PUSH Until Something Happens

Just like a long, smooth drive off the tee gives a golfer hope and keeps bringing him back to the course, a come-from-behind, buzzer-beating win will bring any coach or player back to the court.  As we discussed last week, there’s always a chance until the buzzer sounds, but a team coming from behind has to persevere and push to the end.  Our Concordia team did just that in our last game with a bid to our conference tournament on the line:

Despite being down by seven with six minutes to go, we fought back to take the lead, gave it up with :25 on the clock, and then won it on a last second inbound play when a freshman, Jordan Johnson, hit the winning shot.  It’s the thrill that keeps on giving and hopefully, provides a spark that will sustain us in postseason play next week, but life in this world is more about the struggle or the push than it is about the thrills.  Let’s examine that need to push and what it means.


Our team’s comeback was topped by the amazing perseverance of Bucknell in their game with Colgate on Monday.  Did you catch this?

Down by eight with 25 seconds remaining, the Bison pushed their way to the final second and came out with the victory.  There are not too many more gratifying things that can happen on the court than to pull that off, and Bucknell reminded all of us what can happen when a team pushes to the end and perseveres.  No matter what your team’s situation may be as the season draws to a close or as the clock winds down in a game, keep pushing and never give up.

LIFE – Never Give Up!

As I observe basketball, God speaks to me.  You may doubt that or think I’m overstating it, but I believe He has always talked to me through the challenges I have faced in life, as well as in those things most dear to me.  This past Wednesday, three of my passions collided in Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and Game Day – my faith, my wife, and my career.  And in each of those, God has been reminding me to continue to push until the end.  It would have been easy to neglect Ash Wednesday, but focusing on the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross as we continue through Lent continues to strengthen my faith.  Lately God has reminded me to never give up on that.  And as I considered that sacrifice, God turned my attention to my wife.  It would have been easy, in the craziness of our schedules, to overlook the person I share all of life with, Kara.  We have persevered together through many challenges already and expect that we will see many more, but God has been reminding me that she is a special gift directly from Him.  I have to push for our marriage.  It either continues to grow or it becomes stagnant.  I’m pushing for it to grow.  Finally, Wednesday was a game day with all of the focus it requires.  At this point in a long, up and down season, it would have been easy to allow a “whatever happens, happens” mentality to creep in, but that’s no way to go through a season, or for that matter, a career.  You can always grow in your profession.  You can always push a little harder.

FAITH – Prayer

You may have come across the acronym P.U.S.H. that has become popular with the bracelet and jewelry wearing crowd.  The sentiment is powerful – Pray Until Something Happens.  As I watch teams persevere to the end in a comeback win, I am reminded how vital persistence in prayer is in my life.  Too often, many of us treat prayer as a wish list or a hope for some outcome that we desperately need or want.  Or as I deal with young people unfamiliar with Christ or lacking commitment in their faith, it can become an unfocused and insincere routine that means very little.   We tend to twist the whole concept and then grow frustrated or disinterested when things don’t work out like we want.  Many of us even blame God or lose interest in God by claiming that prayer doesn’t work or that God doesn’t care about our wants and desires or even that God doesn’t exist – but, is that how prayer works?

Players and coaches understand the need for persistence when it comes to competition, but the Bible tells us that the same is true with prayer and in our relationship with God.  Prayer is an ongoing relationship.  It’s an ongoing conversation (This message is so important that God has used it with me before as outlined in No Ball Stopping . . . ) Have we talked with God regularly and honestly? Have we persisted in prayer even during times when God seems far off?  Paul wrote:
“With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” – Ephesians 6:18
And God’s word in Colossians 4:2Luke 18:1, and Philippians 4:6  reminds us that we should never give up when it comes to making our requests known to a God who loves us and gave His Son for us.  As you experience or watch the thrilling comebacks we see on the court over the next month, I pray that you will continue to PUSH in prayer as you grow closer to a God who needs nothing from you, but wants nothing more than for each of us to talk with him and continue our relationship with Him.




