intricately designed the human body and I'm convinced that it's awe inspiring. However, I never made any connection between relying on a healthy body for sports and wanting to learn about how it works.

In order to make my Australian university degree meet the requirements of my US seminary I had to take several general education classes in the US: including biology.

I hate biology.  I had little interest in learning about all the little parts of cells all doing their thing.  After all, they do it whether I know about it or not.  Studying nutrition makes a little more sense, but even then, it's not a lot of fun!!

On the other hand, I find the Sports Science Guy on ESPN very interesting. There's also a tonne of videos on YouTube of segments he's done.  Here's one of my favourites.  No apologies to all you baseball fans out there. :-)

Along similar lines a friend shared this entertaining article with me.  It answers the question I know you've always wondered, "What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?"  Get the answer HERE!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

NBA Champion & Church member

I just want to draw your attention to an article in the Christian Chronicle about Norris Cole, a bench player for the Miami Heat.  He now has the same number of rings as LeBron James!  You can read it here.

The article discusses Cole's faith and church involvement.  I don't want to suggest that some of the excesses we see in the lives of superstars from time to time are the norm in every locker room, but I suspect that in that environment there are many temptations for Christian athletes to compromise their faith.  Any athlete able to maintain their faith convictions should be respected.  Too often though, we hear more about the failures than the successes.

In the article Cole comments that the team schedule doesn't allow him to attend the worship service at his home congregation in Miami every Sunday.  So to help him out "every sermon that I miss, the Miami Gardens church gives me a DVD so I can go back and watch. My mother, she gives me a daily Scripture reading and devotional for every day. They help me stay spiritually minded and keep me on task."

That demonstrates a high level of commitment.  I know that most members at my church who miss a service don't go back and listen to it or attempt to make it up.  So big props to Norris Cole.  I hope he perseveres in his faith and that his NBA career takes off.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Great Expectations - Wimbledon

Roger Federer is one of my favourite athletes.  He's dominated men's tennis for a decade and always seems to carry himself respectfully.

On Sunday Federer beat Murray to claim his 7th Wimbledon title and his 17th Grand Slam title. (There's a good overview here.)

Murray was the first British men's singles finalist at Wimbledon since 1938.  And Murray's Scottish... sorry England.

The good news is that another Brit, Jonathan Marray teamed with Danish player Frederik Nielson to win the Men's Doubles crown over the weekend.  This represented the first British doubles triumph since 1936 while the Danes had never previously won a men's Grand Slam title: doubles or singles.  Also, Andy Murray's big brother, Jamie, won a mixed doubles title in 2007.

At least on the Gentlemen's side that just leaves the Singles title as the last remaining hurdle to breaking many years of British tennis futility. There's a good chance Andy Murray will find a way to win this before his career's over.

Having seen the incredible pressure each Australian player endures when the Aussie Open roles around each January I would have been shocked if Murray had managed to win his first Wimbledon final.  Pat Cash, Pat Rafter, Mark Philippoussis, and Leyton Hewitt were all great players.  It's incredibly hard to win though with the weight of a nation on your back.

I've done a little research and here's the last time someone from the host nation of the four Grand Slam tournaments actually won the tournament.

Wimbledon (Great Britain)
  • WIN: 1936 - Fred Perry
  • FINAL: 1938 - Bunny Austin
US Open (USA) 
  • WIN: 2003 - Andy Roddick
  • FINAL: 2006 - Andy Roddick
Australian Open (Australia)
  • WIN: 1976 - Mark Edmondsen
  • FINAL: 2005 - Lleyton Hewitt
French Open (France)
  • WIN: 1983 - Yannick Noah
  • FINAL: 1988 - Henri Leconte 
To give an idea of the type of pressure placed on Murray, look at the way the price of ticket prices changed once he made the final!

"Since Murray won the quarter finals we've seen a 25% increase in the price of listed tickets. If he gets through to the final it will be history in the making and we could see tickets being offered for up to £45,000 for a pair." (original article here)

I think a lot Christians feel like God puts a similar amount of pressure on us to live up to His "impossible" expectations.  This causes many to give up.  But after Murray lost to Federer, there was no groundswell to throw him in the Thames.  The sporting public will still build him up next year and cheer for him to beat whoever he comes up against.  They'll still hope for their "Wimbledon miracle". God's like that with us. Of course he's disappointed when we fail to meet his expectations or meet our potential, but he's patient.  He'll continue to cheer us on and love us even when we fail.

Whichever way you look at it, we're winners all ways round, 'cos of our connection with the one who loved us. I'm totally sold on the fact that, at the end of the day, there's nothing that can cut our ties with God's love that Jesus proved. Nothing - not life, nor death; angels nor demons; the now nor the future; nor any of "the powers that be"; nor distance nor anything else in the cosmos - zilch, a big fat 0. Nothing can cut off God's love supply to us. Nothing. End of story.  (Romans 8:37-39 paraphrased by Rob Lacey in The Word on the Street, 2004.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tiger wins..... again

Yesterday Tiger Woods won his third tournament of the year at the AT&T Classic. He now heads the FedEx Cup leaderboard and the PGA Tour money list for the first time since 2009.  He also passed Jack Nicklaus for the second most tournaments won (74).

Tiger's success poses several difficulties for me that maybe you relate to.  (The context for this list is that I struggle to feel charitable toward someone who treated his wife and children the way he did through his serial sexual indiscretions.)

  • "Why do good things happen to bad people, like Tiger?" And the flipside of that, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
  • I am amazed at how many people are excited to have him back on the PGA Tour.  My challenge here is not that I want others to hate him, it's that they seem more willing to extend grace and forgiveness toward him than I am.
  • The previous point raises the question, "Are all these people really demonstrating grace, or are they just saying the sin isn't really that significant?"
  • Is it wrong for me as a Christian to cheer for someone to fail? (Think bigger than just the sports field for this one.)  What if I just cheer for the other guy to win?
I'm not giving answers to this list, just sharing my questions.  How do you feel about Tiger's success?  Are you hoping that he beats Jack's record of 18 major championships?