March Madness 2014: Answering the Call

In the riveting opening rounds of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, one incredible moment stood out to me.  Sure, there were the overtime games, the buzzer-beater by Texas, and upsets galore like Mercer’s incredible win over Duke, but did you watch North Dakota State’s upset over the five seed, Oklahoma?  It was a classic 12 vs. 5 upset, but the pivotal performance occurred late in the game when a freshmen point guard who hadn’t played a minute answered the call of his coach.  It made me think about all the times in my life when I didn’t answer the call.  Maybe this young freshman can teach us all a little wisdom!

BASKETBALL – He was ready!

Carlin DupreeI have no idea how a kid from the inner city of Milwaukee ends up playing at North Dakota State, but for 43 minutes of an overtime game, Carlin Dupree was on the bench.  With 1:17 to go in overtime and the score tied 70-70, Dupree barely had the ball for a few seconds when he was fouled.  On the year, Dupree sat the bench for seven games and then averaged only eight minutes in a season where he made only 58% of his free throws.  What does he do after sitting cold on the bench for the entire game?  Knocks them both down to give the Bison the lead and then follows it up thirty seconds later with a fearless, driving lay-up over two Sooner defenders to give NDSU a four point lead that Oklahoma could not overcome.  When the Bison’s leading scorer, Taylor Braun, fouled out and head coach Saul Phillips turned to the bench, who did he call?  Carlin Dupree, and he answered the call.  Phillips called it “the loudest two minutes in the history of the NCAA basketball tournament.” (NDSU Post-Game Presser)

LIFE – Do you answer the call?

Have you ever felt “the call?” We certainly get called upon for a variety of reasons – students get called out to answer a question in class, your wife asks you how her outfit looks, and your supervisor asks you to add a last-minute assignment at work. How often do you respond well? What about that gentle prodding call when you know you should feel something, say something, or do something? Those moments happen every day in this life, yet many times we don’t answer the call like Carlin Dupree did.  Many of us don’t even get off the bench!   I’ve had positions and jobs in Christian settings where answering those types of calls were no-brainers, but I’ve also worked in public and business settings where it seemed a little more difficult.  Too often, though, it’s easier to remain silent, even when you’re with other Christians, or to walk away and stay out of the fray all together.  As I’ve been involved with young people, but even with older and supposedly wiser adults, I’m often given the opportunity to encourage others or to present a more positive perspective and I find myself holding my tongue and walking away.  It may be a chance to get a young person to reconsider reckless life-style choices, encourage a fellow parent to take more responsibility for their children, or to take a moral stand on ethics in the workplace or within a team. Those opportunities come every day and we each have the choice to respond.  I’ve found that when I don’t answer the call, regrets begin to pile up.  And I’ve also found that when I do step in, even when I’m not completely sure of what to say or do, it at least opens the door for something good to happen.  As a coach, when I overhear negative  or reckless comments, or I sense a player is battling with something, I believed I’m called to explore the opportunity.  What about you?

FAITH – Get off the bench!

In my church, “being called” is the term used for placing pastors, missionaries, and teachers to positions within church work.  It’s an extremely serious and formal decision.  Each of us as Christians, though, are called regularly by our Creator to stand up and proclaim the message of the Gospel.  It can be with bigger decisions like serving on a mission trip, organizing food and clothing drives, providing disaster relief, and leading Bible studies – however, God’s call also comes in the conversations and responses of our daily lives.  God calls us to be a light when the societal issues of our day are discussed.  He wants us to speak up when abortion, marriage, and the freedom of religion are discussed.  He wants us to encourage each other in discussions of ethics, morality, and bringing up children – not to judge or condemn or divide, but to bring His message into every aspect of life.

AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

When I saw Carlin Dupree answer Saul Phillips call to go into the game, I thought of God calling the prophet Jonah to take His message to the people of Nineveh, an evil and immoral city (you can read the short, four chapter Book of Jonah here). Like us many times, Jonah did not want to go and faced the consequences with God, but in the end, once he did go, God used him to make something good happen.  He calls you and me to do the same, both in big decisions and in daily opportunities:

 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

I pray that each of us is ready, willing, and able to answer those calls!