Upsets Reveal There’s Always A Chance

Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a fan of basketball, how can you not be excited this week with the terrific upsets around the country?  Just last night, the top team in the country, Villanova, was upset on their home floor by a St. John’s team that had yet to win a conference game and amazingly had just beaten the No. 4 team in the country on Saturday.  We’ll dive into that a bit more, but last night also provided two more upsets when  No. 3 Purdue lost on their home court to Ohio State, and No. 8 Auburn lost on their home court to Texas A&M.  It’s getting late in the season as we anticipate March and many teams would seem to be out of it, but this week’s upsets reveal that a team is never truly out of it until the last horn sounds and it’s a significant reminder to all of us to stay steadfast in life and in our faith.  After all, there’s always a chance!

BASKETBALL – Turning it Around

St. John’s did something Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center that, statistically, they had a 3 percent chance to do. The likelihood of back-to-back top-five upsets was roughly 0.3 percent. There is no logical explanation for this, and no proper reaction other than amazement.  Here’s what happened in Philly last night:

So how did they do it?  Let’s take a quick listen to some of head coach Chris Mullin’s comments after the two upset wins:

As I take a look at these comments, I see embedded in them some significant points for any team attempting to dig out of a hole and to be in a position to pull off monumental upsets.  The story is continually repeated throughout college basketball and undoubtedly will continue to be a major story line as we approach the madness of March, but consider these essential points from Mullin (who by the way was also a terrific player at SJU and in the NBA!)

Just persevere

Stay together

Keep a positive frame of mind

Be accountable

Learn from the losses


Currently, our team has hit a rough patch with three losses in a row in games in which we had late leads.  We just haven’t pulled those games out and things haven’t gone our way.   Now we must win our last three games to qualify for the postseason.  As I left practice yesterday, though, I knew our team still has a chance.  Just like St. John’s, we have time to turn it around, and Mullin’s points now echo in my head.

LIFE – Climb Out of the Hole

Do you ever need a pep talk?  I often think that I don’t until I start to address our team.  I can get passionate about a lot of things and when I get going I can drop a lot of wisdom, some really good stuff that’s been stored up in my brain and then I realize, I was the one who needed the talk.  The players usually do, too, but I’m right there with them.  Here’s the point.  If you dug yourself a hole, climb out of it!  Persevere, stay connected with the important people in your life, remain positive, be accountable, and learn from your losses and setbacks.  All of us have areas of life where at times we feel we’ve dug a hole – finances, relationships, careers, fitness, or studies, but as long as you have life and as long as the sun comes up, you can do something about it.  It may be simply staying the course like St. John’s or it may require some drastic changes, but each of us has the power to hang in there.  And if you can hang in there, can you then give a little bit more?  Ten percent more?  A little more effort, a little more focus, a little more service?  There’s always a chance for you to pull off the upset!

FAITH – There’s Always a Chance

What about your faith life?  Most of us tend to dig some holes there, too.  Some of us ignore God’s promptings and call and some of us turn our backs on the faith we knew as youngsters.  We often twist and confuse God’s word or worse, we listen to the voices around us in the world today.  We may feel that God has abandoned us and we lose faith.  We may feel guilty over our own actions or how we treat other people and we fall into the hole of feeling that God could never love us or forgive us.  Or if you’re like me, you may fall into the hole of life.  I can get so focused on the stress and pressure of different roles that I neglect the one relationship that is more important to me than any other.

As I write today, I’m in pep talk mode and want to remind you, and myself, that our God is the God of upsets.  You may feel you’ve dug a few holes, but Jesus knows all about that.  He knows we’re each going to have our ups and downs, our unique challenges, and our failings in this life, but He never abandons us and He is always with us.  There is no upset too big and no holes to deep for Him:

 Jesus looked straight at them and said, “There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.”  Matthew 19:26

When you see an upset happen on the court let it remind you that Jesus can help you pull off the upset.  No matter what you’ve done or how far away you have drifted and no matter how influenced by the world around you, there’s always a chance for God to pull the upset – in fact, it’s better than a chance.  It’s a promise.



Your Focus Needs More Focus

One of my greatest joys in life is being a parent and I am watching with anticipation to see how God is working in the lives of my kids.  Our oldest son, Caleb, is carving out his path as a high school teacher and coach and volunteered to once again provide some insights from his early coaching experiences . . .

In one of Coach Cain’s recent posts: Waiting in Basketball, my dad detailed the importance of patience in a sport that often seems geared towards tempo, speed, and instant gratification.  After reading it, I was reminded of a few personal experiences that also pertain to speed of the game and the pressure that can result from it. Continue reading